The morning hours set the stage for the entire day.
One of my favorite places to start when putting life on "Project Status" is helping clients get a handle on their mornings. For many busy moms, mornings are lost hours and that translates to lost productivity and potential.
I am all about sleepy snuggles and morning cuddles, while mama sips coffee. Telling each other about our dreams and having a great breakfast together. It's how I want to start each day. I want a positive beginning. A clean slate. Time to knock out the cobwebs, assess, and then get to it. Pleasant mornings, like every other part of the day don't happen by accident. They require a bit of planning.
Waking up to crying, screaming, hungry children who immediately begin to execute a well-crafted plan to derail the entire day before 8 am is the reality more often than not though isn't it? Kids aren't any different when the morning is chaotic and frustrating. Rough mornings lead to rough days.
If you woke up to hugs and kisses, a good breakfast, a simple plan for the day, some activities and healthy, fun things to look forward to... you'd be pretty stoked though wouldn't you?
And if that became the new normal, the way you view mornings would change dramatically over time wouldn't it?
What the kids wake up to find in us and in the home sets a tone for the day. Let's put mornings at the top of our Project Status for 30 days and see what happens!
Here are 3 things to consider to take control of the mornings:
1. Rise and Shine.
I can't begin to tell you how it pains me to say this. Like, truly pains me.
We gotta get up before the kids.
We just do. Mom is up first. Period. When I work with families this is a key indicator for how well the house runs and what discipline issues we are going to be tackling. Is Mom up before the kids and how much earlier she is up, is directly related to how well the day goes.
I am not naturally a morning person y'all. It's not my natural rhythm. My best sleep is between 6 am and 9am but that's got to be a weekend thing.
The younger the kids, the more essential this is but at any age, we really have to be up well before they are or we will regret it all day, all week.
We can't wake up when the kids wake us up.
Right out of the gate before the morning begins you are behind. They beat you to the punch already.
Motherhood, is a job. A vocation. A calling for many. We have to really shift our mindset and think of it like a job.
Would we show up to work having just stumbled out of bed, not being dressed, or ready for the day? You don't have to be polished and shined up. Yoga pants and a t-shirt make a great work uniform for being home with kids or working from home.
This is also OUR day too. This is a day in OUR life too. How we approach speaks life into it. It defines it and places value to it. It translates to our children, our husband, our clients if we are running a business and it works powerfully on our own subconscious.
How we value ourselves, our time and our day translates and the kids pick up on it.
Do this for yourself as well as for the home.
Get up well before the kids. Maybe you need 15 minutes, maybe you need an hour. You decide. But get up, take 5 minutes to dress and brush your hair. Wash your face and smear some moisturizer on that skin. You'll feel a thousand times better and it's five minutes.
The earlier you can manage, the more prep time you have.
Have you ever opened a retail store as an employee? You can't arrive at the same time the store opens. Customers are waiting and irritated. Lights aren't on, cash registers are on, there is an opening to do list.
Get up and open your home before the little "customers" arrive. This takes planning.
2. Have a Daily Schedule.
I believe the goal is to work from a rhythm more than a strict schedule BUT rhythms only work when the family is functioning really smoothly together.
Rhythms are born from Schedules
In Project Status we begin with a schedule. It's pretty set in stone and we need to stick to it so we can assess areas of conflict and rectify behaviors and habits.
We progress to a routine which is a more relaxed schedule and eventually across time when everyone knows how to manage themselves, we can work from a rhythm.
Mornings have to be structured to reclaim the day. We are up first, so we go wake up the children.
Wake up the children. - This is for children over the age of 5 -
When you have assessed over a couple weeks what their natural rhythm is then you can know about when they are going to wake up. Go in and gently wake them up a few minutes before you anticipate it.
"Why would you EVER do that?!"
I know, but stay with me.
Waking them up instead of letting them wake up, helps them see the day differently too. With a schedule, where we get them up, we are sending a clear message that we are in charge of structuring the day. It's a subtle power play.
I'm not suggesting dragging sleepy children out of bed who will be cranky and awful. Let them get all the sleep they need. If they don't wake easily, certainly allow them to sleep more.
But, consider, that mornings are often impacted by the night before. When they get up whenever they want, it's very hard to establish a sleep cycle and an early, healthy bedtime that gives you the downtime you need at night. It's all connected.
If we want them in bed on time and feeling tired when it's bedtime we have to pay attention to their natural cycles and gently adjust them to our schedule over the course of a couple weeks.
