Just another manic morning
When I thought about having two children, the idea of stressful mornings is what scared me most.
They’re just hard, you know? Inherently. With or without kids or pets or the need to set an alarm clock. I was a fairly early riser when Spencer and I married, but the exhaustion that accompanies listening to tiny creatures stir in the night has sucked any enthusiasm out of me.
It’s funny how, in just a short time, parenthood sweeps clean so many of your pre-child memories. What did I used to do in the evenings, back when I had no bottles to scrub or tractor videos to watch? I remember . . . a little. I wrote. Read. Watched decidedly grown-up television dramas. Helped Spencer with home projects, painting and organizing and cleaning up at our new house.
Mornings were similarly calm. I’d have some breakfast, tidy up a bit, scroll mindlessly through Facebook and Instagram. Now? A wise friend once told me that having “a schedule” with your kids is great — but as soon as you’ve cracked their routines, they’ll change. Overnight.
That’s definitely true for us. I have always handled day care drop-off while Spencer coordinates pick-up, so mornings are my territory — and it’s been rocky. When my son first came home, I had terrible anxiety thinking if I left Ollie alone for even a minute, something “bad” would happen to him. Showering became a source of frustration, worrying he would scream when I couldn’t reach him.
Some of that was new-parent anxiety. The rest was plain ol’ anxiety-anxiety. Either way, I do think I’m a much calmer mom of two — and was certainly in a better place at Hadley’s arrival than I was in the aftermath of Ollie’s.
Despite the challenge of an early wake-up call after very little sleep, Oliver and I had a good pattern going. I knew when to expect his eyes to open and would have milk — his constant request — waiting for him downstairs. We’d watch 20 minutes of “The Muppets,” I’d pack his lunch and carry him out, getting him settled at his babysitter’s before making the short drive north for coffee before the work day officially began. Simple.
Baby Hadley changed everything again. I was legitimately frightened when Spencer had to go back to work following her birth, wondering how I could balance the needs of both kids simultaneously. I was used to giving Oliver all of my love and attention, and the guilt that came when I couldn’t was painful.
At first, anyway. As with so many changes, we all adjusted. There have certainly been tough days (days when I met my husband at the door, passing off one or both children before collapsing somewhere they were less likely to find me), and I wouldn’t minimize those. But on the whole? Having two kids — and getting two kids ready — hasn’t been nearly as rough as I’d expected.
That’s true of many new experiences, I think.
When I returned to work fulltime in May, negotiating the logistics of the morning routine was stressful. It was one thing to resume my job duties . . . and quite another to get to said job, particularly on time.
But we’ve managed it. As Ollie has gotten older, he walks himself to the car each day. The bottle of milk has been replaced with a cup of apple juice, and I’ve learned I can bribe him into being lifted into his car seat with the promise of mini-muffins.
I look like a frizzy-haired packmule each morning, trying to take everything out to my vehicle at once: Ollie’s lunch bag, Hadley’s bottle bag, my own tote plus my purse. Add in a treasured blanket and Hadley herself — all 15 pounds of her — in her car seat, which I tuck awkwardly into the crook of one arm, and I’m a woman on a mission trying to load everyone and everything in before 7:30 a.m.
I’d managed to wrangle my children into something of a routine, offering bottles and breakfast — depending on the kiddo, of course — in a predictable pattern. My transition to working mom of two was chugging along nicely, everyone getting into a groove . . . And then I switched jobs. Nothing like several major life changes within a few months to really spice things up, you know?
I’m still in charge of day care drop-off, but my commute has increased from a 15-minute drive to 40-minute slog. Still in Southern Maryland, yes, so I know I shouldn’t complain — but it’s a big change for this Waldorf girl. Having lived and worked only in Charles County, I’m now venturing into a fairly new-to-me area. Thank goodness for audio books to keep me company.
My longer drive has meant earlier mornings, so I rise by 5:30 a.m. to get ready before my husband leaves for work. Knowing he’s listening for the kids while I shower has eased the knot in my stomach. Something about being stuck in a bathroom — where I can’t hear well or exit quickly — has always bothered me.
Given we’re now out the door at least a half hour earlier than before, I’d say the kids and I have adjusted pretty well. I was nervous to make an already long day more complicated, but it hasn’t been nearly the difficult transition I’d expected.
Those mini-muffins — Ollie bait — really are a lifesaver. I can hustle the kid anywhere with the promise of chocolate chip-studded carbohydrates.
Come to think of it . . . that works for me, too.
But only chased down by coffee. I still have my routines.