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Is getting up before your kids the secret to sanity?

Erin Zammett Ruddy

Happy September, everyone! Hope you enjoyed your Labor Day weekends. Ours was awesome (the highlight: Alex’s 4th birthday complete with a 100-person bounce house party in our backyard). Needless to say, I am ready for fall. The back-to-school, back-reality-vibe of this time of year always inspires me to simplify my life and look for ways to be a saner person (this time of year also makes me want to buy Trapper Keepers and number 2 pencils but that’s a different story). Streamlining begins with our morning ritual, which is not so much a ritual but a sleepy, whiny free for all. The reason: Our kids are our alarm clock. This is not because they get up so early (they generally sleep till 7 or 7:30, which is totally acceptable), it’s because Nick and I like to sleep. And we both work from home/for ourselves so we’re not usually on anyone’s clock but our own. But when you have to start parenting before you even open your eyes, crazy town sets in fast….

Most mornings, I go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, change my clothes, make my bed, make my coffee, all with Nora in my arms or at my heels whining, “Mommy hold Nora.” If she’s not clingy and whiny, she’s bouncing herself around on my bed or climbing on the toilet to brush her teeth. And Alex is usually complaining about something (do I have to go to school today, mom? Do I have to brush my teeth today, mom? Why can’t I watch a movie right now, mom?) In other words, there is no calm, quiet, sleepy-eyed transition from night to day. My kids go from zero to 60 the second they wake up. Nick and I almost always get pissed at each other in the morning. It’s usually when we’re down eating breakfast and he announces that he has to go shower because he has to get his day started (like I don’t?!). This tension is because neither of us has a single second to ourselves in the morning. Something that can be easily fixed.

When I was commuting to the city after Alex was born, I spent about a week setting an alarm and getting up before the rest of the house. I made coffee and checked email and sat in the quiet. And it was amazing. A friend told me about a woman she knows who gets up every day at 4 a.m. so she can have alone time and feel like a human before she has to start the parenting parade. I could never do something that extreme but I do like the idea of getting a jump on the day and having some control over the morning situation. Unfortunately I also like the idea of sleeping so while this may work in theory, in reality, I just don’t know if I can see it through. But I am going to try—setting an alarm for 6:45 seems like a good place to start and that will give me at least a half an hour to myself before Nora announces that she’s up and ready to be doted on. But first I want to poll all of you. When do you get up? Is it before your kids? What do you do with that time? Do you find it helpful to your overall wellbeing/are you less of a crazy person in the morning? Please send me any and all suggestions!