Wake up (by Mom who was already up and ready for the day).
Morning snuggles and cuddles (without screens) 10 minutes or so.
When they are fully awake, breakfast. (If they are 3 or over, have them help with breakfast.)
Set the table together
Make it a meal. Make toast or bagels cut in half. Put some fruit out or yogurt.
Sit together, eat and chat about the day and let them know what you are doing for the day.
The kitchen is open for breakfast for about 20 - 30 minutes. Then we all clean up.
The rest of the morning needs to be structure as well. Below are some ideas for the morning.
Morning Chores: After breakfast we brush teeth, get dressed, tidy all our rooms, bathrooms and make our bed.
Focused play. (30 minutes) Focused in that it's not free play - maybe it's Lego time or sensory bins. Maybe it's dolls or action figures. Whatever just narrow the access to their toys to one area. It helps to have toys sorted in bins or baskets.
Center Time (30 minutes) Maybe it's play-dough, or moon sand. Maybe it's a water table, or puzzles. Again, focused time.
Snack Time (10 minutes) Simple snack planned in advance. Fruit and milk. Graham Crackers and Water. Planned and simple. Avoiding eating spontaneously and all day helps keep the kitchen in order. If they know snack time is coming and the kitchen is closed except for meals they will adjust to this routine.
Outdoor Time or Active Play Indoors (30-45 minutes minimum) if you can play outside longer and everyone gets along, great. But if there are bad attitudes, arguing, cut it to 30 and let them know why.
Cool Down. (10 Minutes) Wash up faces. Cold drink of water.
We can never expect more from our children than we are willing or able to do.
We want them to maintain a good cooperative attitude all day, we have to equip them to do so and we have to check our own attitudes.
We want them to be patient and enthusiastic, but are we?
We want them to clean up after themselves and clean their rooms, but they will always model what we do before they listen to what we say.
I know it's hard. Raising humans is hard.
We have to set ourselves up for success and we have to set them up, every day for success.
They need structure and discipline. Love does not exist without discipline. It cannot be separated from love. Not even for ourselves. We must exercise self discipline. We just must.
We cannot raise children into adults if we lack self-discipline. We want them to listen to us. We need to be willing to listen too. We have to hear past their behaviors to what they are telling us they need and then we are duty bound to do the right things for them.
We aren't their friend, we aren't their companion or playmate. We are the mom. We are in charge of the house, the family, the finances, the discipline, the outcome, we are the keeper of the Goldfish and cheerios.
We raise self-reliant, disciplined kids by modeling self-reliance and self-discipline. None of this is ever, done in anger. This is done in as joyful a spirit as you can manage. It can be a challenge to tap into a joyful spirit if you've been running ragged. It's not going to happen overnight. But stay the course.
The joy is born out of a calmer, more peacefully run home and the calmer, more peacefully run home is born out of managing it more joyfully. I wish it were different, it's just not.
Whatever we need to meet the task - get it.
Help? Mother's helper, housekeeper, occasional help, babysitter, time with friends, support, time to take care of ourselves - make it happen.
Because our kids need us to be strong and in charge.
As much as they may act like they enjoy a Lord of the Flies life, they don't.
The time will come when they make it very clear they don't and they will rebel against it. We don't have to exert our authority through corporal punishment. We don't have to yell or cry or threaten. If we want them to treat us with respect and deference, we have to own it. We have to command it.
If you look like you know what you're doing, they will follow you. They want to follow your lead.
And look, it's okay to be a hot mess sometimes! We are all there sometimes. But none of us really want that life all the time. It's exhausting.
Final Thoughts If we want desperately to do this but our tank is empty and we can't find the strength or the motivation to begin, then the first order of business is doing a self-examination.
What's going on in our heads and hearts that is preventing us from stepping up with strength and clarity into this role? What tools do we need? What emotional support? What character flaws (we all have them) have to be addressed? Make the first order of business understanding ourselves. Maybe we are struggling with depression? Hormonal issues, marital issues, financial problems? Write down your personal obstacles, both internal and external. Then make a plan to address each of them.
This isn't magic. It's just work. The hard fast truth is that whatever is going on in our heads and hearts, making this a challenge - it's not going to improve with a house and a family in chaos. It doesn't matter which came first, the chicken or the egg.
The reality is we gotta cook 'em both and feed them to the family. Then do the dishes.
Put your mornings on Project Status and reclaim your days.