The beeps coming from my iPhone sound like they’re in the distance, but slowly my body and mind wake up. Just as I reach from under my warm duvet to hit the snooze button, a cold dog nose pokes me in the eye. It’s 6am. Time to rise and shine. It doesn’t matter if it’s Tuesday or Saturday, a holiday or not, like so many other mamas this is how my day begins. If you had told me a few years ago I would be an early riser, I’m not sure I would have believed you.
For nearly 15 years I was in the TV news business. I worked the “nightside” shift almost the entire time. That meant my work day began at 2pm and ended at midnight. No fighting rush-hour traffic for me. And being awake before 9am was just crazy talk. While shift work may not be for everyone, I enjoyed it (it helped that I loved my work and my co-workers). No matter how loud and crazy life was in the newsroom I always came home to quiet darkness. My husband’s ever-changing work schedule meant he was already asleep or already at work. Our dog Reagan would greet me and then climb on the couch for her pre-bed nap. I suppose I could have come home and turned on all the lights and blasted music, but I liked the silence. A light snack and a little light TV and off to bed at 1am.
When our daughter arrived nearly two years ago, I made the decision to stay home with her. And, like all new parents, we adjusted to our sweet baby’s schedule. (Read: We never slept.) Months later we fell into a reasonable routine that brings us to where we are today. She wakes up around 7:30am or 8am. I didn’t set my alarm–at first. Sometimes I could get dressed and showered and ready for the day before she made a peep. Other days we woke up at the same time and the mornings were total chaos. My husband’s schedule meant he wasn’t always around to help at the start (or end) of the day. So, if we had to go somewhere it was on me to get us out the door. Starting the day stressed seemed to set the tone for the rest of our day. Eventually I realized the obvious, smack-me-in-the-head solution. Set an alarm and get up (and go to bed) earlier.
Painful doesn’t even begin to explain how I felt in the beginning. As each day went by, I began to find my new morning routine. Brush teeth. Feed dog. Start coffee. Shower. Drink coffee. Soon I even had time to eat breakfast, watch the news and read the newspaper before my daughter woke up. (Some ex-journalist habits die hard.) Shockingly, I began to enjoy those early mornings. I realized what I loved about coming home at midnight is how I felt about them. I relished the stillness, silence and solitude. With an active toddler at home, I value those things even more now.
Occasionally, my daughter does throw me a curveball. Like when she woke up wailing at 5am last week. I blame those darn two-year-old molars. Luckily, my husband came home from work at 7am and provided some relief. (Read: I was able to shower and get dressed.) It was enough to remind me how rough things were for a while. And made me thankful every day wasn’t starting like this anymore.