You can tell how much sleep I’ve had by the breakfast I serve my children. When I am fully rested and excited to greet the new day I will serve them perfectly round, golden, blueberry pancakes with fresh squeezed orange juice, farm-fresh uncured bacon, and scrambled eggs. I’ll let you know if that ever happens.
Let’s face it, I have three kids under 5 years old and a Netflix subscription, which means I’m frequently burning the candle at both ends. I never sleep past 7am, but I can’t seem to go to bed without watching just one more episode of House of Cards.
There is definitely a correlation between my level of exhaustion and the energy I’m willing to expend on breakfast first thing in the morning (although, the bags under my eyes are also a pretty good indication). In case you are ever at my house and are too frightened to ask me how my night went, here is a handy little reference chart to help guide your morning conversations.
Stage 1: Yeah, I could probably use a nap…
I don’t spent much time in Stage 1. This is a very optimistic 6-8 hours of solid, unbroken, no one pees in their bed, no one sucking on your boobs while you sleep, kind of rest. In other words, the Holy Grail of sleep for a parent. On the rare occasion I find myself in this nirvana-like state (my birthday, holidays, my-husband-wants-something days) I like to rustle up my signature pancakes. Ok, I like to pour some bisquick into a bowl and add milk. But still. It’s freaking pancakes.
Unfortunately there’s about a 50/50 chance one side will burn while I’m shoveling yogurt into the baby’s mouth between flippings. I figure syrup hides all manner of sins. Throw a few chocolate chips on there and my kid would eat a shoe.
Stage 2: I can’t keep my eyes open…
Stage 2 is pretty much my baseline. I may spend 6-8 hours in bed, but have been up for one reason or another at least twice in the night. I find my family likes to play a game I call “sleep dominos”, just to torture me. It’s when one member of the family wakes me up by either peeing themselves in bed, peeing unbelievably loudly in the toilet, or just jumping on my head. As soon as one child’s needs are attended to, the next one wakes up needing milk, then the dogs wake up and pee on the leg of the bed or poop in the closet, then I wake up my husband with my scrubbing, and he needs to pee. So it goes until everyone passes out or I’m hauled off to the loony bin.
On these mornings, I muster up the energy to pour some cheerios into a bowl with cut up bananas, milk, and a glass of juice. I then sit at the table with the four-year-old and check my email while he eats and the baby picks at cheerios in his high chair. It may not be the ideal family breakfast, but it’s calm and quiet.
Stage 3: I’ve been staring at Thomas the Train for 15 minutes without blinking…
Unfortunately, stage 3 is a common occurrence in our house. This is the point at which my brain actually starts to shut down and turn on auxiliary power. It’s not quite a crisis, but it’s certainly not a walk in the park. These are the days when I’ve had 4-5 hours of sleep, probably broken, and am starting to feel like an extra from The Walking Dead.
On these mornings I tell the boys they can have anything the they want for breakfast as long as it can be heated in the microwave or toaster: Eggos, pizza, hot dogs, pop tarts. It’s all fair game. If it doesn’t have to be heated at all, I’ll reward them by allowing them to chase it with some chocolate milk. The other day they ate cold spaghetti, and loved it.
Stage 4: I may have shut my eyes for a few minutes while my kid was on the toilet…
On these days, I usually call in reinforcements. I’ve had only a few hours of sleep, either because the kids have been up all night in tandem, or because the dreaded insomnia has returned. Either way, I’ve seen better days. I’ll never understand how after spending only a few hours in bed I can wake up with a back ache and a crick in my neck as if I’ve been in a coma for a week. It makes no sense.
These mornings are more about survival than they are about good nutrition. We move the party into the living room on where I hand the four-year-old and the toddler baggies of dry cereal and sippy cups of milk, turn on the tv, and let Mickey Mouse babysit my kids while I search the house for anything caffeinated.
Stage 5: Crap. What time is it and where is the baby?
Breakfast? No one is eating anything until I’ve had at least 500mg of caffeine. If you find it on the floor and it’s edible, go for it.
I’ve only reached Stage 5 a couple of times, usually when I’ve been ill and either pregnant or with a newborn, but so far no one has suffered any permanent scarring. However, if you suspect that I might be approaching a Stage 5 exhaustion emergency, it might be wise to give me some extra space. It’s pretty much a toss up as to whether or not I’ll bite your head off, burst into tears, or collapse into a narcoleptic coma. In any case, you would do well to be far far away by then.