“Fake it ’till you make it.” I first heard this adage several years ago when I was bogged down by bills and babies and the advice was given by another homeschooling mother who was addressing a stressed mother’s lack of desire towards her spouse.
I thought about this saying a few days ago when my 6-year-old daughter woke up a good two hours before she normally does. After an hour of procrastination I had finally sat down to work on an essay when I heard the unmistakable thump, thump, of little feet coming down the stairs. My pen stopped mid-sentence, and I cringed.
“Oh no! You’re up too early!” I greeted her, and I saw her little face fall a bit. Who would want to be greeted in that way, as if we are an intrusion? What if our spouse greeted us so when we came downstairs? I regretted it as soon as the words left my mouth, but I also could not believe that Abby was up so early, and that the day with children was starting so early.
You see, those morning hours are crucial to my well-being. I look forward to that time alone, crave it, lust after it, am even excited about it the night before. My husband gets the coffeemaker ready each evening and when I go to turn out the kitchen light, I smell that fresh coffee smell and think about the quiet morning ahead and smile. I used to get up at 5:00, but that is when I could get the youngest children (and thus, myself) in bed before 10:00, sometimes even 9:30. Now, however, bedtime is closer to 10:30 or even 11:00, so I am lucky to pull myself out of bed by 6:00. On the days I walk with my sister, we start our walk by 7:00, so depending upon when I get up, I can barely do a quick read-through of an article I am working on before Pat comes calling for our walk. When I get home an hour later, refreshed from the walk and the cool morning air, I might sit down with a hot cup of coffee and check my e-mail, talk to my husband a bit, and then have a short period of writing before my children are awake, and BAM~ MY time is up. Once the kids are up, my time is not my own for the rest of the day. I might try to squeeze in a little reading, a little writing, but interruptions and family life prohibits much quiet, contemplative time.
But that doesn’t excuse me from making my children feel like intruders in my life. That was not a good start to the morning, and the entire day seemed to follow suit, with me feeling off-kilter without my usual writing time, and the kids picking up on my mood and crabbing at each other all day. Abby was getting a cold, and when she gets a cold she has trouble sleeping. I knew this, and I knew it might happen again so I made the concious decision to pretend I was glad to see her when she got up early again the next morning. And in pretending, I might be able to become the happy, cheerful mom.
So yesterday, when Abby woke up right after my walk with my sister and I had virtually NO TIME for writing, I greeted her cheerfully and cuddled with her on the couch for awhile. While my fingers were itching to get at the computer or for writing, I spent some time on math with her. Then when her sister Katie also woke up earlier and I knew I was not going to get at any writing that day, I also greeted her with gusto. And you know what? After they did their schoolwork they played really well together, without fighting, something there has been too much of lately. Later in the day my daughter Rachel and my granddaughter Rebecca were here, and I knew I wasn’t going to get any writing done at all, not even a letter. I felt nervous, I felt anxious, but I did get 10 postcards mailed through Hippopost, so ten people will know I am thinking of them, and I like that.
But yesterday went well, and I believe my attitude of forced cheerfulness made the difference. And you know, although I faked it at first, by day’s end, I truly enjoyed how the day had gone.
Then last night my dreams consisted of short vigenettes in which I was trying, desperately, to claim some time for myself. In one dream I wanted to write so bad I was crying to my husband. In another I was moving from room to room to get away from children. I hardly felt rested by morning, when it seems as though my dreams were a constant fight to be alone. (I have had similar dreams of trying desperately to get kids to go to sleep. My children are notorious problem sleepers and it is only in the last year or two that I can pretty much count on them sleeping, but still not always through the night)
So this morning I am headed to a local restaurant, where I will write to my heart’s content, and treat myself to poached eggs and whole wheat toast. I will spend some quality time with my muse, and if she refuses to cooperate, I’ll write letters until she does. And when I walk back home after my time alone, I’ll enter the house with a smile, and pretend that time alone was enough, until it really is.