Lazy summer nights eating fish and chips on the beach. A barbecue outside following by a backyard game of cricket finishing around 9pm. These are my memories of daylight saving in a happy Australian childhood.
As I got older, daylight saving presented new and even more exciting opportunities, like Friday night drinks and cocktails looking at the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
No-one told me that once I became a mum my lifelong adoration for daylight saving would end. Completely.
The media debate in Australia often focuses on those parts of Australia who are disproportionately affected by daylight savings. Western Australia and the impact on business. Our northern and southern friends who naturally experience daylight at different times at the rest of us and our latitude biased time systems make their lives difficult. It makes farmer’s lives harder somehow. Kids are catching the bus to school in the dark. It fades the curtains. Or something.
In the many years of enjoying daylight saving before becoming a mum, I don’t think I ever read about the massive sleep deprivation and chaos forced on millions of Australian households when the clocks are changed back at the end of summer. Small children, naturally early risers at the best of times, start to wake up at what is – let’s face it – their usual time. Like 5am. At The Latest.
This week there are thousands of mums and dads trudging to work having risen at 4 or 5am. Some of them are also up at night with little ones who don’t sleep through reliably. They are already tired because they are working mums, so it comes with the job description. That exta hour matters to them.
For at least two weeks a year, as the little ones get used to the New World Order imposed by Time Bosses, mums and dads are paying the price of our arbitrary time system.
What is the cost to business of this exhaustion?
Let’s consider the fact that more than one in three mums with what the government calls an ‘infant’ – a child under two – has a job. By the time our youngest child is at school, more than 60% of us are working.
Mums with kids under two work an average of 20 hours a week, but by the time our youngest is 4 or 5, this increases to 25 hours a week.
If we are even spending an extra 10 minutes getting one extra coffee to help us get through the day, and the rest of our 25 hour week is spent working more slowly than ever, then our sluggish economy is in real trouble indeed.
In my heart I do still love daylight saving, and those long summer nights. I do know that these early wake ups will lessen each year. But for now, I just need a sleep in. Until something like 6am. Is that too much to ask?