“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 DC area.
Orisia lives in Arlington, Virginia with her husband Geoff and their twin 14 month-old daughters, Elizabeth (Ellie) and Victoria (Vickie). Orisia and Geoff met when they both attended George Washington University. After graduating, Orisia went to law shcool and Geoff got a job as a police officer in Arlington.
“We decided Arlington was the best place for us to stay and raise a family. It’s convenient for him and close enough to the city to make a relatively easy commute for me. We never had any reason to consider moving elsewhere.”
Orisia and Geoff’s mornings are unique because they have completely opposite schedules. Geoff works nights, usually from 9pm until 6:30am. When Orisia is waking up to start her day, Geoff is just coming home from work.
On the morning of the shoot, Geoff got home at 6am just as Orisia was waking up to take a shower. Vickie woke up soon after that, as she is always the first of the twins to rise, often an hour or two before her twin sister.
“Ellie started sleeping through the night, until 7:00 or 8:00 am, at around 4 months old. Vickie continued waking up numerous times a night until after her first birthday. Even though she now sleeps through the night, she is still up between 6-7:00 am every morning, if we’re lucky. Sometimes it’s as early as 5:00 am.”
Geoff helps out in the morning and waits until Orisia has gone to work to go to bed.
“We warmed up Vickie’s milk, fed the dog, and took care of some morning chores. There was baby food we had frozen in trays the night before that needed to be removed and bagged. Sometimes there are dishes we didn’t get to the night before or toys that need to be picked up. This is pretty typical use of our time in the mornings.”
Geoff plays with Vickie while Orisia has her morning coffee. Then Ellie wakes up and they have to do everything again.
“Since Ellie sleeps an hour or two longer than Vickie, this means, every morning, we have to do the same thing twice. Baby awake, change diaper, make milk, play…. second baby awake, change diaper, make milk again, play some more… their routine generally syncs up when we get them dressed.”
Orisia hands off Ellie to Geoff to get fed. Then, she takes Vickie upstairs to hang out with her while she gets ready for work.
Orisia explained why they have to keep the twins separate in the morning.
“When Vickie sees Ellie having her milk, she tries to steal it from Ellie or throws a fit because she wants some too, even though she already had hers earlier. When they are not being fed together, it’s easiest to keep them apart to avoid all that.
Orisia does her hair, puts on make-up and gets dressed while Vicki plays in the bathroom.
Then, she brings Vickie into the nursery to get dressed as well.
After that, Geoff and Orisia switch the girls and Orisia gets Ellie dressed while Geoff spends time with Vickie.
I asked Orisia about Geoff’s schedule. I was curious how much it varies throughout the week and if they are ever able to spend time together as a family.
“Geoff works five days, gets four days off, and every third week he gets five days off in between the work days. The result is that every week is different. Generally, it means that he works two weekends a month. As far as the week days go, one week per month he has to work five days (Monday through Friday), but the other three weeks of the month he is only working 1-3 week days. To avoid being on an opposite schedule on his days off, the morning after his last night of work he does not go to sleep. He just stays up all day, maybe catching a short nap while the girls nap in the afternoon. He then goes to bed when they do at 8:00pm, and wakes up whenever Vickie wakes up the following morning. That gets him onto a normal schedule. The day of his first night back to work, he usually tries to take a nap in the afternoon (generally timed to coincide with the girls’ nap) so that he has enough energy to get through that first night. Most of his days off are weekdays, so it’s not so much spending the day with me as spending the day with the girls. The two weekends a month he has off are priceless, since that is the only significant time we have together as a family. It all seems complicated, but we have his calendar scheduled for the year and that helps us plan ahead.”
Orisia talked about the challenges of having an opposing schedule with your spouse.
“It often feels like we are single parenting all the time. Vickie’s terrible sleep habits made nights very difficult for me the entire first year, having to get up 3-4 times a night and then go to work in the morning. There were many nights with two children screaming uncontrollably and I had no one there to help. The reverse has been true for Geoff. He has had some very difficult days, with both children being difficult all day with no help. Overall, it seems like we have very little time as a family of four.”
But, Orisia says there are some advantages too.
“The one big advantage is our children spend the majority of their time with a parent. We are not relying on outside childcare nearly as much as a family with both parents working an out-of-the-house day job. I love that one of us has been able to be present a majority of the time since they were born.
“Once everyone is ready, Geoff goes to bed while Orisia fits in a good ten minutes of playtime with the twins before she leaves for work.
“I always try to fit in a little quality time with the girls every morning before I leave, even if it is just for a few minutes.”
Recently, Orisia cut back on her work schedule a bit, “not only to allow extra time with my girls, but also to have a few extra hours a week to spend as a family.”
At 8:00am, a neighbor shows up to watch the girls for a few hours so Orisia can leave for work while Geoff is still sleeping.
“Even though we do not have family nearby, there are a number of people that are like family to us and have been very gracious with their willingness to help out. We’ve been very fortunate in that regard.“
Geoff usually sleeps until 12pm. Then he gets up to take care of the girls for the rest of the day until Orisia returns from work.
In our initial correspondence, Orisia mentioned that she feared the photos would portray them inaccurately, since they are not always at their best in the morning, especially since Geoff has just gotten home from work.
Unfortunately, after Orisia saw the photos, she felt her fear was realized.
“Looking through the photos, its hard to find one where Geoff is smiling or looks like he is having fun. I know this is the result of having been up all night, but someone looking at these photos may get the impression he is very serious or grumpy all the time, which is definitely not the case. I think what is missing from the photos is the fun and loving demeanor that he generally has towards his family.
Orisia went on to describe Geoff’s love for his daughters in a little more detail.
“Geoff is definitely outnumbered in this house, with two daughters and a girl dog. However, he is an amazing daddy to those girls and they absolutely adore him. He has admitted, on numerous occasions, that he never knew that a love like this exists. I think the girly stuff may become more challenging for him in the next few years – I can’t imagine him trying to do their hair! – but so far, occasional mismatched outfits and complaints about the difficulty of putting tights on toddlers aside, he has done a great job embracing a life full of pink and purple.”
Orisia also said the photos made her feel a little self-conscious about losing some more of the baby weight, but did see a lot of positive things in the photos as well.
“Vanity aside, I was surprised I looked so relaxed. Also, seeing from an outside perspective how much fun I have with my girls in the morning is heart-warming. I’ve always treasured that little bit of time with them before leaving for work, and this experience has reinforced how special that time really is.”
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.