The triple day thesis: Theorising motherhood as a capability and a capability suppressor

Where do people not say, “I want to do X, but the circumstances of my life don’t give me a chance”? To this sort of common discontent, the [capabilities] approach responds by saying, “Yes indeed, in some very important areas you ought to be able to do what you have in mind, and if you aren’t able, that is a failure of basic justice.

                                                                                                                       Martha Nussbaum, 2011

The Triple Day Thesis: Describing the Triple Day Problem

The triple day thesis presents a theoretical analysis of motherhood from a capability perspective as a path to resolving maternal capability failures within the triple day – the triple day problem. The triple day thesis of motherhood is conceptualized as a mother who engages in the reproductive work of childbearing and childrearing (the single day), in addition to waged work (the double day) and self-reproductive work (the triple day).

In my article “The Triple Day Thesis” (2021), I formally define self-reproduction as involving tasks or activities that a person, in this case a mother, undertakes to replenish herself physically, medically, emotionally, intellectually, socially, psychologically, or other forms of replenishment that is primarily beneficial to her non-economic well-being. Self-reproductive activities could involve having time for recreation; time for healthy living practices; time for friendships and joining associations, awareness groups etc., within the community; the “me-time” for basic personal hygienic practices, to pray, reflect on and plan one’s life; and time to engage in academic work which is the more intellectual form of self-reproduction. A combination of one or more of these self-reproducing or self-realizing activities within a twenty-four-hour day including sleep hours would make up what I call the triple day.

According to the triple day thesis, it is within the triple day that several of the central capabilities Martha Nussbaum (2011) proposes in her capability theory of social justice take place. Nussbaum’s central capabilities for women’s human flourishing include life, bodily health, bodily integrity, senses, imagination and thought, emotions, practical reason, affiliation, concern for other species, play, and control over one’s material and political environment.

The absence of self-reproduction in women’s lives due to the pursuit of motherhood, entails the absence of human flourishing, and therefore constitute social (gender) injustice. It is this which describes the problem of the triple day.

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