Every time I see a well-coiffed, neatly dressed mom (meaning she doesn’t have a stray Cheerio clinging to her hair or yoga pants), I immediately assume she has woken up long before her young children. That assumption has almost always proven to be correct… I’ve asked.
I’ve long suspected these disciplined moms are cut from the same cloth as their famous early-riser counterparts, among them Martha Stewart, Michelle Obama, and Anna Wintour. Like those powerhouses, the Early Riser Mom seems to get way more done in the morning than I get done by noon. Leisurely coffee consumption, no re-heating required? Check. School lunches packed? Check. Shower and blow-dry? Check, check.
Honestly, these women inspire both amazement and self-loathing. I’ve never been a “Morning Person,” even earning the title of “Most Laid-Back Camper” most years at church camp — an award I’m fairly certain goes to the person who moves the slowest from bunk bed to mess hall. However, I somehow held stable jobs with normal start times for nearly a decade before staying home with kids so it’s not like my internal clock is completely broken. And it’s also been a long time since I’ve been in the newborn haze of sleepless nights, so that excuse is no longer a valid one either.
Most mornings, I let my two-year-old wake me up by 7 a.m. (he’s been in our bed since 3 a.m. anyway) and we head to the kitchen to make oatmeal and play with trucks. By 7:30, his 5-year-old sister is awake and wants some sort of fruit-and-cheese spread, so I’m back in the kitchen prepping that, too. I routinely lower my screen-time standards and let them watch an episode of Paw Patrol while I pack peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, fruit, veggies, and Toddler Crack, I mean Pirate’s Booty. Then I scramble to throw on clean clothes and tie my hair into an acceptable ponytail before the ending theme song. By the time we’ve put on shoes, brushed hair and teeth, and grabbed backpacks, we have exactly 10 minutes to make it to preschool. It’s a schedule that works, but also means I hit the ground running from the time I step out of bed.
I’m not sure if Facebook or Instagram is stalking my nocturnal schedule or has secret footage of my morning routine, but lately I’ve been getting lots of signs from the universe (in the form of other moms and Instgrammers swearing by their early morning routine). Is it really that hard waking up before my kids? Would I be more productive throughout the day as so many moms claim? Would I knock out a significant portion of housework before the pitter-patter of little feet greeted me in the hallway? There was only one real way to find out so I decided to set my iPhone alarm for 5 a.m. for five consecutive days, theoretically giving me two hours of free time before the daily grind began.
Day 1: The mistake? Going to bed too late. I’m a night person by nature, so I tucked myself in at my usual 11:30ish bedtime. When my alarm chimed at 5 a.m.? Nope. I’ll try again tomorrow. *Cue turning off phone and pulling covers back over head.
Day 2: Better planning this morning since I went to bed at the geriatric hour of 10 p.m. That meant pretty much right after my kids, who fall asleep at 9. (This also meant I skipped out on the 1.5 hours of kitchen cleanup and laundry that usually happen from 10-11:30 so both situations were more disastrous than usual.) Make it to the kitchen to prepare coffee and my head is throbbing. Settle into the couch to fold hampers of clean laundry. Headache lingers. Two cups of joe later and the dull ache continues. Also my two-year-old has decided to join me 30 minutes into this experiment by waltzing into the living room and demanding oatmeal. Early rising is not for the weak.
Day 3: Crept out of bed like a ninja, so as not to wake the sleeping toddler next to me. Ten minutes into picking up the toy-strewn living room, panic sets in. What if Toddler falls off the bed without me sleeping next to him? Could he slice his eye on the nightstand??? Decide to make pillow fortress around him to cushion the potential blow. Promptly wake him up. Head to his room to play tractors. It’s 5:20 in the freaking morning.
Day 4: Pillows around toddler are in place. Use raw stealth to escape the bedroom without waking Toddler. Realize, upon entering kitchen, that the amount of dirty dishes could be deemed a health hazard. Began washing and loading dishes as quietly as possible… but not quietly enough. Twelve-hundred square feet does not allow much room for making any noise without waking someone up. Toddler saunters in demanding oatmeal again. It’s now 5:25 a.m.
Day 5: Barely make it to the kitchen before both kids come bouncing in asking for Paw Patrol and breakfast. Morning headaches have not subsided.
The verdict: It turns out that, despite my challenges with attempting to sleep-train my kids years ago, I can easily wake-train them as they bounce out of bed the minute they suspect I might be awake. This is clearly not the season for waking up before my children, and I’m ok with that. The post-9-p.m. stretch is my jam, when I’m best equipped to tackle dishes, sort laundry, or indulge in an episode of mindless t.v. with the hubs. My kids are soundly asleep and I can stretch out on my couch, glass of wine in hand, and know that my “work day” won’t start for another blissful 10 hours. Going to call that a “win,” even if it means my hair ends up, once again, in a ponytail for school drop-off.