Remember when you were a kid and as soon as the you saw the sun rising in the sky from your bed, you jumped up ready and excited to face the day? Anything could happen and you wanted to be the first one in on the action.
For many of us, that ship sailed when we started losing massive amounts of sleep during the newborn phase of our lives as mothers. Mornings for most adults are just a continuation of the exhaustion felt from the day before. We all have too much on our plate and not enough time to do it all. Mornings can be stressful, hectic, and frustrating and that kind of start to your day, research confirms, really impacts the quality of your day, and also how you perceive everything else that happens in that 24 hour period. I realized about three years ago that I had to change the course of our mornings because it was really bringing us all down.
What if I told you that I found a way to return a little bit of the “magic” back to mornings and ensure a peaceful, happy start to the day? Well, most of the time because if you have toddlers things can go wheels off at any moment. But what if I told you the tools we are using have changed our family dynamic for the better and helped improve my overall mood every day?
With some minimal nightly prep work and organization, we have been able to establish a morning routine and a “day before” routine (more below) that has made our mornings more relaxed and joyful.
Without further ado, I share my secrets below in part 1 of a 2 part series on how to make your mornings more joyful and relaxed. Stay tuned for more secrets in part 2 and come back to the comments later to tell me how it is working for you and what secrets you’ve found!
We all have things we have to do EVERY DAY. The first thing is to decide when you want to do the work. At some point every day we choose our clothes, make breakfast and lunch, check backpacks and get them ready for school etc. All of these things have to get done. WHEN you choose to do those things can greatly impact the quality of your mornings. So what we do is move ANY POSSIBLE THING that can get done the night before, and we do it then. If I am cooking dinner, I am also prepping breakfast, plating it, and filling milk cups for the next morning. I also do lunches for the next day at this time. Everything goes in the fridge until the morning. While I am checking backpack paperwork, I am laying out outfits (for EVERYONE including me) in the same room with all accessories down to socks, shoes, earrings, and scarves. We all get ready the next morning in the same room so the littles can be supervised and helped in a timely manner. We get dressed FIRST in the morning before anything else. This eliminates pokey eating making us late. If someone dawdles with their breakfast, it goes with them in the car to wherever we are going. Occasionally that someone gets peanut butter or honey on their school clothes. For this, we hail the power of baby wipes, I also carry spot remover and a small bottle of water and dawn in my car for quick scrubbing.
Teachers are smart. So I stole their idea. I have a six section cube in our dining room. Each child has a labeled cube for:
- Shoes and socks
- Pajamas and underwear
- School clothes
At the beginning of the week, I glance at the weather and choose clothes/socks/underwear for the entire week for each kiddo based on our activities etc. My 5 year old is now desiring input (read: control) on this so she helps me with her stuff. (Yep, it’s fine to wear those clashing colors because I’m choosing my battles). These outfits go in their cubbies ready to be pulled out quickly the night before and laid out on the bench to our dining room table. After a while, both of them learned to just wander over to the bench in the morning and start getting dressed because that was step 1 in the routine. This allows me to make my coffee in peace, and teaches them initiative and responsibility. All this talk of routine brings me to my next point.
For this, I have no shame in admitting we have completely adopted Daniel Tiger’s morning routines and tweaked it for our night routine. It works like a charm and the song gives a little boost to grumpy/sleepy hearts. In the past I laminated these for my big girl to check off but now they are just posted.
Early to Bed
I wish I could say I am as good at enforcing this rule for myself as I am with my kids. Early bedtimes are helpful because they give YOU a break and allow more time for good sleep for them, which will also make mornings a bit brighter. Put them down early. They will get used to it. We aim for a bedtime that starts at 7:00 pm with prayers/teeth brushing/stories/jammies and ends right at 8:00 pm when we are shutting doors and walking away to “freedom land” (grown up time). The exact time you decide will depend on your family and your obligations. If you are not doing this now, this point will be the hardest for the kiddos to swallow but if you slowly and gently keep at it, it will become a comfort and they will come to expect it.
Set your Intentions
This may sound silly, but right before you go to sleep, spend five minutes reviewing your day, the highs and the lows. What did you do well? How can you tweak some other areas that were tougher? Give yourself a heartfelt “Thank you” for the stuff you did well and compassion for the hard stuff. Take a deep breath now, and LET IT GO. Now: Choose a word that best describes the kind of Mom you want to be tomorrow. Take a little time to really choose the BEST word. Set that word as your “Intention” tomorrow. The words I choose most often seem to be words like “Cheerful” “Playful” “Calm” and “Present” because those are the things I really value but struggle with continually. Setting these little mental expectations for the next day as I am falling asleep makes it easier for me to come back to that word and get “re-centered” if I get off track (which is often). I just say that word out loud and it brings me back to who I chose to be today, last night.
These little things have made such a difference in our life and brought us more peace and joy! Want more tips and secrets for making your mornings more joyful? Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post!