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.