Monday, August 22, 2011

Mama in the Mornings

I'm not exactly a morning person.  If I lived alone it is likely that I would stay up late each night and sleep in each morning.  This is my natural tendency, one that showed itself even when I was a child.  Sleep has never come easily, I sleep lightly, and I need a gentle transition to the new day. J-Baby is much like me, whereas T-Guy falls asleep easily, sleeps soundly, and is an early riser. Not a wide-awake-at-dawn early riser (for which I am thankful), but a chipper child who is fully awake by 7 AM, eager to meet each day.

I am experienced enough in parenting, and in Waldorf parenting in particular, to understand the importance of my role in the home.  I say this not as an anti-feminist (because I am a feminist) or because I espouse traditional values (valuing children is traditional but I believe it can be done in many ways and not all of them involve a stay-at-home-mother), but because I have experienced it in my life and know it to be true.  If I am sad, my children are sad.  If I am grieving, they grieve. They are anxious when anxiety rules my behavior, and cranky when I allow myself to be cranky. My children are mirrors of my emotions and of my self, both at its best and worst.

I set the tone in my home.  It is as simple as that.  I choose whether we are stressed or calm, irritable or happy.  Not 100% of course; my boys and Papa have emotions and moods of their own that express themselves, but I am the one who has the power to tame those emotions and moods or let them take over our home.  When I hear discord I can ignore it, allow it to escalate, and then attempt to diffuse it with my own frustration, or I can monitor it (different than ignoring), determine if my assistance is needed, and step in before we are all frustrated.

Accepting this role in my home means that I have to be present.  There is no other option; I must listen, observe, weigh options, and intervene.  I must set the example.  I can't let my own little frustrations escalate.  I can't allow anger to fall from my lips.  I must calm myself when stress threatens to take over.  I must show gratitude.  I must get up in the morning ...

Oh, that is the hardest one!  I can't be present if I am asleep.  I can't start the day ten steps behind, either, because when I do I am frustrated, irritated, stressed, and certainly not setting the example I want to set.

Fact #1: I'm not really a morning person.  I have forced myself to function as one in the past but it is not my natural inclination.

Fact #2: My children need me to be awake in the morning, awake not only with them but before them, ready to guide them into each day.

Fact #3: Wishing something was different doesn't make it so.  I'm not talking about my not being a morning person, because that is something that can be altered.  My children needing me simply can't be changed.

For 21 mornings I have been been awake and out of bed by 7:15 AM at the latest, and that was only two mornings.  I am averaging 6:30, which might not sound very early to the larks out there but for me it is, especially as when I started this I was still not falling asleep before 2 AM.  Some days I am up at 6 AM.  Getting up earlier hasn't guaranteed that I will fall asleep earlier than the wee hours of the morning that I seem to be hardwired for, but most nights now I do fall asleep before midnight.  Not before 11 PM, but before midnight, and that is progress.

I'm tired.  There is no sugar coating it.  I do my best at staying present and chipper during the day and sometimes I fall apart when Papa comes home and I can't be nice any longer and I take it out on him. That's the reality.  I'm not going to lie and pretend that I set my mind to this (which I did) and that it all came up roses (it hasn't).  It's getting easier, but I am still incredibly tired and emotionally thin in spots and I can hardly wait until my boys are in bed.

I have walked down this path before, but I have never been this successful.  A few months ago I started realizing that for me, getting up at 6:30 AM is easier than getting up at 7:30 AM.  It sounds counterintuitive, but I believe that somewhere in me is another diurnal pattern.  I also noticed that I was consistently exhausted around 8 PM.  I suspect that my natural wake time may be more like 5:30 AM and my sleep time around 9 - 9:30 PM.  My life doesn't allow for that right now, but I do intend to give it a try.  I think I am more successful this time around because I am trying to get up even earlier than before.  It sounds counter-intuitive, but it is working.

I am also, for the first time in my life, allowing myself to be tired.  If you know how an exhausted toddler will fight being tired then you know how I have lived my life.  I simply stopped letting myself even think I was tired, and so I believed it.  Being tired was being weak, and not being tired was part of who I was. So now I am acknowledging my exhaustion ~ out loud even.  I am letting myself feel it and I am telling myself that I feel it and I am going to sleep based on that (except when I am exhausted at 8 PM because that just doesn't work).  It doesn't always work; I can admit that I am tired, turn off the lights, and lie there not sleeping even though I am tired.  But I'm trying not to stress about it.  Only once in the past three weeks have I been awake until 2 AM (and later, but I didn't look).  Six weeks ago falling asleep around 2 AM was my normal ~ I'm making progress.

Anyway, this is long, but it is part of my being accountable to myself and also sharing the journey with those who my struggle with mornings as I have.  I'm tired, but I am going to keep trying.

Update 9/8/2011: Getting up earlier has gotten easier, but we've also gotten a little lax with it.  I'm awake before 7:30 every morning whether I set the alarm or not.  I'm mostly waking by 7 but not leaving the bed until 7:30.  My evening sleep time has been creeping forward which is something I need to work on.  But overall it is so much better; I'm not nearly so exhausted any longer.

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