You may have stumbled across the Forbes magazine article that described the morning routines of 12 female leaders last week. Or maybe you didn’t because your own morning routine doesn’t involve trolling Facebook, slack-jawed over the twice-baked potatoes your bunkmate from summer camp 20 years ago made for her kids’ cross-country team. The Forbes piece was beckoned to be read, curling its finger and whispering, “Come, I will show you the many ways in which you are a loser.” Because I’m weak-willed and susceptible to clickbait, which serves to diminish my life’s purpose — or shows a horse being eaten by an alligator in slow motion — I clicked over.
I knew I was in trouble when the leading paragraph summarized the pool of women as awake by 6:03 a.m. and stringently prioritizing breakfast. I, on the other hand, prioritize nothing other than basic respiration before 10:03 a.m., at which point I really bear down on the day’s necessities, like finding my car keys, which I have attached to a pink tennis ball — something I am sure is atop a different list of 12 influential people who don’t spend three-quarters of their lives looking for things.
The author of the article goes on to say that the women, while diverse in background and lifestyle, share the belief that the day must be broken into small increments in order to maximize output. My gynecologist espouses the same principle, which she told me about once when I was prone on the exam table. I immediately began segmenting my day, starting with, “Stop clenching.” I tired of the exercise by the time I reached the parking lot. A former boss of mine once asked that I prescribe to the same method for a week so he could analyze the ebb and flow of my productivity. Fortunately he forgot to schedule that deep-dive into my rhythms into his own 15-minute segments, so my fits and starts and obsessive thoughts about the office vending machine were never truly memorialized.
You would notice in that Forbes article that each leader starts their routine with breakfast, a move long championed by nutritionists. But their breakfasts are more like third-world harvests — fairly traded, of course. Foodie concoctions involving quinoa, chia and Ezekiel are lauded as energy-sustainers that carry them through the next 400 to-dos on their list. I happened to be reading this article while eating my own breakfast, which was the pitiable heel off the bread loaf, smeared with butter. Not even infused or sea-salted or churned by Ma Ingalls herself. Just butter. From a box.
Periods within the mornings depicted felt familiar, the often literal push-pull of getting three children to school while the clock ticks away, robbing minutes away from the professional demands the day. Their stories lacked the outcomes where one kid arrives to school without shoes and another reveals a class snack obligation that needs to unfold in one hour, but there were the words “children” and “school” in their narratives.
I walked away from my computer feeling defeated because 12 women managed to make me feel absurd. Sure, they make more money than I, command more professional respect and accomplish more in a day than I do in a year, but what really fried me was that despite all this, they can read the Wall Street Journal and do Ashtanga yoga, probably at the same time. That, I suppose, was the gist of the article: Plan wisely and you, too, can feed your bank account, your family and your soul. I spent the rest of the day feeding my face while I stewed over that concept.
In an attempt to begin better time management and to allow all of you to feel better about your morning routines, I offer a glimpse into mine:
1:04 a.m. — Child 1 appears, climbs into bed, jams knee into my lower lumbar and falls asleep.
2:10 a.m. — Child 2 appears, climbs over Child 1 and me to the other side, jams elbows into my shoulders and falls asleep.
3:25 a.m. — Child 3 appears, screams over injustices of having no space, despite the football field-size space on the bed available away from me.
4:50 a.m. — I attempt to levitate from my bed. I crawl to a vacant twin bed and hope to fall back to sleep, but really I am counting the minutes until 1, 2 or 3 triangulate my location. I lie awake pondering life’s big stuff, like global warming, food insecurity and whatever happened to Rick Moranis.
6:15 a.m. — Awake to four humans in a twin bed and a dog snout that will ram my forehead for the next 45 minutes.
7:00 a.m. — Scream, “We’re late. Find clothes!”
7:05 a.m. — Everyone else screams, “We hate our clothes!”
7:06 a.m. — Scream back, “Well, so do I, and at least you don’t have to wear a Gloria Vanderbilt tunic today.”
7:06-7:45 a.m. — Dumping every drawer in our home in search of particular items, which are, of course, not available because they are lying on a soccer field somewhere.
7:45 a.m. — Arrive to kitchen where kids beg for pancakes, eggs benedict and waffles with whipped cream. I toss a box of cereal on the table and tell them that none of those things is available because this is not a Denny’s.
8:05-8:35 a.m. — Load everyone into car and make human deliveries.
8:35 a.m. — Avoid moms on playground attempting to gather others to exercise. Avoid administrators asking for volunteers for field trips, fundraising, baking and blood drives.
8:45 a.m. — Arrive home to two dogs waiting for a walk. Phone rings: Child 1 has forgotten lunch.
9:00 a.m. — Eat breakfast: Gluten-free spelt with chia seeds. I mean, leftover cake with sprinkles.