I remember standing outside of my four year old’s preschool at about 8:30 am, with my six month old on my hip, feeling for the first time in about four years, actually, okay. That may be an exaggeration but I don’t think it was.
What on earth was different on this day? This autumn morning on Peabody Street in front of the Little Darling School was so similar to all of the previous mornings. The same early routine unfolded – getting the precocious 4 year old fed, dressed, and ready for school and in between caring for and nursing the baby, drinking as much coffee as possible, dressing myself, (aiming for basic hygiene and matching shoes), popping kids in the stroller, grabbing the dog and heading to preschool. But this day, something was different…this Monday started a revolution in my motherhood!
Let’s back up. A few days before, talking to my dear friend Amy at drop off, I noticed myself saying, “I feel miserable. if only I could get up before the kids, I think I would be a nice person…” A thought that felt laughable to both of us really – (not the nice part, just the sleep part).
Ever so gently throughout that weekend I let that thought take form. I considered the delicate possibility of waking early. Not EARLY EARLY just a little bit earlier than the typical time when the kids woke up. I wondered how I could wiggle out of bed without waking the baby sleeping snug beside me. I wondered how I could make the coffee without stirring the household and more than anything, I wondered what I would do in that precious early time. Then the doubt crept in…was waking up before I HAD to wake up really worth it?
I kept my potential experiment a secret. There was no way I would spill the beans to even my husband, it would add pressure to the success of the mission and what if he wanted to join me? Nope, I realized that part of the deal was to not only start the day before it started me, but to start it ALONE.
So, I contemplated my strategy down to the minute details of how this endeavour would work. Sunday night came, I nursed the infant and he went to sleep. I cuddled the 4 year old until he was snoozing and quietly snuck downstairs, past the dog and the fire place, past the husband typing away on the couch and into the kitchen. I ground the coffee, set up the french press and the water in the kettle, gathered some colored pencils from the art closet and a forsaken journal, grabbed my dusty yoga mat from the corner next to the book shelf and organized my props next to the couch. My husband raised his eyebrows in a question. I gave him a kiss and slipped back upstairs. Setting my phone alarm (with a gentle and quiet tone), I emplored my baby to sleep well and long through the night and I encouraged myself to remember to push through my desire to snooze instead of wake in the morning. As with most nights, I was asleep in moments.
The sun rises about 7:30 am in the Pacific Northwest in October. My kids would rise about 7:00 am. At 6:40 am on that fateful morning, the alarm hummed and I shut it as quickly as possible hoping upon hope that the baby would remain sleeping. He rolled over and nuzzled me for a moment soon returning to his dreams. Stealthily, I slid out of bed, into my fuzzy slippers and down the stairs. Heart beating, kettle on, and then coffee in hand, I nestled my yoga mat and cushion fireside. Maybe I only had a minute, maybe I had twenty-two…
The simple joy of a hot mug of coffee and a totally quiet and sleeping house. I closed my eyes, slowed my breath and found my body. This felt radical. That first morning, I didn’t open my journal, I didn’t stretch on my mat. I didn’t “do” anything. I just quietly sat and recalibrated to myself.
My four year old turned 19 this week! What a time of reflection. Since that fateful day over fifteen years ago, my morning practice has ebbed and flowed with the seasons of life and ages of my three children, but always it has been the scaffold from which my life is built upon. It maintains a simple structure: waking early before the household, coffee, my journal, and my breath (and sometimes my yoga mat). In this way, I have mapped out my days, my business, my dreams but more than anything, I’ve created a daily practice of quiet moments and self reflection. This is what allows me to be present with my children, my family and my work.
Time and again I sit with mamas who ache for what feels like unattainable time for themselves. If the mama is getting good enough sleep, (at a minimum, two chunks of three-hours but preferably more), my suggestion is this:
For a moment, consider what it would be like to “start the morning before it starts you”. Don’t actually change anything (yet) just consider the possibility. Consider it with great detail, imagine what you would do and how you would wake up before the clan wakes. While you puzzle through these thoughts, REMEMBER your motivation for considering this experiment in the first place… a few moments to connect with yourself and collect yourself before the circus begins.
Give the idea days or weeks to develop, and as you are ready, curious and courageous, give the experiment a try. Then adjust the details and give it another try. And another. In this way, see if you can create your own morning practice and a time to recalibrate to yourself.
Then write a little sticky note with this sound bite:
“Start the morning before it starts me”.
And place it beside your bed.