The Mother Becomes Time: Exploring Altered Temporality in Contemporary Motherhood Memoirs


  • Mariana Thomas University of Southampton


This paper contends that the contemporary mothering experience disconnects women from dominant temporal structures—situating them as outsiders to its rhythm—and in doing so, it connects them to a maternal temporality associated with generational linearity and visceral understanding. Through the lens of Kristeva’s notions on women’s time, the paper begins by comparing the experience of modern neoliberal time to the temporality of mothering, and asserts that the continuous present of maternal time is incongruous to linear, clock time. It then turns to the question of dual temporality—
how the mother’s sense of futurity becomes aligned with her child. The central texts, Sarah Manguso’s Ongoingness: The End of a Diary and Denise Riley’s Time Lived, without Its Flow, are discussed as reflecting a trajectory of temporal unity. It explores Heidegger’s “moment of vision” theory, and discusses the generative potential of the mothering experience. Following this, the paper examines the connection between birth and death, paralleling Manguso’s text with Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts. Both writers suggest the potential for these events to position the mother within the motherline, within the “great unity.” Finally, the paper discusses the motherhood memoir form as reflective of the altered temporality portrayed. It
contends that motherhood memoirs value the experimental and open nature of the form. They are less concerned with linear progression.

Author Biography

Mariana Thomas, University of Southampton

Thomas is a PhD candidate and lecturer in contemporary women’s writing at the University of Southampton, UK. Her research is concerned with the contemporary mothering experience in the woman writer’s narrative, focusing on their approach to subjectivity, time, and the mother-daughter dynamic.


How to Cite

Thomas, M. (2018). The Mother Becomes Time: Exploring Altered Temporality in Contemporary Motherhood Memoirs. Journal of the Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement, 9(1). Retrieved from