morningsIf you’ve spent any time as a working parent, you know that mornings can feel like entire days in themselves.  My husband and I sometimes joke that it can take us 24 hours just to get everyone out the door.  Today we’re here to tackle the topic of working parent mornings.

Here’s a question that came into our inbox from a Mindful Return newsletter reader and working mom:

“I am a planner like you. I think what I struggle the most are mornings, especially when I have to go to the office. I try to wake up before the kids, but sometimes (like today, when one of the kids woke up at 5:45am!) it’s just impossible. And from there, it’s just utter chaos: prepping lunchbox, repeating a million times to get dressed, to finish breakfast, etc.  You get the picture.

 I get really stressed and anxious about leaving on time (although my office is super chill about schedules). I get irritated, and then the whole family is a bad mood!

 What’s the secret for peaceful and planned mornings?!” 



Here’s my response:

Thank you so much for writing in, and OH, I can absolutely relate to what you describe here, mama.  Mornings are *hard* when our kids are little.  And feelings are so contagious in a family, aren’t they?

The first thing I know about the “secret” for peaceful mornings is, like everything else in parenthood, there are no secrets.  No magic bullets.  We try things, and they work for a while.  Then we enter a different phase, and things change. So to begin, be sure to focus on just today.  Just tomorrow.  And just this week.  Ask yourself the question: what might help right now?

Yes, there are logistical things we can experiment with.  Like packing as much as we can the night before (including milk and lunches).  Keeping extra supplies in places like the trunk of our car.  Making lists of everything we need to pack – and having those lists by the door – so that we can go through them as we are about to leave, etc.  I wrote this piece on the topic a while back, that may have some useful tips: Getting Out the Door in the Morning (With One Pair of Adult Hands).

*And* we need to remind ourselves that our kids will be unpredictable, because that is just how small humans are.  So our plans will get thwarted.

At least for me, the headspace I’m in is a challenge perhaps even bigger than the logistical chaos.

Some things that have helped get my brain in a calmer place in the morning include the following:

  • A gratitude practice every morning. For example: “Yes, there are cheerios on the floor and my son won’t put on his coat.  But I’m grateful that we have Cheerios.  I’m grateful we can afford a coat for my son.  And my son is healthy enough to go to daycare today.”
  • A re-setting of expectations. In other words, I find it helpful to expect that things will be chaotic.  Then, I’m pleasantly surprised when sometimes things go more smoothly.
  • Playing the “best, worst, most likely game” when it comes to being late at work. This exercise, which I learned about from Dr. Megan Hughes-Feltenberger, is also really useful when it comes to any other parental anxiety!  Here’s how you play: Ask yourself, what’s the best thing, worst thing, and most likely thing that might happen at work if you are late because your morning went awry.  Really think in an exaggerated way here, to make yourself laugh.

So, for example, in the “I’m late to work” scenario, you might imagine something like the following:

  • Best case scenario: You walk in an hour late. Your boss jumps up to give you a huge hug then says, “I am SO glad you’re here. I can’t do this work without you, and I’m going to give you a $1 million bonus.”  Hee hee 🙂
  • Worst case scenario:  You walk in an hour late. Your boss says you’re fired and dumps all of your belongings onto the street.  Your family gets evicted from your home, because you don’t have an income. Then, you all starve to death.  (Ugh.)
  • Most likely scenario:  You walk in an hour late. Your colleagues ask how you and your kids are doing and if everyone is okay. Then, you go on with your day.

I hope this gives you some ideas – both from a logistical and a mental perspective – to experiment with.  Let me know how it goes, and hang in there, mama!



Back to Work After Baby

Want more practical tips on working parenthood?  Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave

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