Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Minutes Are Just Seconds Aren’t Minutes


My daughter just turned sixteen months old and I’ve left her at home and I’m in a library typing this:

I’m almost 39 and there is a thirty-inch tall drooling human with ten sharp teeth hanging onto my legs and

I became a writer at six, toiling away on stories in my bedroom, an only child with time on her hands. Thirty-odd years later I mother an only child, conjured from wishes, dreams, cells. I’m a writer and for the first time in my life I’m writing more than I’ve ever written.

Minutes: they fly or stay still, fly or stay still, where have they gone, why are there so many

as though the limited amount of time I have to write has opened up into other dimensions that I can—

Wait: why is it so quiet in there?

She’s changed from that mellow baby that everyone noticed for her quiet observation and easy smile, into a toddler that screams, bares teeth, and bites. She is innocently willful, barreling into a still, dark fireplace until—


I’m not a depressive person and yet I’m:

Minutes: stay still.

I am there to tell her no, in a voice I don’t even like, but it’s the tenor of my afternoon, the afternoon that moved in milliseconds, until we’re hours from morning and I’ve been up since—

at the library because I wrangled an unemployed friend who just passed her acupuncture exam into sitting at my house while the baby sleeps because I need a shift in perspective, a change of scenery,

I need:

Minutes: fly away from me.

seek refuge in. I’ve found places in my own house that feel like the Twilight Zone episode where the little girl falls through the wall into another dimension, only for me,


space. We hiked up to Griffith Park Observatory today. Or, rather, I hiked up, pushing the twenty-four pound love of my life in her stroller. To the top. A hike that’s hard enough to begin with. All because I’ve been in a state of:

Minutes: hold each and every one close because these are the happiest days of my life.

It’s a place where I am locked to a desk, handwriting or typing, and the time melts away, until it’s that time, time to stop (baby has woken up, dishes to wash, someone at the door, the phone, an email to answer).

Grief. Or despair. I don’t know what you’d call it. I’m not even sure what I would call it, because it’s not like me to feel this way, even with the alcoholic parents, predatory junior high teacher, perpetual outsiderness—

5:30, 6, and thank goodness I am actually a morning person, but let me tell you, afternoons are the hurdle, the time when I want to give up. I start counting.


Minutes: where are you going?

As a parent, like this, the way we are, there is something isolating about it, even with the playgroups and my intelligence and ability to think up things to do everyday. Sometimes it’s just a trip to the dry cleaner or

[It’s been quiet too long in there. I need to go in.]

the hours until my partner comes home, the woman who works all day to make the life we have possible. While I, a third-wave feminist, if those still exist, stay at home with our baby that we made with a needleless syringe and our friend’s semen. My own mother—


My career is on hold, the career I hadn’t really begun in earnest until I was in my early-30s, the career where I see people and they talk about their problems, issues, achievements, setbacks—the career, though:

Minutes: hours, hours from the end, longest haul imaginable

went back to work after six weeks. I can’t imagine. It might speak to the relationship we have. But anyway—

the post office. The small pieces of business I must attend to, securing money, sending forms for signatures, the occasional print submission, all of it turned into an Activity, one that is interesting to a toddler, or will at least keep her interested in whatever actions she sees—

I’m a therapist, an intern to be precise, with not enough money or time to see my own therapist.


so I find myself in what I am calling this depressive state. I’m mapping it. Yes, it might be hormonal. There is something about weaning and depression. I am not the person I want to be. I still want to spend my whole day kissing and cuddling this wiggly child who won’t let me, who rations out her kisses . . .

Minutes fly. Minutes stay still.

so I have to just swallow it. My own shitty feelings about where I’m at with my career, my writing, my abilities and my patience and my potential as a good parent—I have to swallow it and go on. I can’t just hole up in my bedroom and read it out, write it out, or cry it out. There’s a

beebeebeebee caaa

. . . but I am patient, I know there will be days when she allows me more kisses, and then there will be less kisses, and more, depending on her mood. This moody child who I live for is the one I want to leave me alone so I can write or just think

Just think. I’m at the library. My baby is sleeping. My friend is in my house in case the baby wakes. I’m typing away, sentences are coming, there are periods and there is closure, even as I find, more and more, that there is little if ever “closure” anymore, and why did I ever think this was possible. It’s an ongoing thing, parenting,

(and revision. Revision has its own set of minutes now.)


Minutes are minutes are hours are days are months are years are decades are centuries

and the depressive parts are few. This is something to pay attention to, I would tell my client if I was my client. And this, too, shall pass, into the next place and the next place and the next


baby to feed—bed to make­—cats to attend to­—

caa baa coycoy

something to vacuum—wash—something always

to revise—to account for—to measure

in kisses. In words. In counts of sixty.

Wendy C. Ortiz is a writer and marriage and family therapist intern in Los Angeles, where she lives with her partner and daughter. She has contributed to The Nervous BreakdownThe RumpusThe Coachella Review, and The New York Times, among other online and print journals. She curates and hosts the Rhapsodomancy Reading Series in Hollywood. Her book, Hollywood Notebook, is forthcoming from Writ Large Press (2014). She is represented by Davey Literary and Media for a memoir, What Is And What Should Never Be. Recent essays include “For the Love of Horror” at Brain, Child Magazine (, “The Not-Prenatal Vitamin” at Mutha Magazine (, and “Pretty” at The Nervous Breakdown ( She also recently became a monthly columnist for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency with her column “On the Trail of Mary Jane.” Her next column will appear on Oct. 15th.

Visit her at

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I love this.
this is beautiful and beautifully said.
Thank you for this--so beautifully captures how the minutes alternately drag and fly and how we write and parent. Loved it.
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