The following advice will help you to find calm and ritual amid the chaos of life with small kids.
If you are a parent to young children, you might be scratching your head at the title of this article, wondering, What morning routine? Life with small kids often feels loud, chaotic, and unpredictable, with too much to do in too little time. How could one possibly think of creating a pleasant routine out of that?
I understand because I'm in the thick of it, too. I have small children who tear around the house from the crack of dawn, eliminating the need for an alarm, and filling the house with their songs and fights. They add joy and energy, but mornings can be rough. When I realized I was dreading the mornings, I knew something had to change.That's when I began reading a website called My Morning Routine, which posts a new detailed routine each week. Depending on your interests, that may sound like painfully dull reading material, but I love it. I was particularly drawn to the morning routines of parents of young kids, whose task – when you stop to think about it – is gargantuan. Not only do they have to get themselves ready for the day, but they also have to prepare multiple other humans to face the world, while delivering everyone on time to their various destinations, every single day.
So, what's their secret? How do parents of young children manage to kick off their days successfully? I've noticed some common practices among parents who maintain very busy work schedules while raising multiple kids, and yet don't seem overwhelmed by it.
1. They get up before their kids.
When it comes to getting a head start on the day, every little bit helps. Whether you're rolling out of bed two hours before the kids or giving yourself just enough time to squeeze in a five-minute shower or make coffee, being one step ahead of them makes all the difference in the world. It may seem painful at first, but I speak from personal experience when I say it has become my favorite time of day.
2. They go to bed early.
Parents of young children realize there's no such thing as sleeping in, so you have to get it while you can; going to bed early is usually the easiest way to do this. It's rare to read a routine where the parent goes to bed after 11:00. Most seem to be in bed between 9:30 and 10.
3. They start their morning routine the night before.
Small jobs done in advance can make a morning go much more smoothly. Laying out kids' clothes, having a pre-bed shower to eliminate the need for a morning one, packing lunches the night before, going over the day's plan in advance – all of these actions are conducive to a less chaotic morning.
4. They prioritize exercise.
Many of the parents squeeze in time for exercise early in the day. Some go at 5 or 6 a.m., before their kids are up, or head out as soon as kids leave for daycare or school. They prefer to keep the after-school and evenings hours open for homework, extra-curricular activities, social engagements, and family mealtime. Sometimes exercise takes the form of an early morning walk with a baby or toddler, which has the additional bonus of preparing the little one for its first nap of the day.
5. They put their phones away.
No matter how busy their work lives are, these parents focus on their kids for the hour or so that they are together in the mornings. Checking email and taking calls may happen before the kids are awake or after they've left for school, but family breakfast is not the time for it. As the founders of My Morning Routine observed,
"We didn’t grow up with our parents constantly staring at bright, lit up rectangles that they held onto with diamond-forming force at all times, so it’s hard for us to truly appreciate how disheartening it can be for kids to, from time to time, feel like they’re second best to a meld of metal and glass."
6. They expect kids to pitch in.
This is some personal advice: the more self-sufficient your kids can be in the morning, the more smoothly everything goes. Place breakfast foods at their level in the cupboard and fridge so they can help themselves. Train them to get dressed, make their beds, and brush their teeth independently. Teach them how to fry eggs and make toast, how to pack lunches and walk to school alone. Each of these tasks is a burden off the parent's shoulders, freeing them up to focus on other things, and a valuable confidence-building lesson for the child.
7. They enjoy the ride.
Rather than seeing kids as an impediment to an efficient morning routine, successful morning parents embrace the chaos and curiosity that comes with having small people in a household. They view those early morning hours as a welcome distraction from adult life and understand it's best to go with the flow. Professionally and productivity will be back in the forefront by 9 AM and those early morning cuddles will be a distant warm fuzzy memory.