Well, hello there, you!
It’s been awhile.
A lot has happened since the last time I posted: I celebrated my Baby Girl’s first birthday and my Big Boy’s 4th. I went to Las Vegas and ate lunch in the Grand Canyon. I saw my son off on his first day of Junior Kindergarten, which, coincidentally, was also my first day back at work after a 20-month maternity leave. I enjoyed my first summer as a pool owner and soccer mom. I hosted lots of visitors, kissed innumerable boo-boos, and had my first experience as a teacher on the picket line (#etfostrong).
Life has not been dull!
But you know what? I’ve really missed this.
Even though this blog may be visited by an average of 1 person per month, I count it among my happy places. Not because it is making me rich or getting me recognized, but because when I’m here, writing, I am doing something that I have chosen to do just for me. No one is requiring it of me. It’s not under the ‘Time Sensitive’ heading of my to do list. It’s not on my to do list at all.
My return to work was a bit messy, as I expected it would be. There was so much trial and error when it came to figuring out our family’s new rhythms. Packing my son’s lunch the evening before versus the morning of (No nuts! No bananas!). Waking the kids early enough that they won’t be rushed through breakfast but late enough to minimize the grumpiness. Ensuring my son’s backpack has alllll of the things in it. Brushing teeth before getting dressed…because toothpaste does leave a mark. Allowing a snack after school versus making sure they are hungry enough to eat their dinner. Dinner, bath time, play time, bedtime versus dinner, play time, bath time, bedtime. Remembering to wash the lunch containers, dry the snowpants, and sign the permission forms.
And while I was consumed by the details of my children’s well-being, my own well-being took a hit.
There were all the days I forgot to pack a lunch for myself, or forgot to get it out of the fridge, in my mad dash to get the kids to daycare/school and still get myself to work with a few minutes to spare before the bell rang.
There were the countless breakfasts of Honeynut Cheerios, scarfed down so quickly I didn’t even enjoy the crunchy, sugary, carbfest.
There was no exercise.
There wasn’t much calm.
I’ll tell you what there was, though:
Mental and physical exhaustion. Guilt. Resentment. Stress. Overwhelm.
So. Much. Overwhelm.
As far as I was concerned, this working mom gig was Mission Impossible.
Over the Christmas holidays, I did some serious soul-searching. There was no way I could maintain the frenetic pace that my life was now functioning at AND be healthy AND be happy AND be the role model I aspire to be for my kids.
Something had to change.
I was already expert-level at saying no to extra commitments that could drain my time and energy. My kids were already in a great evening routine – fed, cleaned, and asleep by 7:30pm.
I tried implementing some self-care habits into my evenings – tried working out once the kids were asleep, washing and straightening my hair before bed. Those efforts resulted in less time to hang out with my husband (staring slack-jawed at the tv for an hour of Netflix absolutely counts as quality time) and feeling only moderately fresh to start my day.
I came out of the womb a morning person, not a night owl.
And in that simple fact was my answer.
I needed a morning ritual.
If I was going to replace some bad habits with good ones, reduce my overwhelm, and make space for more calm in my life, I was going to need to set my alarm for 4:30am.
I understand if you just threw up a little. I used to feel sick at the thought of 4:30am too.
And the first night that I went to bed with my alarm programmed for a 4:30 start, I also felt really anxious. I’m no psychoanalyst, but I think my worry stemmed from the fear that, if this change in my routine didn’t pan out as I was hoping it would, then I would be back at square one – overwhelmed and not knowing what else I could change to create more time and space in my life, short of quitting my job. (Fear not, Husband, I shall remain employed.)
Recognizing that this was going to be a massive shift to the way I start my day and, quite possibly, a massive challenge, I knew I had to be clear with myself about my intentions.
(When I’m at a yoga class and the instructor tells me to set my intention, I want to combust. My intention is to get long, lithe muscles and to be one with Buddha. Obviously.)
I kept my intention simple: to gift myself a calm start to each day.
Whereas previously I would wake at 5:45am, rush through a body shower and hurriedly do my make-up – all the while thrumming with low level anxiety that I wouldn’t complete this little ‘me time’ routine before the kids woke up and all focus went immediately to their needs – now my mornings are my favourite part of my day.
My alarm goes off and I tiptoe through the dark house to the basement, where I put on my waiting workout clothes. I do some light stretching, and then hit the treadmill for a hill climb or pick a muscle group to work on with weights or resistance bands.
I don’t rush.
Then I take a slow shower. Not always long, but always slow.
Make-up and hair are next. I love make-up – love all the products – but since becoming a mom, there are some days that I don’t even look at myself in the mirror, let alone take the time to even out my skin tone with foundation, or play up my eyes with anything more than mascara. My new ritual affords me time to unleash my inner girly-girl and re-acquaint myself with eyeshadow layering and contouring techniques (still a far cry from Kardashian standards, but I’m working on it).
By this point, it’s usually 5:30. I’ve got about an hour before the kids stir.
I head back upstairs to the kitchen, turn on the coffee machine and eat my breakfast in semi-darkness while it brews. Gone are my Honeynut Cheerios days. Now I start the morning off with a greek yogurt parfait, brimming with blueberries and hemp seeds and a drop of honey. It keeps me full until lunch – which I now remove from the fridge and put next to my bag by the door.
My absolute favourite part comes next: I sip my coffee in the living room – in the dark. I listen to the sounds of the house. I smell my coffee. I might watch the snow falling, lit up by the streetlamp outside the window. I think about my family, the day ahead.
Up until this point, my phone is in another room. It has no place in my morning ritual until all the other pieces have had their turn, unrushed.
By the time I’m reaching the bottom of that first cup of coffee, I usually hear my son’s bedroom door creak open, then a moment of silence while his eyes adjust to the early morning light that is coming through the skylight above his door. I hear him quietly bump down the stairs on his bum, then pad into the living room where he knows he will find me, waiting to help him start his day off right: with snuggles and stillness.
And then he’s asking for orange juice and waffles and Baby Girl is chirping away in her crib and Husband is flushing the toilet and the day begins to gather speed.
And you know what?
I’m ready for whatever it may bring.
Waking up before the birds isn’t always easy, but what I have gained is so much more valuable than the sleep I have given up. I even do it on Saturdays.
If you’re struggling with the pace of life and finding time to take care of yourself, I highly recommend a morning ritual. And I predict the results will be life changing.