Before I became a mom I owned my mornings. I could roll out of bed at 10:00 a.m., just in time to head to class. Or I'd sleep in all day until I had to make an evening work shift. Even when I was pregnant, for the most part, I could wake up, enjoy a quiet breakfast, and drive myself to work on my own time. But I haven't owned my mornings in a long, long time. Not since my 4-year-old son was born, actually. Now my world revolves around my kid’s morning routine, and while I'm not entirely thrilled about it I'm not sorry, either.
As parents, we all make sacrifices for our children. Mothers sacrifice bodily autonomy during pregnancy, dealing with a slew of changes that help our bodies grow, sustain, and birth life. We sacrifice precious sleep when our children are infants, waking up to feed them every few hours and dealing with overwhelming sleep deprivation. We sacrifice spontaneous family vacations, lazy weekends, late nights out, and routines that revolve around nothing but our wants and needs. And in the name of our kids' sleep schedule, we sacrifice our mornings. Well, at least I do. Over, and over, and over again.
I can't say that I'm particularly upset about the loss of my mornings, though. In fact, my son brings me the greatest possible joy each and every morning, so while I'm not necessarily calling the shots I am enjoying the benefits of providing a routine we can all rely on. As a preschooler, his weekday mornings always consist of the following: I wake up first and get breakfast ready while mentally preparing myself for what’s ahead. I might check email, listen to the quick five minute NPR news podcast, and take the time to enjoy a stretch. On my best days, I wake up early enough to meditate for a few minutes and even fit in some yoga. My best days are not my usual days, though, and I tend to hit snooze more often than I care to admit.
It's chaos, but it's our controlled chaos.
Then my second alarm goes off and I know it's time to wake up my son. So if he hasn’t already snuck into my bed for morning snuggles, I walk over to his room and start his day. He'll either wake up to take a shower, start picking out his clothes, or he'll stay in bed and think about waking up while I make breakfast, often hiding under the covers until I call him into the kitchen.
And that's when it happens: one of my favorite times of the day. I get to watch my sleepy child, all messy-haired and glassy-eyed, as he makes his way over to the kitchen table. He sits up tall and, unless he brings a toy with him, asks for a morning cartoon. And, as you probably have already guessed, I acquiesce to his request.
Sure, I guess I’d love to say that deny my son TV time that early in the morning. And yes, it would be nice to go on a healthy jog around the neighborhood while he promptly eats his sausage and waffles and bananas at the table, without complaint. I wouldn't mind the freedom to take a shower sans interruption, or the time to actually put on makeup while he finishes his breakfast and immediately puts his dishes in the sink.
But that doesn't happen, because my mornings aren't mine anymore. They're his.
So I turn on the TV and scramble to find something halfway-acceptable to wear for drop-off. I will pack him a semi-nutritious lunch, spend far too much time hunting down his socks, and occasionally listen to whatever my husband happens to be ranting about that morning as he gets himself ready for work. Before I know it it's time to talk my son into brushing his teeth, then we're out the door and on the way to his school. Sometimes we walk, sometimes we drive, sometimes we're on time, and, well, sometimes we're not.
I know I'll get my mornings back, and when I do that'll mean mornings without my son.
It's chaos, but it's our controlled chaos.
I’ve got tentative plans to slowly streamline our mornings so they're less hectic. I think about pre-packing my son's lunch, and I consider picking out our outfits the night before. I guess I could create a “morning basket”: a very adorable idea a friend of mine suggested, involving a basket of toys, books, and maybe some charts or activities that teach things like what day it is, what month it is, and what season we're in. All great ideas, I'm sure. All ideas that could potentially give me a few minutes of my morning back.
But I know this chaos won't last forever. I know my son will only grow older, and become more independent in the process. There will come a day when he rides the bus, doesn't need me to make him breakfast, or gets up all on his own. I won't see that messy-haired and glassy-eyed child haphazardly walking into the kitchen. Instead, I'll see a young man capable of navigating his mornings without me.
I know I'll get my mornings back, and when I do that'll mean mornings without my son. So, for now, I'm more than happy to devote the beginning of every single day to my baby, while I still can.