Sometimes I feel like this confession is my dirty little secret, especially as a mom. But I am here to tell you, I AM NOT A MORNING PERSON. I am a night owl. I can get so much accomplished in the midnight hours with no one and nothing around to distract me. It is about the only time I can get any time to myself. I clean the house; I do laundry; I talk on the phone and I waste time on the computer. I stay up far too late and then despise getting out of bed in the mornings. I always have. As a high-schooler, my dear mom would wake me up every single morning with her soft tone and gentle smile. She would have a night light on in the bathroom for me so I didn't have to shower in the "harsh" overhead light. I would return to my room with a made bed and my bedside lamp on. I was so spoiled! I didn't wake up to an alarm until I went away to college. As a teacher in my early 20's, I slept until the last possible moment and arrived at school with moments to spare sporting wet hair that was placed in a ponytail or wrapped around pencil in a french twist"ish" bun by 2nd period when it had air dried. When Zach and I were newlyweds, he drove me crazy in the mornings with his perky positivity. One day he lovingly said, "Honey, mornings aren't going to go away." To which I snapped, "I know, but we don't have to celebrate them!" Now, being a mom with young children, there are very few nights that I get uninterrupted sleep. It seems as though I am either feeding a newborn, soothing a teething baby, aiding a potty-training toddler, calming fears from bad dreams, nursing fevers or other ailments, etc. I have been sleep deprived for the better part of a decade, and that does little to help my already firmly in-place dislike of mornings.
Now, with school-aged children, I am responsible to not only get myself up in the morning, but to get them out the door in a timely manner. They need to have a calm and consistent start to their day. This is something that I still struggle with especially since I refuse to go to bed early or can't ever seem to despite my best intentions. There are those moms that somehow manage to get up well before anyone in the house and get themselves ready for the day before greeting their family in true Beaver Cleaver fashion, but I will most likely never be one of those moms. [If you are one of those moms, my hat's off to you! You can stop reading this post; you don't need it. :) ] In the past week, I have had a handful of friends comment about the chaos morning brings to their home on their Facebook page or ask how to get their kids on their way in the mornings. This confirms for me that I am not alone in my struggle. I don't claim to have all of the answers, but I thought with so many friends sharing in my struggle, I would pass along a few bits of advice that have helped mornings become a bit more sane in our house.
- Do what you can the night before. I usually set out the kids' clothes for the next day. I make sure they have what they need in their backpacks, i.e. library books, gym shoes, etc. I often pack lunches the night before (unless I am making Soph her favorite turkey and mayo sandwich because it gets soggy and that's just gross). Zach usually preps the coffee the night before for me since he knows how much I detest mornings and how much I adore my morning java! When he is flying, I do this for myself. Side note- If you are a coffee drinker and don't have a coffee pot with an auto setting, get one!
- Have clear morning expectations. I expect Soph and Asher to dress before they arrive at the table for their breakfast. They know this is their responsibility. This allows me time to deal with Frankie and Eva and get them to the table for breakfast too. Sophia and Asher are old enough that they can dress easily since we have set their clothes out the night before and they know what they are wearing. They know they are to eat and then brush their teeth and comb their hair (if they didn't already do this when getting dressed). It is their responsibility to get their backpack and lunch to the car. They don their shoes and coats and we are on our way out the door.
- Don't save tasks for the morning. Get homework finished the night before. It seemingly never works to have time to finish things in the morning. We simply don't seem to wake up early enough or have the time. Saving work to be finished in the morning just creates stress and anxiety for everyone whenever we do it so we don't.
- Teach the children to occupy themselves in their rooms until a certain time. Once kids are old enough to know their numbers, tell them not to leave their rooms until there is a 7 in the first place on their clock for example. They even make "stoplight" clocks that have a green light or a red light letting the child know when they can get up and out of bed. Asher has always been an early riser, but he knows that he is to stay in his room and play until 7:00. I wake almost every morning after him to find him dressed and playing Legos in his room.
- Don't allow the children to sleep past a certain time. You know how long you need to feed everyone breakfast, get dressed and get out the door, so don't let your child sleep into the time he or she will need to do that. While Asher is our early riser, Soph is our sleepyhead. I know I have to wake her by 7:20 or she won't have time to get ready, have her breakfast and be out the door on time.
- Keep things in the same place to avoid the morning scavenger hunt. My kids know that they keep their backpacks in the laundry room. They know exactly where to get them when it is time to leave. Their shoes are in the shoe basket right by the door, and nowhere else. Their hats and gloves are in the baskets of a bench we have in the entryway. This helps reduce last minute scrambling to find things.
- Give rewards for good mornings. Whether its a sticker on a chart or a little treat after school, I find that providing positive reinforcement for getting out the door in the mornings efficiently is very motivating for the kids. They self correct when they find themselves getting distracted in the morning time because they want that reward, they learn personal responsibility for getting ready, and they stay motivated to make good time management decisions in the before school time at home.
- Don't beat yourself up with guilt if you aren't an early riser. If you simply can't find the energy or desire to celebrate mornings, that's okay. Lord knows I can't! I had to let go of the guilt that I am not chipper in the morning like my mom was and that my kids often wake up before me. I'm not a bad mom because they may wake up 20 minutes before I do. Stop putting pressure on yourself to be like "those moms" that seem like they are put together by school drop off. I'm sure they suck at something else that you rock at anyway! ;) Some mornings I am showered and dressed at school drop off, but most mornings I am wearing yoga pants and one of Zach's sweatshirts and have mascara smeared under my eyes from the day before. Who cares. I do a lot of other stuff really well, mornings just don't happen to be one of those things.
Hopefully some of these tips will resonate with you and help make your mornings easier. We are still tardy to school about once a week due to unforeseen and unavoidable setbacks (For example, Eva poops her diaper as we are preparing to leave and I have to change her, the ice scraper breaks as I am clearing off the car-this just happened last week, Frankie opens her sippy cup and dumps juice all over- this also happened recently, and the list goes on) but we do our best. Sometimes my best is sleeping until the last possible minute I can and dumping cereal in a bowl for everyone; sometimes its getting up at 6:00 and preparing a breakfast feast for everyone, but its always my best. And my best is good enough. So is yours! Having a routine helps me not be the crazy, yelling, beast of a mom that rears its ugly head when we don't follow the routine. Having a consistently calmer and less stressed start to the day will do everybody's body (and mind) a lot of good!