Weekday mornings are the worst, and most of my friends agree when I ask them. We’re trying to get everyone to work, school and daycare all on time. One kid is always super tired while the other is bouncing off the walls, adding an extra layer of fun to the morning. Everyone needs to be somewhere different, bring different things, and at different times. When we talk about this, my working mom friends and I always say that by the time we get to work, we’ve already done almost a full day’s worth of work, orchestrating the complicated choreography of getting everyone where they should be, on time, with all their stuff. Preferably without spilling any of my coffee, accidentally leaving a dog outside in the cold, and with matching shoes on everyone. Oh and without losing my mind and turning into a banshee yelling “GO GO GO we are going to be SO LATE” where all my neighbors can hear.
Not that those things happen in my house regularly at all…ahem.
I have spent hours reading all the suggestions in mommy Facebook groups, on Pinterest, and in many other blogs about how to have a less stressful morning. I know that preparation is the key to success – do stuff the night before, don’t wait to hunt down my kid’s shoes until 5 minutes before we leave, and so on. But the real truth is: I don’t always prepare the night before, and I never will. And really, even when I do all I can to prepare for the morning, I’m pretty sure the universe is out to make a mockery of my efforts some days. My kids and husband lose their stuff 10 minutes after we find it all. the. time. What time me and my husband each have to be at work changes all the time, snow days mess up everything (thanks Colorado), and my old dog with arthritis sometimes just refuses to go outside and pee because it’s too cold and it takes 20 minutes of bribery. My kids grow overnight and the pants they wore 5 days ago suddenly don’t fit today, the youngest wants to cry for the umpteenth time that it’s not fair he doesn’t get to go to school yet, and sometimes I leave the house in my slippers and have to go back for my shoes.
So in an effort to work on accepting life as it is, living in the present, and making the most of things (and to not turn into a banshee), I began looking for ways to make mornings better even when my entire household seems to be out to ruin my efforts. I wanted things that weren’t going to require me to wake up a lot earlier, didn’t cost me much in time or money, and that I could be flexible about how I do them and where they fit in during the morning routine. After a lot of reading and trial and error, I found 4 things that help me have a better morning even amidst the chaos. There’s no order of importance, and they really work best when all four are done.
- Drink a glass of water when you first wake up. I know it sounds overly simple, but when you’ve been asleep for several hours, your body wakes up a little dehydrated. Caffeine dehydrates you too, so before you have that first sweet cup of coffee or tea, drink a glass of water.
- Start the day with a positive focus. Another one that sounds simple and silly. Whether it’s a mantra, a motivating song, a gratitude journal, or just a couple minutes of positive thinking, make sure to start your day with it. I like to do this while I brush my teeth to help keep me in a good frame of mind during the morning crazy. I’m a big fan of mantras, and two I love are “I am enough, I have enough, I do enough” and “It’s a good day to have a good day.”
- Wake up before the kids. Even if it’s just 10 minutes before them. Give yourself at least 10 minutes alone. Some people swear by the energy boost of waking up and working out every morning, others like to meditate or journal. It can be just as simple as making and drinking that first cup of coffee in peace while it’s still hot, or having 10 minutes to scroll Instagram while you wake up. I personally wake up about 20 minutes before my kids, and do 10-30 minutes of yoga, depending on what time I have to leave that day. The kids often wake up during yoga, but if I’m in the basement they might not find me right away (haha), or if I’m in the living room they’re learning to just join in on the yoga or leave me alone until I’m done. I’ve done intense workouts or journaling too. Try different things with that alone time and see what fuels you best! And, don’t be afraid to change it up.
- Simplify your hair, makeup, and outfits. I have 3 hairstyles I wear to work, and one is a ponytail. I have two makeup styles I do, and the only differences are the color of the eyeshadow and whether I wear mascara or not. I’m still working on simplifying my outfits because I’m in between clothing sizes and my closet is a mish-mash of things while I figure out where my body is going to land. But lately, I keep it simple to solid, dark colored pants and skirts, button up blouses, or a comfortable tank top with a cardigan or blazer. I have two pairs of work shoes, and I wear the same jewelry everyday, except for switching up my earrings between a few pairs. I don’t have to think or make many decisions in the morning, avoiding time wasting and decision fatigue. Now, I also don’t pick out my clothes the night before. I have no idea if I’m going to wake up feeling like wearing bright pink and a skirt, or going comfy in my favorite pants and a cardigan. But my options are limited, and that’s what helps keep my morning going smoothly.
Doing these four things every morning during the work week has greatly improved how my day starts out. It’s one of those times when I’ve realized that focusing on myself and showing some self-love leads to more love – and a better morning – for those around me. How I begin my day has a strong impact on the rest of it – I have a hard time turning it around if my morning was awful, so a strong start is really important for me. Kids have even less emotional coping skills, and I can tell that how their day starts has a strong impact on the entire day for my kids, too. With my oldest starting school last fall, I’ve been really aware of how we start his day, and that I send him to school in a positive state of mind. If I’m on a negative spiral, I quickly take my kids down with me in the morning. That isn’t how I want them to start their day; I want it to begin and end with positive thoughts and feeling loved and connected. The best way I have found to do this for them, is to focus on doing it for me and letting it spill over into their lives.
The best part of this list? Only one of them adds any extra time to your morning routine, and that can be as little as 10 minutes. For us sleep deprived working moms, not giving up any more sleep is so important.