Night Owl

A Tale of Two Mornings

5:30: Wake up without the aid of an alarm clock because I naturally wake up at this time every morning

5:35: Hit the "brew" button on the fancy espresso maker

5:40: Settle in at my desk with a hot latte, complete with steamed milk. Catch up on email as I gaze out the dormer window, enjoying the view of the meadow as the first rays of sunlight hit the hills in the distance

6:00- 7:00: Go for a nice long run and then shower without children barging in and out of the bathroom

7:00: Wake kids and start the morning routine, refreshed from a full hour to myself

 In reality, I curse the alarm clock as it bleeps relentlessly at 6:30am, hit snooze and hide under the covers until I absolutely have to get up at 7:00am. Then I painfully drag myself out of bed, dreading the cold—although, I feel just as grumpy about mornings in summertime. Also, there is no fancy espresso machine or dormer overlooking the meadow. 

I wish I were a morning person, but I’m drawn to the night hours. I take advantage of the late, quiet hours to write, bake, organize, read, sip tea, and generally enjoy time to myself; all of the things that are hard to do during the day.  I happily – and easily – stay up past midnight, undeterred by the impending misery of morning. The open-endedness of night offers a great sense of freedom. The knowledge that the time spanning out in front of me will surely outlast my productivity is a big advantage over the morning hours, when I am all too aware that a kid could (and often does) wake up at any moment, interrupting whatever I had hoped to do.

I can get up early. I’ve done it before. In high school I eagerly bounced out of bed at 5:30am in order to play tennis. It was all I cared about and I would have done anything for an extra hour on the court. The other time was the final six months of grad school, when I worked frantically to finish my dissertation. I’m not sure I really slept at all during those months, so getting out of bed to get back to my computer was more of a relief than lying in bed in the permanent state of anxiety I seemed to be in when I wasn’t working.

These two experiences triggered a super-human – but unsustainable – energy. Unfortunately, unlike a sports passion or graduation deadline, taking care of three small children seems to suck energy rather than inspire it. As much as I love my kids, the thought of waking, dressing and feeding them every morning does not drive me out of bed.

Nevertheless, I want to try to change. Our family is in the midst of a major schedule shift due to two new jobs having started, and it would be very convenient for everyone, particularly my husband, Dave, if I could magically become a morning person. Of course if I did get up at 5:30am, I would not be sipping my coffee as the sun popped up over the hills (or playing tennis or sitting down at my computer to write). Instead I would be emptying the ashes from the woodstove and restarting the fire, feeding and watering the chickens, scraping the ice off the car, making school lunches, and preparing breakfast.

But still, it would be nice if I got up earlier and less cranky to help ease the morning madness. In order to do this, I will have to go to bed earlier.

It will be a challenge to let go of my late night quiet time. I look forward to those hours all day. However chaotic and difficult the day of juggling work and three children may be, the prospect of sitting down alone at my computer while brownies bake gets me through. I need that time, perhaps not every night, but at least on a regular basis.

Therefore, if I do make this move to become a morning person, I’ll have to replace my late-night freedom. As long as I’m getting up early, I could carve out a chunk of time on weekend mornings. It wouldn’t be the peaceful quiet of night hours, but with Dave home, I could sit down alone at my computer, or go for a nice long run, and maybe even shower without children barging in and out of the bathroom. I could start the week feeling refreshed from having had time to myself.

Come summer, when school is out and the morning madness eases up, I can resort back to my natural schedule. Until then, to face early mornings, which will be difficult regardless of an earlier bedtime, maybe we should get that fancy espresso machine.