A few months ago Ang and I reworked our morning routine of getting us and our twin not-quite-two year olds up, dressed, fed, and otherwise ready for daycare and work and out the door. She had been taking longer and longer in the bathroom (#lesbianmarriageproblems) and I was left to most of the kid wrangling and scrambling to get myself ready in the nine minutes left before we all trucked out the door. We were sharing a car at that time so everyone had to be in the car by 7:20 to make it all come together. I was getting the short, sucky, resentment-building end of the stick until we finally went car shopping, and suddenly only they had to be out the door by 7:20. I didn’t have to leave until 8:00. The day I realized this felt like Christmas! For the first time since the kids were born, I was going to be alone in my own house–regulaly, no less–from 7:20 until 8:00 every weekday morning.
It felt like I had just won the lottery.
Within days I found myself plotting how I could use my morning alone time in the most luxurious way: Watch the news? Check. Drink coffee? Yes! Eat something I actually want for breakfast? Woohoo!
I quickly realized that this morning time was going to be that small, secret space where I could just be me for a second, something I needed desperately. I work full-time in a high responsibility job and spend all my non-work time being Mama and very rarely Shauna. I am almost never alone, almost never not busy with some specific time-sensitive or routine-sensitive task. THIS WAS A MIRACLE. It took me less than a week to get my get-dressed-haired-and-make-uped routine down to 20 minutes, leaving me a daily balance of my very own 20 minutes to luxuriate in.
What I actually did with my months of 20 minutes:
- Watched TV. Mainly WCAX or other morning news. Occasionally “A Baby Story.” At least once, “16 Kids and Counting.”
- Laid on my bed and stared at the ceiling, thinking. My friend Marcy in Seattle and I used to call this “getting your stare on.” There is generally no time for getting my stare on in our daily life, and I had forgotten how much I needed it.
- Cleaned. This may sound lame, but really, I was glad for the few extra minutes to wipe the hand prints and mysterious smears off the windows. It helped me feel a little more relaxed in my home.
- Ate breakfast. Like, on a plate.
- Sat on the back steps and listened to the birds.
- Groomed myself. The extra kind, like painting my toenails, trimming my bangs, and all that other stuff that gets neglected until some kind of event creeps up and I’m forced to bring it up a notch.
- Played Candy Crush Saga.
I have relished this morning time, and come to depend on it as a minor but critical ingredient in my recipe for working mom sanity.
And tomorrow, as fast as it came, my 20 minutes will be gone. Tomorrow B. & C. start at their new child care center. This center is directly on my commute to work, and in the opposite direction from Ang’s. It also doesn’t open until 8:00 am, and is only 10 minutes away. Not only does this mean I now am the one to do daycare drop off, but my 20 minutes will now be filled with negotiating jackets and shoes, helping C. hunt down missing binkies, and trying to get B. to stop pulling out her pigtails. I will be showering and dressing in a rush, somewhere between 6:00 am wake up, diapers, dressing, breakfast, and Ang’s shower. Ang will need to leave 10 minutes before us in order to get to work on time, which means I’ll be schlepping my waddley, wander-y toddlers and all their gear to the car by myself. There will be no more breakfast on a plate, at least not until they go to sleep-away camp in, like, seven years.
I have been preparing for this adjustment for a month, and I’m ok with it, but it aches a bit to say goodbye to this little sliver of freedom. I love every minute with my kids, and this new child care situation give me 50+ more minutes with them a day which is a significant gift for parents who work full-time. I’m grateful for finding new reliable, high-quality child care that we can afford that is so convenient to our home and work. I am excited to pick them up at 4:20 instead of 4:45. But oh, does it sting to hand over this small window of time that was mine alone.