It’s 6:45 am and the door down the hall opens.
The pitter patter of feet is heard down the hallway, approaching the kitchen. They stop, there is a loud, exaggerated sigh, and then the footsteps retreat. The sigh was in response to the bright numbers displayed on the oven clock.
From an early age, the children know how to read time well enough to understand when it’s too early. You see, 7am is the acceptable time to be awake.
Before 7, there is no breakfast, no playing, no electronics, and no parenting.
Earlier this year our lives changed. I used to work outside of the home full-time (we left for day-care before breakfast). Now I would be working part time from home.
I knew that to make this staying home with the kids thing work we needed some ground rules. Since, we also had to you know, stay sane. Which apparently is something expected of a stay at home parent.
Boundaries are important.
Parents use them in all aspects of life. Children test them from an early age. But the determination of boundaries is where society usually gets in trouble.
Parenting is a full-time job, right? 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for at least the first 18 years, and usually way past that. So, we set some new boundaries for our new lifestyle.
Enter parenting hours.
Like office hours, these hours are set in advance, known to all who may need them, and honored as such. Just like we set a bedtime and meal times, and school sets their operating hours, we set ours. So, Mom doesn’t become Mom until 7am. No matter the time the children awake, they are not to ask Mom for anything.
And, it works! (Most of the time.)
There were several mornings this summer where the kids tried to forget the rules. They came dancing down the hallway at 6:30 demanding breakfast. Completely disregarding the fact that Mom wasn’t on duty until 7. With the battle lost I began the day a little earlier than planned. And it wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t as productive as it should have been.
Later that day, when the children were playing nicely, I fired up the computer at the kitchen table. This was my attempt to get some work done. I figured I could make up for the 30 minutes or so they stole from me that morning. No such luck. As soon as I started typing they were busy vying for my attention again.
It was clearly time for a discussion. It went something like this:
Me: Do you want Mom to be able to do things with you during the day?
Me: Do you want me to work during the day instead of playing with you?
Me: Do you understand that I have work that needs to be done?
Me: So when am I supposed to do it if you don’t let me work in the morning and you don’t let me work during the day?
So, the real challenge wasn’t getting them to respect the fact that I had to work. The challenge was getting them to understand work.
For some reason, this idea that Mom had to do work, during the day, in the house, was too much for them. Amazingly enough, this simple conversation was enough to enlighten them.
Miraculously, they got it. And they still get it. I’m not Mom until 7am. Before that I am Rebecca, a writer, a professional, a wannabe superhero. With coffee as my secret weapon, I can conquer the world, as long as we are done by 7am.