It first hit me a few years ago when my kids were tiny and I managed to flee the family home in London for my first weekend away. We were two days in Copenhagen: me, two single women and a new couple floating through their honeymoon phase. We landed at 10 p.m. with only enough time to share a bottle of wine with our host and tuck ourselves into bed to rest up for a big day ahead.
Even sharing a bed with a six-foot-one Scandinavian woman, I slept like a log. It was divine. When we rose the next morning at 9 – a two-hour improvement on my usual schedule! – I sucked back a coffee, showered and slipped on my walking shoes. At 9:45 I was ready. The single ladies were still in their dressing gowns nursing cups of tea and baggy eyes. The couple was, naturally, still in bed.
My foot began to tap and continued, relentlessly, throughout the weekend. While my travel companions groaned in the cold Danish winds, stopping regularly for breaks, demanded afternoon “naps” (the couple, obviously), spent too much time in the bathroom and ate with the urgency of a 70-year-old man, I tried to contain my energy, built up over those unusually long sleeps and leisurely breaks. I don’t know who was more annoyed by it all – my friends must have thought I’d developed a furtive cocaine habit. On the contrary: leaving behind all those insalubrious habits for motherhood had given me super strength.
It doesn’t often occur to you, as a mom, how much you accomplish in a day, or how quickly and efficiently. At the end of it you have so little to show for it. But take a mom out of her habitat and it becomes clear how much she can accomplish.
When I traveled recently for work, I barely registered the five-hour jetlag, rising at my usual 7 a.m. and plowing through dinner meetings that ended at 11. We spent far too much time riding in cars and sitting at tables under air-con, so I blew off steam at the gym, in the pool, exploring on foot or whipping off freelance work during breaks. Once one of those poor souls who could never sleep in transit, with or without a baby squirming in her lap, all of a sudden I was catnapping at traffic lights, then reemerging, bright-eyed, when duty called. It’s amazing how quickly you can decompress, then pull yourself together when you only have yourself to care for.
My colleagues – women, most of them – praised me with labels like superhuman. “How do you do it?” they’d ask. I wish I could teach them the time-saving virtues of the three-minute shower, wash-and-go hairstyling or packing light with a wardrobe of iron-free clothing. Or why it always pays to carry snacks and water. But some qualities you just can’t learn by lecture. If you could, I’d be the richest “mompreneur” of them all.