Andrea Mara

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The Early Shift

Monday morning


Pitter patter. Toddler footsteps. All the way around to my side of the bed. “Is it morning mummy?” “No, it’s not morning, I’ll bring you back to your bed.”


Same footsteps, more resolute attitude. “Me getting in your bed now mummy, it morning-time.” Resistance is futile.


A skipping sound. That’s Emmie. She’s five so she skips everywhere. In this case, she skips around to my side of the bed. The side that’s furthest from the door – did I mention that?

“Morning! Is it morning?”

“Yes…” I croak.

“Can we have TV now?”

“Not yet, play for a while – will you get out some of your brother’s toys and play with him quietly on the landing?”

“Sure mum!” she says with a brightness that can only come from not staying up till midnight on Facebook and having just one more glass of wine.

I lie awake, listening to them playing, waiting for the first fight to break out, desperately wishing for a short snooze before that kicks in.


The first fight breaks out. I wake up. Great! That means I got some sleep. A whole 15 minutes by my estimation.

“Muuuuummmmm! Help!!!!” shrieks Emmie, as Sam pulls her hair/ stands on her head/ hugs her too tightly. I try to assess the level of her discomfort, and decide that she probably does need my help. The snoring person beside me isn’t jumping up to deal with it, so I get up, and walk the LONG walk from my side of the bed to the door, to sort out the fracas.


Back to bed. Come on sleep, come on sleep. Zzzzz.


“Hi mum!” It’s Clara, the late sleeper. She likes a lie-in, till oh at least 8.30, but the squabblers have woken her. “Can we have telly now?” she asks.

“Not yet – go play with your brother and sister on the landing, will you?”

Off she goes, and I cross everything that adding a third person to the game brings peace and harmony, knowing that in fact it will do the opposite.


The next fight breaks out. I can’t tell who is doing what to who, and I wait, hoping they’ll sort it out themselves or that my husband will get up. But he can’t hear them, he’s fast asleep. And unlike my sleep, which involves hearing the slightest movement anywhere in the house, his means just being asleep.


I give up and get up. I’m awake now anyway.

“OK, let’s go downstairs, you can have TV…” I tell them.

“Yay!!!!!!” they say, as though I’ve just announced we’ve moving to Disneyland and will have chocolate for breakfast. Tomorrow I’m definitely having a lie-in.

three kids - Office Mum
The architects of my early mornings

Tuesday morning


I hear toddler steps. Around to my side, in for a cuddle. And a wriggle, and a flip and a flop and a kick or two. He doesn’t know about my lie-in plans.


“I going now mum,” he announces. Which in theory is great, but usually not so much in practice.

“Where are you going?” I ask.

“To…. my bed,” he says, with a convincing nod that is not convincing at all.

“You’re not to go into the girls’ room, OK? Let them sleep. Just go to your own room,” I say.

“Mummy, I not going to girls’ room. I go my bed,” he says in the voice he uses for fibbing, throughout the day every day – the same one he uses as he sidles past with both hands behind his back, saying “Me having nothing behind my back mummy…”

He turns and runs, and goes straight into the girls’ room to wake them.


Toddler is back. To my side of the room. Doesn’t seem to know he has a dad. “Mummy can we have telly?”

“Did the girls tell you to say that?”

“Yes!” he says, delightedly, as though I’ve just successfully won a guessing game, and not caught his sisters out.

“They know it’s too early – play for a while, OK?” I say.

“OK mummy!” he says, and runs off to tell the girls the news.


A police car (toy, not real) rolls into my bedroom, siren blaring. The three kids follow; two of them singing Let It Go.

“Not here!” I say, “I meant you to play on the landing – you’re going to wake the neighbours!”

“But it’s morning – they’ll be up won’t they?” someone says.

They will now, I think, feeling guilty for the millionth time about our poor neighbours next door.

They move to the landing, and I lie awake listening to the games and the fights and the making up for as long as I can take it.


I nudge my husband. “Your turn – can you take them downstairs now – I need sleep.”

Off they go, and I listen to the downstairs noises for a few minutes before falling into blissful sleep. For a whole hour.


I wake with a jolt. What time is it? Where are they? What’s going on? Oh god, I better get up. Should be spending time with them over the holidays, not lying in bed.

I go downstairs. They’re watching TV. Nobody notices me coming into the room. They’re staring at the screen. They’ve forgotten I exist. Maybe that’s how it’ll go tomorrow morning – maybe they’ll forget I exist and go to the other side of the bed.

I flop on the couch, still not fully awake. “Any chance there’s tea in the pot?” I ask my husband. Clara finally notices me.

“Mum, you should be making the tea for dad, not asking him for it,” she said, “I mean, you had a lie-in.”

No. Words.

Tea - Office Mum





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