Morning Routines: How I Manage Mine as a Working Single Mom

Dear Friends,

I’ve come across several blog posts and YouTube vlogs recently with a common theme: morning routines. Mornings are a very important time, and if you jump out of bed in the morning and straight into chaos, it of course is going to set a bad precedent for the rest of the day. I am completely on board with that sentiment and the last thing I want is stress to start my day.

What I’ve been having trouble with when reading about these morning routines, is how many of them are not realistic for the lifestyles of most women. Most of us are not YouTubers who work at home with no outside employment requiring us to clock into work by 8 a.m. Most of us are not stay-at-home moms or homeschooling moms who don’t have to rush off to the office or get kids to school first thing in the morning. So many of these blogs and vlogs suggest morning routines that include cooking and eating breakfast as a family, taking half an hour to read, or 20 minutes to meditate or work out before getting ready for the day.

While I dream of a time in my life when I’ll have the opportunity to do all of those things, the reality is that there just isn’t time at this stage of my life on a weekday morning. My alarm goes off at 6, I have two kids to get up and ready, myself to get ready, two cats and a dog to feed, and have to be out the door at 7:15. By the time I’m out of bed and my kids are out of bed and moving, we have right at an hour to get all of the aforementioned things done. I suspect this is a reality that sounds familiar to many of you reading this as well!

So the real question is — how do you manage to get everything done that needs to be done, in a short amount of time, without starting your day feeling rushed and stressed right off the bat? For me, that comes from lots of prep work the evening before.

Sure, I could start setting my alarm to wake up at 5 a.m., giving myself an hour of time before the kids are up to start my day off peacefully and leisurely. That may be a fantastic solution for lots of women. For me, though, that isn’t something I’m willing to do.

Here is why…

For starters, I need my eight hours! If I only get seven, I’m dragging all day long. That is just how I am. There are lots of people out there who can function on 4-6 hours of sleep just fine, but I, unfortunately, am not one of them. I go to bed at 9:30, so I can be asleep by 10, and have enough sleep to get up at 6 a.m. and conquer my day. If I were to start getting up at 5 a.m., that would mean pushing my bedtime back by an hour and settling into bed at 8:30 — the same time my kids go to bed.

The reason I don’t consider that an option is that I very much enjoy having that last hour of the evening after my kids are in bed and my mom duties are done for the day to unwind and relax, rather than going straight from the mom job to lights out. For me, that would be far more stressful than having a rushed morning. I simply need that time to myself. That is how I thrive as a mom, and as a woman. No kids needing things, no cooking or cleaning or laundry. No obligations or responsibilities. It is the one hour of my day that I get to just be me…and I would rather have that hour before bed than first thing in the morning when I’m not awake enough to enjoy it and have the impending morning tasks looming in the back of my mind.

So I started by reflecting on my morning routine…

After learning about all of these bloggers’ morning routines, I started thinking about how I could change my own. I knew it wasn’t feasible to do all of the things that were being suggested, but it made me stop and think about what I could do to make my mornings easier and less rushed. The first step was figuring out where my time was being spent in the mornings.

First things first – I was hitting the snooze button twice and actually getting myself out of bed at 6:20 instead of 6:00…mostly due to ignoring my 9:30 bedtime alarm the night before and staying up an extra hour. Once I was up I stopped to make coffee after letting the dog out. While the coffee was brewing, it was off to the basement to pick out my outfit for the day (my closet is too small for my entire wardrobe, so I keep my business wardrobe for work on a closet organizing rack in the basement laundry area).

And if the kids didn’t have any jeans in their drawers because all of our clean clothes were still buried in Laundry Mountain on top of my folding table in the basement (let’s be honest, that was most days because I did my laundry folding mostly on weekends), I was tossing those in the dryer to de-wrinkle so they could get dressed. Which meant a second trip down to the basement to retrieve them after letting the dog back in and waking the kids up.

Once they had their clothes, I got dressed, then made myself and Hunter breakfast (Hunter starts school 15 minutes earlier than Logan, which means Logan gets to school early enough to eat breakfast there). At the same time I packed myself a lunch. Then I was finally able to traipse off to the bathroom to do my hair and makeup…with only 30 minutes to spare before time to walk out the door.

