“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 first stop in Washington, DC.
Diane and her husband Josh live in Silver Spring, Maryland, a suburb outside of DC with their two-year-old daughter Lucinda (Lulu). While Josh works nearby at the University of Maryland, Diane works as a freelance opera stage manager across the US, so she often travels for extended periods of time, leaving Josh to take care of Lucinda on his own.
“Working for several different opera companies is pretty typical for most opera stage managers. Most companies don’t produce opera 52 weeks a year, so you have to cobble together a year of work to stay employed.”
When Diane entered the Monday Morning series, she was in the middle of an 11 week job in Colorado. Her original goal was to “give a shout out to all the dads who take care of their little ones” including her husband.
“I was away on a job at the time, and I thought of Josh at home two time zones away with our toddler, and how incredibly hard and stressful his mornings were. Moms are so often the ones highlighted as caregivers, but dads are incredible caregivers too. My husband deserves a lot of credit for what he does and how he allows me to pursue this crazy career of mine.”
Diane thought the photo shoot might take place while she was away “micromanaging lunches over Skype”, but she recently started a job at a DC opera company, allowing her to be home until Christmas, when she will start an 11 week gig in Sarasota, Florida.
Diane says these mornings with her family feel like she is “making up for lost time”.
Lucinda sleeps in her own bed but usually wanders into Diane and Josh’s bed at about 6am.
They all squeeze in another hour of sleep and head downstairs together at 7am.
Once downstairs, Josh makes breakfast for himself and Lucinda, while Diane packs Lucinda’s lunch.
Diane says her favorite part of the morning is watching Josh and Lucinda have breakfast together. They usually play music and all sit together at the table.
Their relaxed schedule is very different to mornings when Diane isn’t there because Josh has a long commute to work and needs to be out the door at 8am, with only an hour to get himself and Lucinda ready. When Diane is there, she doesn’t have to be at work until 10am, so they don’t have to rush Lulu out the door.
But, Diane says this poses it’s own challenges as well.
“When I am home, I try to do more of the Lulu wrangling so that Josh can get to work and the mornings aren’t as stressful. It’s tricky, though – I can’t be too relaxed with Lulu’s morning routine because I know I will be away again and I don’t want her to get in the habit of dawdling, as it will make Josh’s morning harder when I am gone.”
After breakfast, Josh gets dressed while Diane packs her own lunch and hangs out with Lucinda. On this particular morning, Frozen was playing in the background and Lucinda ran around singing “Let It Go”. (It’s nice to know even parents with highbrow music tastes are subjected to Frozen just like the rest of us.)
When Josh is ready, they swap— Josh plays with Lucinda while Diane gets dressed.
Josh says Lucinda is better behaved when it’s just him.
“Lulu knows I won’t let her get away with things. Our morning is much more compressed because we have to get out of the house at 8am so I can get to work by 9am. Lucinda can’t spend an hour and a half eating her Cheerios. Diane is much more lenient.”
At some point in the morning, they must give their cat Guapo his anxiety medication– which Diane says, takes two people.
Diane talked about her involvement in the mornings when she is away.
“Sometimes Josh will put me on speaker phone at breakfast or in the car on the way to school. We’ve stopped doing the skype thing because it was distracting for Lucinda during breakfast and she would wail when we turned the computer off – which was probably as much about her attachment to technology as about her attachment to me.”
Josh leaves for work around 8:15am.
Diane has at least an hour before she has to leave, so she uses their remaining time to do housework and read books with Lulu.
I asked Diane about how Lucinda reacts when she returns after a long absence. Diane said that Lucinda seems to adjust easily, but Diane struggles with fitting back into their lives.
“The big adjustment is mostly for me and Josh because a lot can change in three weeks. Josh is constantly working on developing routines with Lucinda, adjusting them as she grows and develops, so there is an element of catch up to do. Sometimes I feel as if they take away my mom degree while I’m gone and I have to earn it back by learning how to do things again. There is a whole bedtime routine with a bottle of water being in the right place and being held a certain way, which I am still trying to figure out.”
Diane and Lucinda are out the door by 9:15am so Lucinda can make it to school for circle time at 9:30am. Then Diane heads to work, where she often works way past dinner.
When I first asked how Josh and Diane to describe their mornings, they chose very different adjectives. Josh said “sleepy, cautious and controlled” while Diane said “fun, family and routine”.
“I think we have very different views of the morning because I can take my time in the morning, while Josh has to be very regimented to get Lucinda out the door without any tears.”
But after seeing the photos, Josh said he could see the “fun and family” aspects he was missing.
Diane also reflected on what the photos meant to her as a mom who really struggles with work life balance.
“I have a lot of conflicts about the issue of work life balance, because I really love my job but at the same time, I want to raise a strong independent daughter. Something I loved about the pictures is they helped remind me to spend quality time with Lucinda when I can. Our mornings are often the only time we have to spend together, since I work most evenings and weekends when I’m on a show.”
Diane also talked about how the photos made her appreciate the simplicity of a morning at home all together.
“It was such a chill, quiet morning that I was suddenly wishing I had more chores to do because I didn’t feel busy, and I was afraid our shoot wasn’t going to be interesting. It definitely wasn’t the morning I had in mind when I first submitted us, but the pictures showed me that it is still special. I was reading a post about a research study about people keeping journals. It found that it’s not the big events people are happiest to look back on, but the small every day entries. The morning shoot is the photographic equivalent to journaling about a small every day thing. I feel really lucky to have our quiet morning documented.”
Josh made sure to add, “If you really want to see the chaos of a morning, you should come back in January when I have to do it all by myself again!”
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.