Bed Hair, Don't Care: 10 Ways to Win at Your Morning Routine as a Working Parent
Take the stress (and tardiness) out of mornings with these simple working mom hacks.
Getting out of the house in the morning with kids—in a calm, on-time fashion—can feel like a Herculean task when you're a working mom. There's breakfast to be made (and hopefully eaten), hair to be brushed, and errant shoes to be found. But it doesn't necessarily have to be this way. "Taking 30 minutes at night to prepare for the next day can make for a much smoother morning," says Amber Rosenberg, a San Francisco-based life coach who helps working moms manage time and stress. "The more you're able to do at night, the more relaxed you'll be in the morning."
If you feel like you morning routine needs a reboot, check out our 10 tips for owning your family's a.m. rush. Your sanity will thank you.
1. Have a uniform
There's one amazing reason to subscribe to the "uniform" philosophy : it's one less thing to think about. Having a go-to outfit combo (say, plack pants and a colorful button-down) or building your wardrobe around a streamlined color palette, even when you're working from home, makes reaching for clothes quick and stress-free. "Several of my clients will only wear one to three colors, as it keeps life simple," says Teressa Moore Griffin, executive coach and author of LIES that Limit. "It saves time and there's no daily decision to make." And as a bonus, think of all the money you'll save: You'll avoid impulse purchases that don't fit your uniform, and everything goes with everything.
2. While you're at it, have a breakfast uniform
Variety may be the spice of life, but it may be best saved for dinner. Eating the same thing—or at least the same category of breakfast foods, like cereal, or smoothies—each morning takes the guesswork out of what's for breakfast. "There are no decisions, discussions, or things to debate when you serve the same meal each morning," notes Griffin, adding that "clear routines create a sense of peace for everyone in the house."
3. Limit your screen time before starting work
Take a break from monitoring your kids' iPad time to monitor your own. "We all have a tendency to check our emails first thing in the morning," says Rosenberg. "But this should be limited to a five-minute check to make sure there are no fire drills." Rosenberg recommends never responding to mail in the morning, as it only gives a false sense of productivity and ends up being a big time sink. Also, let's be honest, there's a decent chance you'll hop on over to Instagram or check out news after closing out your mailbox—and few things can pointlessly eat into your time more than that.
4. Figure out what's more important to you: sleep or zen time
If you're a parent of young kids, odds are you rise to the sweet sound of their voice—or more likely, their hands shaking you awake—each morning. Does that work for you? Think about this: Would 30 minutes to yourself for a relaxed cup of coffee and some deep breathing change the tone of your day? Or do you fare better with a little extra sleep? Figure out what makes you most productive and less frazzled and stick with it. If you've been waking up with the kids for years, setting an alarm clock a little earlier could be a game-changer for you.
5. Shower at night
No matter how tired you are at the end of the day, it pays to shower before bed instead of trying to cram it—and 500 other things—into your morning. And think of it this way: your shower is bound to be much more relaxing and restorative when it doesn't involve a small person banging on the door, inquiring about a missing folder. (Also, invest in a good dry shampoo!)
6. Edit your beauty routine
Just as you have a clothing uniform, consider adopting a make-up uniform, too—with just a streamlined collection of beauty products, in colors that make you look your best, that can be applied in 10 minutes or less. Save the lip liner and liquid eye liner for date nights.
7. Tackle the small details the night before
Whatever little things you can take care of at night for the following morning, do it. Rosenberg suggests setting aside 30 minutes after the kids are in bed to make coffee, charge devices, collect homework, and do anything that can be done in advance. "If your children are old enough, delegate some or all of these tasks to them as part of their evening routine/chores," she recommends. "Or, better yet—work on these tasks together so you can spend time together as a family while getting ready for the next day."
8. Lay everyone's clothes out the night before
Whether you have a uniform (see above!) or like to mix up your style each day, it pays to take care of your and your kids' clothes the night before. Laying out everyone's clothing at night leaves little room for morning outfit debates—and prevents a heap of clothes on the floor from trying on every piece of your wardrobe.
9. Share the load
Don't be a hero. If your kids are old enough, let them do things on their own. "Do only that which others cannot do," says Griffin. "Many moms today do for their children what they could be teaching their children to do for themselves. The more kids learn to do for themselves, they more self-confident and independent they feel—and the more help they'll be in the morning."
10. Line up backpacks, briefcases, and purses for a grab-and-go exit
Mom! Where's my...? Every mom hears some rendition of this in the morning, and usually just as she's about to walk out of the house. Make a flawless morning escape by placing everything everyone needs for the day right by the door, which will—hopefully—prevent last minute runs back into the house.