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Tales of A Working Mother: The Early Bird Gets to Walk

It's 5:45 a.m. and I'm nudged out of sleep by the voice of NPR's Renee Montagne, announcing the news of the world. I reluctantly pull the covers off, get out of bed and turn the volume down on the radio, cutting Renee off in mid-sentence. My husband stirs, opens one eye and gives me his "You're crazy" look before burrowing back under the covers like a crab retreating to its shell.

I have 10 minutes to get ready, but my routine is well practiced. I don't get up any earlier than I have to on walking mornings. Brush teeth, wash face, pull on sweats; in the winter, add mittens, scarf and funny hat and I'm on my way to meet my walking partner. This is my routine three times a week.

I'm not a natural early bird, nor do I have a burning desire to greet the dawn (although I do enjoy the pink-hued sunrises I'm treated to when walking so early). I'm just a working mother grabbing time when it's mine for the taking.

My walking partner is also a working mom and she and I know it's the one time of day when no one needs us at work or at home and we can walk stress- and responsibility- free. It's the one time of day when multitasking isn't required; you just put one foot in front of the other.

You might think during the 24 hours in a day there might be 30 minutes somewhere else to fit in exercise or other free time activities, and sometimes there is. But as all moms know, if you want consistency, those 30, or 60 or more (pure bliss!) minutes are best scheduled when the kids are sleeping and the office is closed.

Last year a survey revealed women today are "multi-minding" as "they're constantly physically and mentally juggling those multiple facets of their complex lives".

Women ages 25 to 54, the survey found, are more likely to have many things competing for their attention as they juggle multiple tasks and thoughts. They're 70 percent more likely to report feeling pulled in different directions than are men, and 74 percent of them spend more time thinking about other's needs than their own, which is a higher percentage than other groups. I wasn't part of this survey, but count me in.

The wee hours, whether in the morning or nighttime, are the domain of mothers. As we walk, my friend and I see other moms, bundled up like Michelin Men, trudging up and down the hills of our neighborhood. I know moms who get up early for private quite time to enjoy a cup of coffee and watch the morning news. Others read the paper in blissful silence, write in journals or work on novels, garden or scrapbook or stay up late e-mailing friends they have no time to call.

These early birds and night owls are searching for a quiet moment, the deep breath that the soul needs to take in days filled with the multitasking or multi-minding that motherhood demands.

The first hour-and-a-half of my day is just one example.

6 a.m.: Walk

6:45 a.m.: Shower, wake up kids

7 a.m.: Simultaneously make breakfast, prepare snacks, give the baby a bottle, sign important school forms that children forgot to give me the night before (which always require knowing your child's social security number and Apgar score by heart), find favorite pencil, book, jacket, (you fill in the blank _______), without which my child's school day will not be complete.

7:30 a.m. Take kids to school so that I can then go to work and begin multitasking there.

Then, before I know it, morning has become dusk and it's time to return home to don my chef's hat and become a short-order cook in between refereeing prize fighting between siblings, reviewing math problems I haven't seen the likes of in 25 years, searching for softball, soccer, you name the sport, gear for practices starting in five minutes and having lengthy conversations in gibberish with my baby.

Is it hectic? Definitely. Would I change it? Honest moms would have to say "sometimes"

But, the payoff for me comes in the evening when I could use one of my precious moments to walk, but instead I choose to rock my baby.

Like the walking that sets the tone for the beginning of my day, where no multitasking is required, bedtime also affords the pursuit of a single mission. To breathe in the lavender scent of my baby's skin and sing her lullabies until she falls asleep in my arms, the warm weight of her filling my lap and my heart. There is no better single-minded pursuit of a quiet moment.

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