4 Steps to a Better Morning Routine

Mother packs her daughter's lunch as she prepares to leave for school

4 Steps to a Better Morning Routine

Editor’s note: This column was originally published in 2016. The author is now a mother of two (the toddler mentioned below has become a big kid!) and still uses these tips for better mornings.  

I am not a morning person, and I never have been.

I’m a hit-the-snooze-button-for-an-hour kind of girl who prefers not to engage in serious conversations before 10 a.m. and will likely have the words “I’m late!” engraved on my tombstone. My friends assured me that having a baby would change everything, and I would miraculously become more cheerful, organized and on-time, even in the early hours of the day.

Unfortunately, when I entered the world of parenting, that wasn’t the case for me. Most mornings in my home are a little chaotic.

The day I was approached with the idea of writing a blog post about morning routines, I had just finished sending the following text to my mom:

“Cate didn’t sleep well again last night, her diaper leaked out again in our bed, she poured yogurt (from her pouch) all over herself and our carpet while I got ready, she shattered my eye shadow (there’s now eye shadow in my coffee), and I left her picture day outfit laying on the couch. I can deal with all of that, but then I yelled at her in the car for doing that fussy scream she makes. I need like a 10-mile run today …”

And so, after shedding a tear or two, I decided to take on this task as a personal challenge to improve my morning routine and make the start of each day a little less stressful for my family. I read about the habits of successful working moms and then I went to work to implement new ways to get out the door on time.

Here’s what I learned:

1. Prepare as much as possible the night before. In full disclosure, this is something I’ve actually always been good at doing, so it wasn’t new to my routine. However, I made a point to be consistent in preparing everything the night before (which takes way less time when my husband, Brian, and I divide and conquer). When Cate was an infant, these nightly tasks included making bottles, sterilizing pump parts and refreshing the diaper bag. Now, we pack lunches and refresh her diaper bag, including packing her snacks and a fresh sippy cup of water (we have a long commute). We pick out our outfits for the following day and do any necessary ironing, and think about any activities that need to be done after school and work the next day so we have what we need (e.g. extra food or her stroller).

I leave all bags by the door so I don’t forget anything in the morning, and as a fail-safe measure, I post a checklist on the door as one final reminder of must-haves as I’m walking out to the car. This last step is extremely helpful on the days when Brian takes Cate somewhere on his own — an added bonus!

2. Wake up 15 to 30 minutes earlier. This is no easy task. (As I said earlier, I’m that person with five different alarms). However, I tried waking up 15 minutes earlier and found there was a huge difference in how much more relaxed our morning routine was. I now get out of bed 30 minutes earlier and can enjoy some play time with Cate, which has made our commute more pleasant. Apparently, a happy mom makes a happy baby, which means less fussing in the car. (Who knew?!)

3. Treat yourself. Do something nice for yourself in the morning. For me, it’s enjoying a cup of coffee and avocado toast — without interruption — while I scroll through social media. This simple “reward” did wonders to motivate me to wake up earlier. As with most moms I know, it’s hard to find time to do something for yourself, so I’ve enjoyed making this my first priority of the day.

4. Take care of you. With so many other demands on our time, I know this sounds impossible. I made a goal to exercise for 30 minutes at least three days each week, and I have noticed that I sleep better, eat healthier and wake up more easily when I stick with it. So, I have blocked Tuesday and Thursday nights, as well as Saturday mornings, for my workouts, and I protect these times. During the week, I usually just do a quick run around the neighborhood after making dinner. On Saturdays, I take a class at the gym while Cate plays in their nursery, and then we either go to the park or go for a swim together. This new and enjoyable Saturday morning routine has helped us make the most of our weekend time.

There are still mornings when I struggle to get out the door on time, whether it’s because I was up all night with a teething toddler or because I just want to snuggle with my sleeping tot for another 15 minutes. However, these four simple parenting tips have been easy to do and have made an amazing impact on how we start each day. If you’re looking to simplify and de-stress your own morning routine, give them a try.

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