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The Parenting Truth I’m Not Willing to Accept

Erin Zammett Ruddy

There is a small change I could make in my daily routine that would result in a calmer, happier, more productive and smoother-running day (and probably life) for everyone in the house and yet I refuse. Can you guess what it is?

Embarrassing confession: My children are my alarm clock. This is only embarrassing because I do not have super-early risers. The earliest Alex and Nora wake up is around 7:15/7:30 a.m. They stumble into our room and then Nick and I crack open our eyes and get our day started (we both work for ourselves and have no commute which is why we think this is acceptable behavior). But by then it’s too late. We’re already five steps behind because my children don’t so much wake up as get shot out of a cannon. The demands, the whining, the fighting and the butt wiping begin before I can even brush my teeth. This morning I looked at my clock at 6:25 a.m. I tried to will myself out of bed (where I’d been since 10 p.m. the night before—gah!) but it was so warm and cozy and dark and so I began my daily justification for staying put: I’ll have more energy all day if I get that extra half hour of sleep; I didn’t really get enough sleep the night before, did I?; We’ll do oatmeal instead of omelets today so I don’t need as much time; If I go downstairs now I might wake up the kids (we do have creaky floors, after all). Needless to say, it wasn’t until Nora sing-songed, “Mommmm, I’m ready to get uuuuuuup!” an hour later that I moved.

Laura Vanderkam, a writer friend of my mine (I’m obsessed with her books 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think and All the Money in The World: What the Happiest People Know About Getting and Spending), recently published the e-book What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast. It’s killing me because I’ve always known that people who get up early have a leg up on the rest of us. My mom, an early riser, has tried to get this point across to me for years. Any time I complain about any of the craziness in my life, she says, “just get up earlier.” Ugh. I know it’s true. I fantasize about all I could accomplish before 7 a.m. and how amazing my day would be if I got a jump on the kids. In my fantasy, they come downstairs groggy and bedheady and I greet them with homemade fruit smoothies and fried eggs from the chickens in our backyard coop (note: we don’t actually have chickens). My coffee—which I’ve been able to drink hot—sits on the table next to my laptop where every email and facebook message has been answered and I’ve gotten to click on all the ridiculous fluff (think Robert Pattinson) I’ve wanted to that I never allow myself to read during the day because there just isn’t time to waste. A girl can dream, right? Whenever I actually do get up early (I have frequent  8 a.m. meetings in NYC for LLS which require me to be on a 6a.m. train), I feel like I could rule the world. And yet, I resist.

Laura and I discussed my reluctance to make this change, but also my interest. She designed a morning makeover for me, including a few small changes I’d have to implement at night in order to get my ass in gear earlier in the a.m. (we’re talking 6:15, which probably has some of you rolling your eyes since it’s not actually that early at all). And what I’d do with that found time (good to know: Enjoying a cup of coffee and checking email is a totally acceptable reason to want to get up before your kids and even that small accomplishment can have profound effects—it’s not like I’d have to be making homemade jam or writing my next book or anything impressive at all. Bonus!). But, alas, I have yet to give this morning makeover a shot. That said, with fall here and the kids in school and the fresh-start feelings in the air, I do plan to execute this makeover at some point soon. And to share it with all of you. But first, I’m curious about your morning routine: Do you get up before your kids? What do you do with that time? I have friends who rise at ungodly hours (we’re talking pre-dawn) just to get in some alone time and, I have to be honest, I don’t know if I could handle that on a regular basis. But obviously I want to be one of the most successful people so I better start doing something before breakfast other than creating new ways to convince myself to stay in bed. Maybe I should just get a less comfortable bed. Hmm….  Let’s discuss.