Those long dark mornings

photo-449We are a mere four days from the solstice, which is comforting in a way (for those of us in the northern hemisphere, at least). This is as dark as it gets.

I've been experiencing some long, dark mornings this week. My husband has been traveling. The baby has been sleeping through the night, which I am grateful for, but the "night" ends somewhere in the 5s. 5:50 is doable. 5:05 is just hard. I'm tired, which is a rough state to be in for the subsequent 3 hours of constant newly-walking baby vigilance.

Here's how I've been filling the time. I nurse the baby in bed and try to stay in there as long as possible. I can't really sleep, but I don't have to open my eyes. I can usually go until 5:45 or so that way. I go downstairs and make my coffee (and make sure Sassy the Elf remembered to visit Santa and return, if you get my drift). If the baby is amenable, I'll put him in his high chair with snacks and make my breakfast. If he isn't, I'll just drink the coffee and go to the basement. That way the baby can play without waking the other kids up.

At least that's the theory. The 8-year-old and 4-year-old have elected to sleep in the same room for the past week or so, and so I've been making sure the lights are out earlier for the 4-year-old's sake. That's meant the 8-year-old has in fact gone to bed earlier, but there's a catch. He wakes up much earlier too. Sleep does not beget sleep in our house. He needs approximately 8.5 hours. So he's up by 6:30/6:45 or so. I make whatever breakfast he wants while he plays with the baby. Chocolate chip pancakes get requested frequently. Sometimes the 4-year-old gets up around then too because she hears her brothers. Sometimes she sleeps, but everyone is stirring and eating by 7:15/7:30.

At this point I start to feel like I would really like a shower. I have been up for 2.5 hours! But this presents a dilemma: what to do with the baby? I attempted to wake up earlier than him to shower once this week, but that was a complete failure. My 8-year-old and 6-year-old can "watch" the baby while I cook but they are not reliable sitters if I'm not immediately available. So I've happened on the solution of putting the baby back in his crib and letting one of the kids get in there with him to entertain him. They seem to think this is great fun, and if the kid who is responsible for the baby elects to climb out and run off because he got distracted, well, the baby is still in the crib and safe. At least it buys me 10 minutes to shower and get dressed.

After this we're pretty much coasting into our nanny's 8 a.m. arrival. I'll make the 6-year-old's lunch, or play with the kids, or help the baby practice walking. I'm often on my third cup of coffee at this point. If I haven't gotten to eat earlier, I'll make my breakfast. If I've been up since 5 a.m., bacon is usually involved. And I put real cream in my coffee. We take our pleasures where we can.

How are mornings going for you these days?

In other news: I read "How Santa Got His Job" to a group of preschoolers yesterday. I highly recommend it -- not only as a good kid Christmas story, but as a tale of how our various jobs help us figure out our personal brands over time. Santa combines his chimney prowess, package-delivering abilities, night owl tendencies, and love of reindeer and elves into the perfect job for him.

I spent some time yesterday working on a new version of my 50 time tips. If you sign up for my newsletter, one of the options you can choose is to get a weekly time tip emailed to you. So that will be changing soon. In the meantime, if you're looking for 50 good time tips, check out my friend Paula Rizzo's newsletter subscription freebie, "50 Ways To Get More Done." Rizzo wrote the book Listful Thinking, on how to use lists to be more productive. Which I believe, since she found time to write the book in addition to her job as a TV producer.

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20 Responses to Those long dark mornings


  1. Ana says:

    Maybe its the warmer weather this year, maybe I really did embrace the “norwegian secret” but I’m not the least bit minding the dark this winter. Its cozy and enveloping. I turn on my twinkle lights on the Christmas tree & our bannister, and delight in them. I get to see the sunrises and sunsets almost daily, and they are so beautiful.
    I am so glad not to be in the “waking in the 5s” days with the kids any more. Its so hard.

    • @Ana – yep, I like the twinkly Christmas lights, but the 5 a.m. thing is killing me. I wouldn’t mind waking up at 5:30 a.m. for some quiet personal time. But keeping the baby from running into corners on the furniture is somewhat less relaxing.

  2. Cara says:

    I, too, would love to have a quiet hour in the morning. My 3-year-old needs less sleep that me! Asleep by 8:30 and up at 5:50am promptly wanting mommy 🙂

    • @Cara- if I could get everyone down by 8:30 that would be great. Unfortunately, the older kids often want mommy attention at that time. Last night it was a parade in and out of my bedroom. I have been forcing myself to have lights off at 10:15, with melatonin taken at 9:30 to guarantee I fall asleep. Then at least the 5:15 wake-up isn’t so atrocious.

  3. JN says:

    I still have PTSD from when my twins were younger – maybe 1-2 – and would wake up at 6, maybe earlier on the weekends. I remember one Sunday clearly as my husband was traveling for work and they woke up at 5:45am. It was dark, and I was getting them breakfast, and thinking, “how am I going to survive six hours chasing them around the house until it’s time for their nap?” Now, despite having a 4-month old baby, it’s much easier since the twins sleep a little later (usually 7) and, at 3 and a half, can entertain themselves pretty well. I definitely do not miss those long, dark, tiring mornings! So I sympathize, and agree that chocolate chip pancakes is the way to go!

    • @JN – I imagine that the only thing less relaxing than chasing one toddler around the house at 5:45 a.m. is chasing two. Or more! I guess I can be grateful I have only given birth to one child at a time.

