Essays, Essays Archive
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Before Birdsong

It’s 5.30am and I’m at my desk. If you had told me five years ago I’d willingly get up before 6am I would have struggled to believe you but here I am.

The birds are not yet singing but if I listen very carefully I can hear the distant hum of other early risers. Mostly cars already on their way to work. Not on our street though. Before 6am when my husband wakes up, it’s just me and the silence, until I fire up my laptop and add the tap of the keyboard to my morning music.

I sit for a moment, soaking up the silence. I reflect on the previous day, or week. Sometimes I allow myself to get caught up in an unhelpful train of thought but I usually leave that for the evening after a long day. In the morning I am kinder to myself. Today I am thinking about how I mothered in anger yesterday morning, storming off and refusing to listen to the reasons behind my four-year old’s challenging behaviour. Excuses I called them, and sent him away.

I reflect that the behavior needed addressing but wish I gave another response. That was yesterday though. That afternoon I listened and empathized and he felt heard. His behaviour that evening then reflected this and we were all much calmer.

Today is a new day.

I’ve only been sitting down for a few minutes and I notice how much my mind jumps around. I’m not a morning person and up until recently, I couldn’t rise even if I tried. I had regular wake up calls at around 2am, being up for the day at 5am most days. I used to wonder if we’d ever sleep through the night again. We do now. I think, this too shall pass, as I navigate his recently heightened anxiety, as I hope it is only temporary, as I remind myself to focus on the roots of the challenges and not react. This sensitivity will be a strength as he matures.

So much has changed this past year for us both. I am lucky I do work that I love every day. Sometimes doing what you love can still feel like work. A lot of work. It’s worth it. I was raised to always be the best, which I took to mean everything must be perfect. It took a while to let go of that one (and I’m still working on it) but a strong work ethic is not a bad thing to have when you work for yourself. My mum always said, “I just want you to be happy. You must do what makes you happy.” I suppose there is balance between those two messages and I am closer to the middle now, more than I ever have been. I am thankful for both messages and that I’ve had the support I needed to let go of the less helpful interpretations I used to hold onto so tightly.

I want to model better self-care for my son. To show him that work doesn’t always have to feel like work. That if you follow your dreams, keep taking steps towards them and surround yourself with people who lift you up, it is possible to enjoy all of life. Not to find a balance between work and life but to find balance in life, which includes work. There will be times it’s a bit shit, but that’s ok.

Shit is fertiliser for the good stuff.

I try to stop thinking and focus a while on my breath instead. Thoughts still float past me – is my sister feeling better? Did my friend’s plane land safely? I should call my Nan today. How much time will I have to write if I sit here too long? I grab hold of the last thought and can’t let it go so the meditation is over. I’ll try again tomorrow. There is always tomorrow.

I decide today will be about creating and move to my desk.  My mind wanders as my laptop screen lights up and I wait for it to load. What will I write this morning? I’m looking forward to this time. I love my work but this? This is not work. This is just for me. I’m writing to exorcise demons, to share dreams, to create alternate realities. I’m escaping into myself. As much as the meditation – often even more so – this is my time. I open up a blank page and start to type. Before I know it half an hour has passed. I have an idea of what I’ve written but it’s barely conscious and I expect it to be rubbish but when I read it back it’s not too bad. Revealing, but not bad. I breathe, bringing myself back into the room. Noticing that I didn’t even hear the shower but my husband must be up and dressed by now.

When I tell people that I get up early to write some get it. Others say it sounds like work and wonder why I don’t have the extra hour in bed. That’s the thing about me-time. It’s not the same for everyone and this is what works for me, for now. I sleep until my son rises during the weekends. Weekday mornings, I write.

The birds are singing now. I tiptoe into his room and open the curtains. It’s still dark outside so I turn the light on, low. He’s a light sleeper, like me. He’ll stir soon enough. I sit beside his bed and watch him, gently stroking his cheek until his eyes flicker as he crosses the line from his dreams to early morning reality, and me. He opens his eyes and looks at me, a half-smile on his lips. We stay there like that for a while, until one of us breaks the silence. “Nice and peace and quiet” he whispers. This is our time now.

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Filed under: Essays, Essays Archive


Rachael B. (she/her) is a freelance writer, poet and personal coach. She refers to herself as a ‘self-care activist and growth catalyst,’ to describe the work she does to facilitate personal and professional growth, offering a gentle, non-judgemental space for both. Although she’s been writing for as long as she can remember, Rachael didn’t call herself a writer until someone paid her to do it. On a day to day basis, she writes for small businesses, freelancers and organisations doing good in the world. Her first poetry collection, Sauce will thicken on standing, was published with The Unbound Press in May 2023. You can learn more about Rachael's work on her website,


  1. This was good for me to read today. Tonight. It’s been a rough day. This encourages me and helps me rest in a way I’ve needed to but couldn’t. Thank you! 🙂

  2. This is a really soothing read – I enjoyed being carried along by your words and felt very much like I was in the moment with you. And the ending is beautiful, it brought tears to my eyes. Thanks so much for sharing with #whatImwriting

  3. Susie Glasgowdragonfly says

    I found this such an inspiring read. I love that you can manage time between you, work and child and recognise the benefit in having the “you” time even though to others it may look like extra work in an already busy life. Thanks so much for sharing X

  4. Sophie Lovett says

    Such a beautiful post. You had me breaking out in goosebumps at the end! I’ve been mulling over for a while whether (as an equally non-morning type of person) I can take the leap and get up a little earlier to carve out some time to write. I need to kickstart a bit of early bedtime discipline first I fear, but your words have definitely inspired me… Thank you xx

  5. Monica Geglio says

    Very beautiful. I’m currently in a state of struggle as a parent of a 2 and 4 year old. The littlest one destroys everything in sight and I feel like I am losing my mind… despite the numerous hugs, kisses, and snuggles. So thank you for the reminder to cherish every moment. I know this struggle will not last.

  6. Monica Geglio says

    My comment below belonged to a different story I read. Not sure why it appeared here. However, I’m leaving it. I want to also add that perhaps, I will retry to focus on willingly getting up before my kids in order to create time for myself.

  7. Rachael Blair says

    You’re welcome Sophie, so glad you found it inspiring!

  8. Rachael Blair says

    I’m so pleased to have been encouraging after a rough day. I hope you’ve had a good rest and smoother days since your comment. x

  9. Rachael Blair says

    Aw thanks Maddy! I’ve got to stop making you cry 😉 I’m glad my resonate so much and look forward to seeing you again this year. x

  10. Rachael Blair says

    Thanks Susie. I don’t always manage the balance but I try! I am much better than I used to be as I am so much more aware now, of the difference when I don’t take care of myself. x

  11. Rachael Blair says

    I’m curious about the essay the comment was meant for! Thanks for leaving another. It’s not always easy to get up before the kids (and I couldn’t have done so when my son was rising at 5am!) but for me, it’s always a better way to start my day 🙂

  12. Victoria Welton says

    I have to say that I completely understand where you are coming from. I enjoy getting up early before everyone else and the house is quiet. That is my ‘me’ time too. #WhatIAmWriting

  13. Victoria Welton says

    Just popping back to say thank you so much for linking to Prose for Thought too – it is great to see you xx

  14. Rachael Blair says

    Thank you! I think many of us writing parents get up early for our ‘me’ time. 🙂 x

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