I think I lack the “mummy” gene to do mornings. The one that helps with getting the kids off to school and me off to work. Whatever new routine I implement, whatever time I get up, whatever organic baked individual fat-free fruit buns I buy really really early. The end result is not a smooth, on-time departure.
I have three kids and a husband who leaves for work at 6am. On a good morning, when nothing obvious goes wrong, I get to work in an outfit that still requires some tucking or rearrangement and my heart thumping. I tell myself it’s the coffee. I can feel it inside thumping as I smile at colleagues and pull out my chair.
Bad mornings often come out of nowhere. You’re good. You check the time. On track. We might even get out of here five minutes early. Then BAM.
The bad mornings feel like Adam Sandler has scripted them; there is humour in there it’s just really obvious and proves how low your standards have slipped. They can involve dog poo on the carpet, lost sports shoes, fights about getting out of bed, fights about why the bread I choose is so bloody boring, a stain on a shirt, a washing machine leak, just remembered early sports’ practice, a frantic hunt for $27.75 – exactly. A frantic hunt for an envelope. A frantic hunt for a pen. Some kind of fundraising mufti day where you can only come to school as something beginning with X. An unexplained thump in the car when I turn a corner. Oh, and a neighbour wanting to discuss details of their carport renovation.
Usually all at the same time.
The problem is I can’t stop for lost sneakers or $27.75 – exactly, or a chat with neighbours. If I stop I get behind. If I stop I run late. If I stop my internal monologue is going “come on, come on, come on, quick, quick, quick”. If I don’t clean my teeth while I check that the downstairs windows are locked or if I don’t put my make up on while calling down the hallway, “Have you got your key?”, “Remind me what everyone is up to this afternoon?” “Who has borrowed my black jumper?”.
I get behind.
So I keep moving through the house: efficient, task orientated and, admittedly, always slightly on the precipice.
I know everyone is busy and I know everyone is tired of the world talking about how busy they are. I promise I’m not bemoaning being busy because I don’t even know if I am. Busy connotes some kind of order.
I'm bemoaning the perpetual motion of the mornings. I'm bemoaning that I've become some single minded, non-stopping, unbending, I'm-going-to-crack-this-morning-shit-and-get-out-of-here machine.
Last week I went to wake up my 11 -year-old. She was snuggled deep under the covers. I found her soft cheeks and I kissed them telling her it was time to get up. I kissed them some more, smooshing her cheeks and doing fish kisses all over her face, and she started to smile and stretch and I could feel the rumbles of a laugh building inside her. I started being silly and her arms wrapped around my neck and then ... then I remembered I needed to keep moving.
I untangled myself. Her arms dropped and I grabbed some dirty clothes from the floor and put an old wrapper in my pocket for the bin and I kept on going.
Not long after my 16-year-old called from her room as I walked past. She wanted to talk about a book she was reading. She'd stayed up late unable to put it down. I recognised her immersion and excitement in a story that had the power to take her into another world and I stopped at her doorway. A character in the book reminded her of me and I didn't ask "Oh, how?" or "Really, me?" or even "Was she Miss Universe?". I stood at her door thinking I need to keep going. I need to keep moving. "That's great," I said. "I'll have to have a look at that book tonight."
The 14-year-old (yes, middle child) just quietly got herself ready, lunch packed, everything done and I think we simply glided past each other in a hallway.
Then we were gone.
It was only when I sort of stopped. When I was one block from work and jay-running across a road that I replayed my morning in my head and saw what I was doing.
I was moving when my kids were being still for me.
It's not the $27.75 exactly or the dog poo or even the footsteps on the carpet through the dog poo that are going to kill you (I'm not saying you're going to tap dance with joy when these moments arrive but they're part of life) in the morning. It's the not stopping that will.
Want to hear the daily routines of some of the busiest women? Listen to the I Don't Know How She Does It podcast:
When I sat at my desk and replayed a little face about to laugh that never got there and a teen wanting to talk about books and ideas and another walking past me in the hallway, I did that whole fragile thing where if anyone nice asks you how you are you will burst into tears. And then if I cried, how would I explain it?
When a moment is gone, it's gone. You can't press rewind and run back down hallways and do it all over again.
I know I can't be a perfect parent - no one can - but I'm not a machine either.
It's not all horror in the morning rush hour. If you look up it's not all washing machines that have sprung a leak and teenagers who refuse to get up. There is love as well as dog poo on the carpet in the morning.
There are minutes in the morning that will be a balm for your whole day. That you can conjure up in your head wherever you are and make you secretly smile and understand why you started on this motherhood journey in the first place.
You just have to stop and let them happen.
Feature Image via iStock.