  4. ARC says:

    You are a brave soul for keeping up The Elf with all you have going on 🙂

    I used to dread those early wakings and I never would have imagined that I’d be waking at 5:30am on my own to have a little time to myself before the crazy starts at 7:30am. This morning I was able to journal, meditate and put together most of a scrapbook page before making two poorly-received breakfast smoothies and arguing about whether or not an unlined raincoat was enough for <40 degree weather 😉

    What a difference a couple of years makes…

    • @ARC – yes, we’ll be there eventually. I do remember that the winter of 2012-2013 featured some long dark mornings too with my then 14-17 month old daughter. Our nanny at the time started at 9 a.m. two mornings a week, and there were some 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. extravaganzas in there.

  5. Meghan says:

    Oh, the early mornings. My kindergartener has to be at school by 7:55, which really means 7:45 to give him time to settle in. So that means we’re up by 6:15 at the latest in order to get all of us (all 3 of us, so not that bad, ha) ready and out the door and on our bikes before neighborhood traffic gets bad. But with the almost-3yo potty training, so waking in the night to get to the bathroom in time, I cannot imagine getting up any earlier than the very last minute in order to have quiet time. How much quiet time is enough to make it worth it? For me, it needs to be at least an hour, or I am just annoyed to be interrupted. So getting up by 5 at the latest in order to get that much time really isn’t worth it right now. My deepest sympathies for the pre-5:30 mornings!!

  6. EB says:

    Because I’m pretty well rested right now, this post got me unusually excited because I’m expecting my 3rd child in a few weeks. (I know 3 does not equal 4.) Because I am not in the thick of it, I am nostalgically (and wrongly) remembering those early morning wake-ups with the baby before the rest of the household gets up as peaceful memories. I’m sure in a few weeks when it’s actually happening I’ll be singing a different tune (probably a tune that involves a lot of whining and crying to my husband).

    • @EB – yeah, it’s a good thing the sleep deprivation and toddler stress fades in the rear view mirror. Otherwise humanity would stop reproducing.

    • oh, and congrats on your impending arrival! I’m sure your new baby will sleep perfectly 🙂

  7. Cloud says:

    Our morning issues are more around getting everyone out the door on time, so that I can get in a full day of work. Our morning routines have gotten a bit lazy. We had a talk about that at Thanksgiving, and everyone swore they’d do better. And yet, at least 3 out of 5 school days per week, we’re late. The kids go to before school care at their school, since school doesn’t start until 9. I want to have them there before 8, so I can get to work by 8:30. We’ve been hitting 8:10 and 8:20 more than 8:00. On the days I go onsite at a client, this is even worse, because the traffic difference between 8 and 8:20 is quite noticeable, and adds another 10 minutes to my delay!

    • ARC says:

      I wonder if it’s because the Before Care schedule is more flexible? If you were dropping them off directly at school which starts at 9, would you be more of a stickler about being late?

      We absolutely, positively, MUST leave the house by 8:20am to get to school at 8:45. The girls’ teacher is a stickler about lateness and says it disrupts the whole class, so we are just NOT late. If it’s 8:15 and they’re still eating breakfast, breakfast is over so they can get their shoes and coats on. But that’s because we HAVE to be there at 8:45 – otherwise I’m a person naturally inclined to be late to everything because I’m not watching the clock so closely.

      • @ARC – I’ve also been chronically under-estimating how long it takes to get in the car. We’re getting shoes on, and then by the time I turn the car on after everyone is buckled in, it can be 6 minutes later. I probably should time it to add it in. But we have been making it to church on time lately, so that’s good.

  8. SHU says:

    I don’t mind the dark at all. I usually finish my runs before the sun comes out these days, though it does get progressively lighter (I try to be home by 6:30!).

    It will get better! This was a good reminder to me to be THANKFUL that mine tend to sleep until the 6s. Or, if it’s the 5s, C is happy to sing to himself/play in his crib until the 6s. Hopefully this will remain the case. forever.

    • @SHU – yes, the end is in sight I suppose. I remember that I did my experiment of waking up at 6 to work for an hour in March of 2014. My littlest was just shy of 2.5 at the time, and it’s interesting to note that I felt confident I could set an alarm and be up before my kids and know I’d be able to do an hour of work. So I’m 18 months away from that.

  9. Jane says:

    Here is my morning routine Mon-Fri:
    5:30 am – wake up, wash/brush, make-up
    5:50 – dirty dishes into d/w; make coffee; make 4 lunches (mine and 3 kids); make my breakfast (usually 2 eggs with some cheese); make kids’ breakfast (e.g., oatmeal, scrambled eggs/bacon, pbj); pack nut-free snacks to be consumed in the classroom
    6:40 – pack my bag; get dressed; check make-up for smudged eyeliner; swipe lipstick; fix hair; check everything in mirror before take-off
    6:55 – off to work before I hit the school bus traffic!

  10. Rinna says:

    Oh, God, I detest any wakeup that is in the 5’s!! My eldest went through a phase when he was a toddler where he’d always wake up at 5:30 am and start screaming for me. At least it was spring/summer at the time,so I got in a lot of early morning walks! It was me and the people walking their dogs 🙂

    Right now, if my baby (7.5 months) wakes up in the 5’s, I will breasfeed and put him back in his bed until 6:30 am. Sometimes, he’s awake the whole time. But you know what, as long as he’s not crying, I don’t care. That is the difference between the first and fourth child!

    • @Rinna- sometimes I get the little one back in his crib, but not too often, because he does scream. Maybe he thinks, as the fourth kid, that’s the only way he’ll get noticed!
      But yeah, if this is still happening this summer there will be some walks – though that only works if there is another adult in the house. In which case, I might just want to hand the baby off to that person…

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