“My personal best for getting out the door in the morning is 1 hour and 45 minutes,” I explained to my husband one day as I talked through my morning routine, looking for loopholes to save time. “And I think that was a fluke.”
My husband shook his head incredulously. “Can’t you just wake up earlier?”
My jaw tightened at this suggestion. He’s up at 5:30 and out the door by 6:00, right when my alarm is usually going off. Occasionally he has to do the morning routine when I’m out of town, but he doesn’t truly understand what it entails on a daily basis. He may have an early wake-up call, but his morning is all his. It’s quiet and uncomplicated, complete with a shower and a cup of coffee while the rest of us are still sleeping.
While my first reaction is to respond defensively—something I’m trying to work on, stay tuned—I do realize he’s only trying to help.
“Seriously,” he says more empathetically, “where do the wheels fall off? Let’s see what we can do.”
I remember the night before I went back to work after maternity leave, I had every detail mapped out. I would shower and pick out outfits the night before. I would pack lunches, prep bottles and set all our bags next to the door before I went to bed. Our mornings would be calm and organized. We’d be ready to go in record time.
Within two weeks, this plan unraveled. After getting the kids to bed, I realized that the last thing I felt like doing was thinking about the morning. As time went on, and even when I’d do as much prep as possible, it still didn’t account for all the curveballs that fly between the hours of 6:00 and 8:00 a.m.
So, I took a deep breath and responded, “Here’s how I get the baby, the preschooler and myself out the door in two hours.”
6:00: Alarm goes off. Debate sleeping until 6:30 knowing that will only put me behind and start the day on the wrong foot. Ultimately trudge out of bed.
6:10-6:30: Give the breast pump a workout and eke out as much milk as I possibly can in 20 minutes. While the hands-free pump is doing its thing, I make a cup of coffee, prep the bottles, defrost frozen milk and use what’s left in the fridge from yesterday. I also let the dog outside, feed him then let him out again because God forbid he poops the first time around. If the neighbor’s dog is outside and riles him up, I have to go outside (yes, sometimes with the pump still attached) whisper yelling at him to get in the house so I don’t wake up the neighbors with my rage. If I have accomplished all of this by 6:30, we’re on track for a good morning.
6:30: Reheat coffee that I forgot was sitting on the counter. Quickly do some version of hair and makeup. The goal is to be ready by 7:00 so I can focus on the kids for the next hour. Curveball #1: Preschooler can wake up at any point. The sweet spot is about 6:45. This allows time for 30 minutes of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and a few more minutes to myself.
7:00: Give 10-minute warning to preschooler that it’s almost time to get ready. Follow-up questions and comments could range here. Best-case scenario I get an agreeable, “OK.” Worst-case scenario is an immediate flop on the floor followed by whining.
7:15: The baby begins to stir. Preschooler demands to go “wake her up” and runs in her room. We spend anywhere from 2-5 minutes sweetly talking and making her smile before doing the diaper change/bottle feed. This is the part of the morning that stops me in my tracks. No matter what has happened before or what comes next, these are moments of pure love. By far my favorite part of the morning.
7:20: The baby lies on a pillow and takes her bottle. Luckily she is now old enough to hold the bottle herself and just watches us run around while she happily sucks. I spend the next 10 minutes in a hostage negotiation with the preschooler about what to wear to school. I’ve read all the articles. I know to give choices so she thinks she is in charge. It still doesn’t always work.
7:40: We’re now dressed and have brushed teeth and hair, hopefully with only minor tears about how I’m brushing too hard. “Gently, Mommy!” I’m often reminded.
7:50: I strap the baby in her car seat, while the preschooler yells from the other room, “Is it cold today? What coat do I need?” I’ll reply and she will decide no, she needs the other option then insists on putting it on and zipping it up only to take it off once we’re in the car.
7:55: Can it be? We’re running five minutes ahead of schedule? Just kidding! Curveball #2: The baby is red faced and grunting. This can only mean poop. I now have to unstrap and change her, which sets us back five to ten minutes, depending on the severity of the diaper contents.
8:10: “Do we have everything?” I’ll ask as we pull out of the driveway, regretting the question as soon as I ask it. Enter curveball #3: Preschooler reminds me that it is Share Day and that we forgot to bring a toy. I throw the car in park, run back inside and quickly grab what she asks for before finally leaving. I do a quick count and make sure we have all our bags: my work bag, my lunch, my breast pump, preschooler’s book bag, and baby’s bag.
8:15: We’re on our way.
After I catch my breath I conclude, “So, you see, any way you look at it there’s a challenge. Everyday there’s a slight plot twist. I’m always running behind schedule.”
My husband looks at me and replies, “I still think you should just wake up earlier.”