It's Time to Rethink the Ideal Morning Routine

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I remember when my daughter, my middle child, was still very young and I had been back at work for several months. It was around the time when The Miracle Morning and the idea of an intentional morning routine was becoming VERY popular. There were articles written about what successful people do first thing in the morning and I felt like everywhere I looked all I saw were beautiful images of women starting their day with a peaceful cup of coffee on the front porch, followed by a few minutes of journaling, meditation, and lastly a workout of some kind (yoga, cycling, barre, etc.). And I would lament, or more like complain, to anyone who would listen about my complete lack of a morning routine.

I thought that those women, that those successful people, were doing it right. They were starting their days with intention and putting themselves first before the rest of a busy day. They were making sure that the MOST IMPORTANT thing gets taken care of first - themselves.

My Reality

In contrast, my mornings, like so many working moms with young kids, were quite the opposite of what was described above. They were a frantic rush from start to finish with kids driving the agenda. Because as you know, you’re not just getting yourself ready in the mornings, you’re getting 1, 2, or more kids ready in addition, and they all have their own opinions, schedules, and moods to manage. Not to mention, for those of us with little babies in the mix, wake-up times range from early to PAINFULLY early with little rhyme or reason to the schedule as they cut new teeth and work their way through significant developmental milestones.

I would have loved a peaceful start to the day, but I settled instead for just getting everyone out the door dressed, fed, and as close to on time as possible.

I hoped that at the very least, as the kids got older, more self-sufficient, and more consistent with their sleep and routines, one day I might have a morning routine to dream about. But that was not my reality, and it might not be yours too.

Beating Myself Up

I spent time, as in months, beating myself up for not being able to “get it together” enough to execute the design I had in my mind of an ideal morning routine.

I tried setting my alarm super early and then would feel guilty and angry when I hit the snooze button leaving me in the same frantic rush with absolutely NO TIME to meditate or drink my coffee in peace.

OR, I would wake up early, and just as I was settling into my meditation, the baby would wake up crying and needing to be fed. And I would take out my frustration on her, asking her why she couldn’t just “sleep in”!!

Morning after morning I fell into this awful trap. Falling short of the morning routine that I wanted and feeling tired, angry, and frustrated with myself that I couldn’t make it happen.

Whose Idea Was This Anyway?

I finally decided enough was enough. I started questioning, who was preaching about morning routines? Were those people in those pictures, or the authors of those ideal morning routine articles parents? Did they have kids to get ready in the morning in addition to their beautiful routine? Had they been woken up multiple times the night before, clocking less than ideal sleep?

My guess? Probably not. Or if they were parents, they had incredibly easy-going kids or kids who were much older than mine.

What if morning routines are just another expectation I was putting on myself, and an unrealistic one at that?

And you know I’m all about letting go of expectations.

What I Did Instead

So I decided to let go of the morning routine. Here’s what I did instead.

I created a list of things I enjoy doing in the morning. My list included things like:

  • Drink a HOT cup of coffee

  • Journal

  • Workout for 20-30 minutes

  • Be outside

  • Listen to a podcast or audiobook

  • Write down what I’m grateful for

  • Tell my kids I love them

  • Put on lipstick (I always feel like a badass with lipstick on)

Just knowing the quality of my sleep with a small baby, how early I was already waking up, and the pace at which we all got ready in the morning, I knew that doing ALL of the things on my list was in NO WAY possible. But doing 1 or 2 of those things? Absolutely doable.

So I implemented a Flexible Morning Routine - basically a list of options that I could choose from.

I tried waking up at the same time each day. Some mornings my daughter would be up with me, because she was up early and hungry. Other mornings she’d still be sleeping. EITHER scenario was OK.

Then, depending on whether I was alone or with her, I did my best to incorporate at least a couple items from my list into my morning.

  • I would sit on the porch with her to get my outside time and tell her that I love her.

  • If sleep was good the night before, she would sit and play with toys while I did a few exercises or sun salutations in the living room.

  • I would use my extra-insulated to-go thermos so my coffee was always hot, no matter when I got around to drinking it.

  • I would listen to a podcast or audiobook on my morning commute.

  • I would journal or write a gratitude list once I got to the office, provided I didn’t have a meeting first thing in the morning. In total it only takes a few minutes and is time that most people spend chatting morning greetings with coworkers anyway.

  • And putting on lipstick every morning? As long as it was in the car, it was easy to put on before heading into work.

Having a flexible morning routine allowed me to let go of the expectations that anything about my mornings had to be perfect. And it re-framed the whole exercise. I started seeing all of the little things that I DID do for myself as beneficial instead of falling short of what I thought I SHOULD be doing.

This year, with another new baby in tow, I know better than to idealize other people’s morning routines. Instead, I take each morning as it comes. I usually make getting downstairs to enjoy a hot cup of coffee my number one priority. And more often than not, that’s with the baby in tow. Which is MORE THAN FINE. It’s our special time together. And yes, sometimes we even sit on the porch together in our pajamas.

Your Time Will Come

So are all of the things on my Flexible Morning Routine list done in peaceful solitude with time to think and ponder the bigger meaning of life? No way! But my time will come. And so will yours.

So for now, let’s stop feeling frustrated and disappointed that we aren’t following a morning routine that’s Instagram-worthy. And instead, let’s manage our expectations AND still do a few of the things that we enjoy to start our day.

Just because your mornings looks different from day to day, and therefore also your “morning routine”, doesn’t mean they’re not enjoyable. They’re just a bit more lively. And that’s what makes working motherhood so fun. We get to create our own rules, teach our kids how to take care of themselves, while also being flexible.

So tell me, what’s on your list? How can you get creative with re-framing your morning routine into one that’s flexible AND still enjoyable?