I’m wholeheartedly convinced that the way we begin our days around here always sets the tone for what’s to come until bedtime. A rushed, frenetic morning with unkind words and no margin for connection usually begets a grumpy and disconnected day for us. Likewise, a morning where I have a loose morning routine in place that allows enough time to wake, connect and move on without hurrying usually makes for better moods all around.
Honestly, I wish I was the type of person who could snooze late, be roused from sleep by sweet little feet pounding the floorboards, bound out of bed and haul kiddos to school in my pajamas. But mornings like that leave me feeling like I’ve been ripped out of sleep unprepared … and grouchy. And you know what they say about when Mama ain’t happy.
Mornings just aren’t something I am comfortable with winging. So I’ve come to realize that it’s up to me to figure out a routine that will allow me to come to the table each day feeling ready to give my best self. And that, in turn, will help our kids do the same. It’s simply from a whole lot of good old trial and error that I’ve finally developed a morning routine that works well for us.
Prepwork: Something about coming downstairs in the morning to a clean, quiet kitchen really satisfies my inner home ec nerd. It is a great feeling to start the day fresh. That being said, I don’t like spending a lot of time before bed doing chores as that’s more of a time to unwind from the day. But, I’ve found that if I take a quick 10 minutes after dinner/kids’ bedtimes to tidy up around the house it makes a big impact on my mood the next morning. We’re not talking deep cleaning here, just a few things that can get done while watching Netflix in pajamas, for example. Or enjoying a glass of wine, for example.
- Clear countertops of clutter.
- Make a quick list of to-dos for the next day (if you’re a list person).
- Get the lunch situation under control or outsource to children if that’s their job.
- Arrange coffee/tea for easy morning access. I find this really satisfying.
- Set out any soups/meals that need to thaw for the next day. I’m still eating an AIP diet so breakfast for me is mostly soup or leftovers from dinner.
- Shower/bathe. I find it infinitely easier to do this at night alone unless I want a sorority bathroom situation come morning.
Expectations: Having expectations in place that we’re all aware of helps everything flow better in the morning. The girls know they need to do certain chores in the morning, and they’ve become good at taking care of them right away. We’ve worked for quite a while to get them into the habit, but it’s beginning to pay off. For the most part, they’ll get dressed, make beds and feed the dog before coming to the table. Usually.
Setting the mood: I usually try to keep our environment calm first thing to allow everyone to wake up at their own pace. Some of us (ahem … Ella and I) have a hard time with loud voices and lots of commotion. Typically, we’ll have a record spinning or a Spotify playlist going softly in the background. Bon Iver is an all-time favorite winter record. I also picked up an old Christmas album (shown in the photo above) from our local thrift store and am loving how it starts the day off happy. I almost always have a candle burning until the sun comes up. Sometimes I diffuse essential oils (current favorite combo: sweet orange + cinnamon + pine + patchouli … a sort of earthy holiday vibe).
Full Bellies: This one is really important for my people. They wake up hungry … and hungry can quickly become hangry if not tended to quickly. The girls almost always have a smoothie for breakfast. If they’re awake and doing chores, I’ll whip it up for them. If they’re still sleeping, I make sure to put some milk/juice and a little bowl of dry cereal out for them to at least snack on until they get their real breakfast. Tip: we use glass votive holders (Walmart, 75 cents apiece) as juice glasses. They’re the perfect serving size for little hands.
Busy hands = happy hands: This is another critical piece of our morning. I used to find that if I simply allowed the girls to wander into the kitchen and sit at the counter just eating, it led to sibling spats. I started setting out a simple, open-ended craft or activity on the island where we gather that the girls could work on individually … and noticed an immediate improvement in moods and squabbles. It’s usually nothing super fancy or complicated — but enough to allow them a focal point while they wake and eat. We leave small handwork (like knitting or sewing), painting (too messy) or card games (too much interaction) for later on in the day. I love to to flip through a magazine while the girls are working — it’s a moment in the day just for me that I really treasure.
The idea is to keep it simple enough so the kids can infuse it with their own creativity instead of following a set of rules. Some examples of simple projects include:
- A bowl of beads and string. The girls made “sun catchers” the other day. Some days they just sort them. Other days, the beads become “food” for their dolls.
- Modeling beeswax and a bowl of warm water to soften it.
- A jar of simple building toys. The Target dollar aisles usually have great options around the start of the school year. (See our snowflake building set below in the Mason jar.)
- Random items from our craft bin that are laying dormant: a pile of popsicle sticks, handful of pipe cleaners, pom pons or even just a ball of yarn (per kid).
- Any craft project that I’m doing that the kids can help with. Recently, I’d left a bowl of dried oranges, cranberries, string and needle out overnight and found the girls helping me make gift toppers. Today, they rolled beeswax candles.
- Our absolute favorite — and easiest — activity is just a notebook/sketchbook and pencils. It becomes a journal, a vessel for an imaginative story, a drawing of the United States, a place to funnel difficult feelings or even a note for passing to little sisters.
Connection: Making space for connecting to one another may just be the most important aspect of our morning (but unfortunately, it’s an easy one to miss if we’re rushing about.) It might sound obvious, but simple things like making eye contact with one another and making sure the kids each get emotionally filled up before we leave the house help make the transition to the outside world easier. For one of my children, that means snuggling. My other child needs a few minutes of undivided attention alone in order to feel most loved.
These aren’t hard and fast rules for “the perfect morning” … rather, a loose framework of ideas to help smooth the rough edges that sometimes come with waking up. Tomorrow I’ll share some ways that I help myself face the day feeling fulfilled and prepared.
And if all else fails (like it did this morning in our home) just chuck the whole dang thing and turn on YouTube’s GoNoodle, and dance it off!