Parental Relativity

Abhishek Lahoti
3 min readAug 1, 2023

It’s a well studied scientific principle that time is relative. This concept can relate to time dilation, or the effect of velocity on the perception of time. Basically, the faster you go, the slower time feels. If you were on the ISS, for example, 12 months would be .01 seconds slower than if you were on Earth.

As humans, time’s relativity is felt in other ways. Whilst not as precisely measurable, several studies indicate that, as we age, time feels to move faster. It’s hypothesised that this is due to the distance increase between our neurons as we age, but basically, the older you are, the faster time flies (regardless of fun).

I’ve been dwelling on the experience on time for the last 9 months after having a child and noticed how my perception of time has changed through the course of my daughter’s life. In the first few weeks, each day felt like a long, exhausting blur. The end of each day felt eons away, especially when witching hour started and 1.5 hours of screaming felt like an eternity.

Fast forward to now and suddenly I have a 9 month-old child that sits up, has small teeth, and eats solid food…all things I never imagined in November 2022. What felt like dilated time in her early days now feels like a cartoonish montage of a clock spinning faster and faster. And if the advice of other parents is true, the rest of her childhood will happen in the blink of an eye.

So what’s any of this have to do with our professional lives? Well, as luck would have it, I had the fortune of starting a new job in May 2023, so I’ve been “nurturing” a new experience for the past few months. The time relatively I experienced as a new parent mirrored itself at work. The first few months were littered with new names, experiences, and things to learn. It hasn’t even been 3 months, but my perception is that it’s been much longer. But this isn’t my first “new job”, so I know that before I realise it, 3 months could be 6, 9, 18, etc. That a new role can suddenly be an old one, very quickly.

I often let these relativities of time just passively happen to me. But then I had a child, and realised that whilst there may be a few new jobs in life, there aren’t that many new children. So how will I learn not to dilate the time of things that matter most?

The remedy I seek here lies in the present. With work and with family, we often forget to spend a lot of time in the present. We look forward to plan ahead, fix upcoming problems, and live in the future. And then we look back at the time that flew by and our missed opportunities we might’ve relished. We often find that the time we had to “be present” is gone and now we’re stuck in the fast lane.

It’s not easy to be present, in a fast-paced world. The effort can be herculean, but even in a speedy life, a small break to notice the environment around is well worth it. Instead of looking at my phone whilst holding my child, I should just hold my child and relish that she still wants and needs this care. Instead of just finishing tasks at work to be done, I should be more mindful on what I want to achieve and note how each effort lends itself to that.

I know there’s not way to change the physics of the time dilation (though I do wonder if children abide by their own laws of physics at times), but there is a way to change our perception of time. Presence isn’t easy when there’s a lot to distract us from it, but with some practise I daresay these years of newness might last just a little bit longer.

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Abhishek Lahoti

Head of Platform @ Highland Europe, advisor of startups, new father, and perpetual confused person trying to make sense of life