Whether it’s waking up with a weird feeling behind the eyes because I’ve stayed up too late; coming downstairs to a dining table full of works-in-progress, summer camp drawings, event fliers and batteries (yes, batteries); or having the kids fight over the brown sugar and shovel a questionable amount into their oatmeal bowls…
Let’s just say, I’m a morning person, but getting out the door with my kids can leave me less than sunny.
I recently read a weird question about mornings: What makes you angry? The writer challenged readers to identify what exactly it is that makes them angry in the morning, and to find one solution–just one–for that anger-triggering thing.
I guess I’m an undercover angry person because I can think of several things that make me mad. In no particular order, here are five maddening situations that occur at my house in the morning, and the sanity-saving solutions that have worked for me.
1) Coming downstairs to a messy dining table
If there’s one thing that makes me want to crawl back into bed, it’s having to shove aside the chaos on our dining table when what I really want is a fresh start. It took working with a coach to realize it, but I finally identified that what I want is a dining area that is ready for the day, not needing to be cleared of ‘yesterday’.
Sanity-saver: I take 10 minutes before bedtime to do a “clean sweep” of the dining table. I take anything off that isn’t related to eating breakfast and return things to their homes.
2) Multiple breakfast requests
I love my boys and usually enjoy cooking for them. What I don’t enjoy, however, is getting requests for a smoothie, regular oatmeal, instant oatmeal, and cereal when the clock is ticking.
Sanity-saver: I offer my kids two options in the morning (and I’m not talking eggs Benedict or lemon ricotta pancakes here). That way they get a choice, but they’re options I know I can accommodate in the amount of time we have. When I can serve them in a way that doesn’t overwhelm me, everyone is happier.
3) My kids being carb monsters
Because I choose to offer convenient breakfasts (and because my boys adore cereal), they can easily become carb-heavy and…beige.
Sanity-saver: My rallying cry has become: one more food group. Without fail, my kids are eating grains and dairy for breakfast, so I make it my job to offer just one more food group. It might be scooping a bit of peanut butter onto their oatmeal spoon, putting a handful of spinach in a smoothie (bonus points: two food groups!), or cutting up fruit and serving it right on the cutting board. When I set the bar low for myself, I give myself a better shot at serving a balanced meal.
4) Realizing we need to be out the door, like, NOW
The worst. There can be a wide gap between the amount of time I think it will take to get somewhere and time it actually takes to get there. Our church is only a seven-minute drive down the hill, but I can tell you we’ve been late on more occasions than I’d like.
Sanity-saver: I look at my mornings like a scientist. I note the time everyone clears up after breakfast, the time we walk out the door, and the time we arrive at our destination. Get to camp 10 minutes late? Adjust everything 10 minutes earlier the next day. During the school year, I set alarms on my phone to give us all a “wrap up breakfast” and “clear the table” reminder so I don’t have to repeat myself over and over.
5) Not being able to find XYZ at the very last minute
Just when I think everyone’s ready to leave, there’s someone looking for their hat, their homework, their fill-in-the-blank.
Sanity-saver: I made note of the items we most often need before leaving and found homes for them by the front door. We have a “socks box” that stores all the kids’ socks, right by the shoe rack. A shelf nearby stores baseball caps and sunscreen in the summer, gloves and knit hats in the winter. My husband installed hooks for jackets and backpacks in the entryway. When we have library books to return, I put them in a book bag and put them on my shoes so I can’t forget them.
Can I be honest with you? Despite my best efforts, there are mornings when I still feel like a wreck. And sometimes, the only thing more disappointing than feeling like a wreck when I leave the house is actually TRYING to do better, then still feeling like a wreck. The five tips here are ones I use and love, but even I don’t do all five every day.
I have mornings that don’t go as planned. I snap instead of speaking calmly. I browse Instagram for too long in bed. I know better but don’t do better.
Here’s my advice for myself and for you: when all else fails, be gentle with yourself.
I used to think that the only way to get where I wanted was by being hard on myself. If I didn’t push myself to meet my high standards, how else would it happen? It’s taken years to realize that this mindset backfires. Big time. When being hard on myself results in success, great. But if it doesn’t? It’s all too easy to go down a path of shame.
Having socks at the ready might make life easier, but it’s not what gives me value as a mom. A well-balanced breakfast is a bonus, but I still love my kids even if they’ve eaten cereal for 14 days straight. Being on time is great, but in the end, there is grace for when we run late.
On rough mornings, I do my best to be gentle with myself. I don’t need to add a layer of criticism to an already challenging time of day. When I can remember, “I’m doing the best I can,” “I’m human,” and “It’s going to be okay,” the day is already off to a better start.
What makes you angry in the morning? What helps you have a smoother start to the day?
Charissa Pomrehn coaches moms of young kids who wonder when it’s their turn to take a break. She shows them how they can find time to care for themselves so they end the day feeling happy and accomplished. When she’s not drinking a green smoothie for breakfast, you’ll find her crunching Cocoa Puffs with her boys. She blogs about self-care for moms and is an avid (maybe too avid) Instagram user.