When I sat back and looked at this, I realized that half of my time in the morning was being spent essentially on chores — running back and forth to the basement to get outfits ready, packing my lunch for work, deciding what to eat for breakfast, rushing to get the animals fed and watered as we were walking out the door.

I could do many of these things the night before…

I had already revamped my bedtime routine because I was tired of feeling tired all day from not getting enough sleep. I knew what time I needed to go to bed, I had just been ignoring it. So I buckled down and made a plan for getting enough sleep. It would be simple enough to reorganize this plan to make room for easier mornings as well.

I started with packing my lunch. More often than not I take leftovers from dinner, so I started packing my lunch during my after-dinner cleanup. While I’m putting away leftovers, I prepare a container for my lunch the next day. If there aren’t any leftovers to be taken, then I figure out what I want to take and get it packed up and place it on the shelf in the fridge, to be grabbed in the morning and dumped into my lunch bag before walking out the door. This not only saves me time in the morning, but also ensures I have a healthy lunch because I’m not just grabbing whatever I can find before rushing out the door.

Another thing I was doing in the morning that I could move to the evening, was getting our outfits ready. I’ve started having my boys do nightly chores, and folding and putting away their laundry is one of them. No more Laundry Mountain. Okay…or at least a much, much smaller one. I have a basket for each kid and a couple of times a week I fill it up, set it on their beds and have them put it all away. They have all of their clothes in their closets and can just grab a pair of jeans and a tee shirt in the morning and get dressed. For me, I pick out my outfit and take it upstairs to hang in my closet for the morning. Morning trips up and down to the basement no longer required!

Something else that is much more trivial, but still saves a small amount of time, is making coffee. I have a Krups coffee maker with a timer, so while my kids are doing their bedtime routine each night, I let the dog out and then set the coffee pot up for the morning. Turn the timer on, let the dog back in, and when I let her out in the morning I can just grab a cup off of my mug tree, fill it up, and go wake the kids up!

The final change I made is allowing myself to only hit the snooze button once! So instead of getting up at 6:20, I’m up at 6:10. And since I’m no longer heading down to the basement to sort through laundry and pick out outfits, I’m waking my kids up at 6:15 instead of 6:30. My next goal is to get them both alarm clocks. They’re in middle school and junior high now, so they’re definitely past the age of needing mommy to wake them up.

After I wake them up, I grab my outfit out of the closet and get dressed, brush my teeth, then head to the kitchen to get breakfast for Hunter and me. While Hunter’s waffle is toasting I’ll go ahead and feed and water the dog and cats.  After that I’ll usually either pour a bowl of whatever variety of Simply Nature Organic Granola cereal I have in the cabinet that week or whip up a bowl of oatmeal for me. Then I take my breakfast off to the bathroom to eat while getting ready…multi-tasking is a single working mom’s best friend! At this point it’s usually about 6:30 — 15 minutes earlier than I used to make it to the bathroom for hair and makeup!

The final trick was getting the kids on board…

My boys have always been pretty good about getting themselves ready and I’m lucky enough to not have to fight them. From some of the horror stories my friends with daughters tell me I honestly feel blessed! I talk to my boys about everything and always explain the “why” behind my requests. So I told them that I need them to be completely dressed, shoes on and backpacks by the door before they turn on TV’s or computers or anything else, because otherwise I say it’s time to go and they start scrambling for socks and shoes and jackets and backpacks, it ends up taking 10 additional minutes to get out the door, and then we’re behind schedule and I’m aggravated and they get lectured all the way to school.

We’ve been doing this for a few weeks now and it’s honestly made a huge difference. This morning I was even finished getting ready by 7:00 because I tossed my hair up in a ponytail and didn’t even need to straighten it, so I had time to read some of my book before leaving for work. It felt amazing, and SO different from the chaos that came from our previously disorganized mornings, where I would get to work frazzled and need to take some time to regroup before diving into my work.

Now I get to work feeling good, accomplished, and ready to get things done. I’m officially a big believer in organization and establishing routines! Of course I would like to have more downtime in my mornings like I do on the weekends, when I can lounge with a cup of coffee, turn on the TV and cook myself a real breakfast before starting my day. But for my weekdays…I’m happy to take this as a second-choice!

If you’ve revamped your morning routine as well, feel free to share some tips below!


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