It happened again today. I found myself apologizing to someone for being too perky in the morning. It wasn’t even that early. I called a client at 9:00 A.M. — after watching the clock until precisely 8:59 and 59 seconds, which I figured was late enough to make a business call. I jumped into the conversation with a bit too much enthusiasm, I suppose, because my client responded with, “Whoa, you are WAY too awake for this time of morning.”
I didn’t tell her had already run two miles, answered a bunch of e-mail, got four kids up, fed, dressed and off to school, done a batch of wash and weeded my herb garden. I especially didn’t tell her I got up that early because I wanted to.
That hasn’t always been the case. Motherhood did this to me. When my husband and I were first married, he was much more coherent in the wee hours. I’d force myself out of bed after the fifth assault of the alarm clock and relocate to the cold, hard bathroom floor desperate for a few seconds more sleep but knowing I’d be miserable enough on the floor to relent and stagger toward the shower.
Then we brought home that first little squalling bundle and my sleep habits were rearranged. We’d wanted a baby for so long that, each time I heard the glorious sound of Haley O’Hara crying for another feeding, I was determined to respond with an eager, happy face no matter how sleep deprived I was.
I never wanted her or the three babies who followed to feel that they were disturbing me or were a burden at whatever hour they decided was morning. I determined I’d be 100% Mom as soon as they called me into action.
But the real metamorphosis didn’t occur until I stumbled upon a secret.
Because I was lucky enough to make raising my kids a full-time gig, our routine tended to be pretty loosey-goosey. We got up when we felt like it (okay, when they felt like it) and went to bed when we were tired of being awake.
We woke up together. We went to bed together. We grocery-shopped, ran errands, ate, played and bathed together. We did everything together. Life was grand.
Then one day I realized that, if I could only make myself get up an hour before my kids, I could have sixty minutes alone in my own home — something I hadn’t experienced in years.
The first day was intoxicating. I could serve myself a cup of coffee and drink it while it was still hot. I could write a letter and keep my mind on what I wanted to say. Most of my letters at that time consisted of disconnected thoughts written with two or three different pens whenever I could grab a minute, usually perched on the edge of the sandbox or sitting on the floor beside the bathtub where the kids were temporarily distracted by bubbles.
But in my stolen hour, I could read a book, exercise, listen to grown-up music and eat a leisurely breakfast. I could coax one of the cats to snuggle in my lap rather than hunker by the food bowl with one eye on whichever preschooler might decide he’d enjoy some dress-up clothes.
Even if I used my time to do laundry or wash dishes, it felt indulgent to be doing it in complete solitude. I could begin a task and see it through to completion without stopping and starting it fifteen times. I could sneak in a bath all by myself without an audience or running commentary. I bought myself grown-up bath products and adult breakfast foods — aromatherapy and English muffins, hot oil treatments and lemon curd.
I had no idea how starved I’d become for my own company and quickly honed skills that will serve me well if I ever decide to become a cat burglar. I can do anything soundlessly if it means I get to do it alone. Of course, before long, an hour wasn’t enough, so I got up two hours earlier, then three and sometimes four.
More than a decade has passed since that epiphany. The kids are teenagers now and having their own morning wrangle with the snooze alarm. But I’ve kept my early hours to myself. I’ve changed my title from stay-at-home mom to work-at-home mom (from SAHM to WAHM) but that first hour or two of the morning is still my favorite time. Even though they’re taller than I am, I still like the idea of my kids waking up to a pleasant mama. And after a brisk run with the dogs, some quality time with the cats, a little e-mail interaction and as much coffee as I care to drink, I’m far more chipper than my husband or kids — or my clients — would like me to be.
So that’s it. That’s my dirty little secret. I get up early and I like it. Besides if I ever consider a career change, I’d make one heck of a good cat burglar.
M. G. K.