"Monday Mornings" aims to prove there is beauty in every mother's morning, even if we need an outsider to see it. Thanks to a partnership with Allstate, I am flying lifestyle photographer Raquel Bianca across the US to document the morning routines of twelve mothers in five different cities.
Our first stop is Downer's Grove, a Western suburb of Chicago, where Raquel photographed the lovely home of Laura H, her husband Adam and their three kids—five-year-old Alaina and 21-month-old twins, Thomas and Madeleine.
Laura is a financial analyst for a non-profit healthcare provider and Adam is a consultant. They have been living together in the Chicago area since college. Although they have considered moving to a smaller town for a slower pace, Laura says their careers keep them firmly planted. "We've opted for a relatively quiet, convenient suburb that allows us easy access to the city, but still with tons of parks, good schools, and a community feel."
I asked Laura what compelled her to participate in the Monday Mornings series and she said, "Photo shoots are normally posed, a bit unnatural, and don't really capture the routine or the little day-to-day moments… Things around here are so crazy in the mornings, but it's honestly some of my favorite time… I enjoy spending that hour or two with the kids before heading to work."
Laura outlined her usual morning for me prior to the shoot—starting with the kids waking up at 6:30am, her husband leaving for work at 7am, their nanny arriving at 7:30am to watch the twins and finally her dropping off Alaina at preschool on her way to the office.
However, as can often happen in a busy household with three kids, things did not go according to plan.
The kids woke up super early that morning at 5am, their nanny's train hit a car so she didn't get to the house until 1 1/2 hours late (don't worry, no one was hurt) and their "Gerber baby" Madeleine had a spill the day before resulting in a big scrape on her nose, which Laura was particularly upset about.
Looking through the photos, I would never have noticed the scrape if Raquel hadn't mentioned it. I think it's interesting to note how much worse things usually look in our heads than they do in real life. I remember filming an episode of The Mommy Show when Mazzy had a black eye and thinking the world was over, but then not even noticing it when I saw the final cut.
Laura's favorite part of the morning is going into the babies' room and "getting that first hug of the day".
"The babies wake up in a good mood and are happy to see us when we walk in the room." (Editor's Note: I have no idea what that is like!)
Then Laura and Adam tag team while they both get themselves ready, change diapers and manage meltdowns.
I asked Laura why Thomas as crying at breakfast and said, "One of the usual reasons, I forget—either wrong utensil, wrong breakfast or not fast enough."
Her least favorite moment is "tearing myself away from them if they are crying because I'm leaving".
Laura says leaving her kids in the morning is a little bit easier since she switched jobs and feels much more "engaged and valuable" at her office. "I think that's the key to the decision whether to work outside the home—if it makes you a better person, it is worth doing. You will always find quality time with your kids."
Unfortunately, Adam left to catch his train before they found out about their nanny's delay, and since they had no back up, the responsibility was on Laura to work it out with her office.
"Luckily in this case I didn't have an early morning meeting, so I was able to email my colleagues and let them know I'd be late… Typically, if we have advance notice, my husband and I compare schedules and see who can leave early or go in late when we have childcare issues. Stuff happens!"
I asked Laura to tell me a little bit more about her nanny since, personally, I have employed the same caregiver for the past four years and she has become like family to us.
Laura said, "For a dual-working traveling couple, babysitting and house help is a lifesaver. I have used Gretchen part-time since Alaina was 6 months old… Since the twins were born, I have another part-time babysitter (Miss V) who lives closer… she fills in on evenings or mornings when we travel and can get there more easily in bad weather… She loves the babies like they're her own, and is like another 'grandma' to them… I have a cleaning lady (Lucy) stop by two times a month too since I don't want to spend the time I am at home with the babies cleaning. We fill in the gaps with Adam's mom and Adam has some flexibility working from home, too. It truly takes a village."
Since Laura works in the neighborhood while Adam works in the city, Laura is responsible for drop-off and pick-up of Alaina from preschool. Typically, they play Frozen in the car on the way to preschool and then Laura switches to NPR for the rest of her commute.
After preschool drop-off, Laura usually stops for a morning coffee to help unwind before work, but because she was running really late, she had to rush straight to the office.
Laura says the first time she looked through the photos she was very self-critical and paid more attention to whether photos were flattering or not. She even wondered if maybe she should have worn a different shirt that didn't show off her "tummy roll". But then felt differently after a second look.
"When I take a second, pause, step back, and look again, I realize these photos are so valuable, catching things as they are. I will be very glad to have them. And I barely noticed Madeleine's scrape in the photos!"
This post is part of the "Monday Mornings" series sponsored by Allstate. Every family has a special morning routine, and as we continue this journey of documenting different mothers across the country, it's clear that there is beauty in all of our mornings. As the nation's largest publicly held insurance company, Allstate is dedicated not only to protecting what matters most—but to guiding families to live the Good Life, every day.