"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. This is our second stop in the Los Angeles area. (The first was Morgan.)
Today's Monday Morning features Adriana, a single mom and full-time student living with a roommate in Pasadena, California. Adriana is currently working on her doctorate in pediatric physical therapy. She has a 20 month-old son named Daniel, who she must drive to daycare before an always changing schedule of classes, clinical work, exams and studying.
Adriana and Daniel switch off sleeping at her place and at her boyfriend's place, who has recently taken a more active role in her son's life.
"This summer, I had a really difficult clinical rotation and I was getting to work a little late each day even though I was dropping Daniel off right when the daycare opened. My boyfriend is a gym teacher and baseball coach so he has the summer off and offered his help in the mornings. It was hard for me to say yes because I'm used to being independent and I don't like to put people out of their way at all. It was a big step for me in our relationship to accept his help."
Since Adriana is often getting herself and her son ready while her boyfriend or her room mate are still sleeping, she initially described her mornings as "dark, quiet and rushed".
Prior to the shoot, I asked Adriana why she wanted to participate in the Monday Mornings series.
"Four years ago, I was a Catholic school teacher who taught catechism to elementary kids, so co-habitation before marriage or being a single mom with no dad involved would not have been an ideal thing for me to have, let alone show to the Internet. But with time, I have loosened up and with trial and error, I have found that it is so important to co-habitate before making a serious commitment… When I found out I was pregnant, I left it up to Daniel's dad whether to be involved or not and it was apparent right away he was not ready to be a dad. I knew early on I would be doing this on my own and I was ok with that. I am a single mom by choice and I am SO happy with my situation. I love my son more than anything in the world, and I appreciate the support and love of my family and my significant other and that is what made me comfortable showing my unique morning."
When Raquel arrived at Adriana's home at 6:30am, Adriana's boyfriend had just left and Adriana was coming back from an early morning run—one of the advantages of having a roommate.
Daniel was still asleep, so Adriana started her day by putting away laundry in the living room.
"I always have piles of finished laundry, folded laundry or cloth diaper laundry of some sort lying on the changing table or on the couch."
Her plan was to jump in the shower while Daniel was still sleeping, but (as toddlers often do) he woke up earlier than expected. Adriana attributed his early wake-up to being in the pack and play, which she had used the night before because Daniel wouldn't stay in his new toddler bed.
Adriana always prepares Daniel a bottle first thing in the morning.
Daniel will usually drink the bottle peacefully for ten minutes, so Adriana used that opportunity to take a quick shower.
Then she took Daniel into the kitchen to make breakfast.
"Daniel loves scrambled eggs, so if there's time to make them in the morning I will make him scrambled cheesy eggs with fruit. I always make myself coffee, as it's vital to my survival. I'm from Seattle and we all are addicted there."
Daniel usually does an art project or puzzle in the living room while his mom makes breakfast, but since Raquel was there, "he was extremely shy and wanted to be held".
"I love having him with me. He has a beautiful little personality and I enjoy experiencing it in the morning when he is in a good mood. In the evening, he will be grumpy, so I have to cherish his rested toddler state!"
After breakfast, Adriana got Daniel changed and ready for daycare, packed his backpack with his snack and blanket, and then got together her own stuff to spend the day studying in the library.
Adriana wanted to make it clear that she did not view her life as a single mom as any more of a struggle than most moms, saying "all moms are single in some way".
"When people talk to me about how single motherhood must be really hard, I usually say yes, but motherhood is hard no matter what your family looks like. My married friends have a lot of the same struggles I do. They have a hard time getting a shower in or they don't get much help at night from their man, so they are in it alone at times. I think all mothers struggle with balance and push their limits."
She also made an interesting point about the give and take of co-parenting.
"In my experience, women complain a lot about their significant others not helping out. When Daniel is crying, I never have to think 'are you going to get up or am I going to get up'. It's an automatic 'I'm up!' and that's a blessing because having the option would be stressful for me."
Adriana says that although their morning routine changes daily, their routine for leaving the house is always the same.
"I say 'llaves' and he runs to where his toy keys are. He plays with them while I get his 'zapatos' on. My favorite photo is the one where I'm putting on Daniel's shoes while he is playing with his keys. We do this every day."
Adriana drives Daniel to daycare in Lincoln Heights for a 9am drop-off and then heads to USC Heath Science campus about a mile away.
"You can actually see my school from the daycare since it sits up on a hill. I like that if there was ever an earthquake, I could jog to get him."
I asked Adriana what she thought about the photos of her morning.
"I didn't realize I engage with Daniel so much as I do. I didn't realize I smile so much with him! Even when I'm opening the fridge— I don't know what I was smiling about! I still see the piles of diaper laundry and pillows in the pack and play, but the rush of the morning isn't in the pictures as much as I would have expected. The pictures made me think about my mornings with more joy."
I asked Adriana if there was anything else about the experience she would like to share. She said she "underestimated how reflecting on the experience would make me more appreciative of myself as a Mom" and added a few wise words I've been thinking about since I read them:
"When I'm rushing to school in the morning with two backpacks and my son in my arms I'm unconsciously allowing myself to act hectic in that moment. I am forgetting how wonderful it was to wake with my son, see his smile and listen to him babble to me about his night, watch him devour his breakfast and eat with a spoon… When I look back on my day it's the moments I made him smile that I will remember. NOT the number of things I got done in the day and whether he went to bed on time."
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.