Making Mornings Manageable Again

morning ice

The winter blues. Somehow they always catch me off guard. And nowhere is this more evident than in my family’s weekday morning routine. Every year, the back-to-school season has us bright-eyed and bushy tailed. New clothes, new classes, new schedule – the newness of everything helps us embrace that up-and-at-em attitude. Then, just as this excitement wears off, we slide into the holiday season. Lights! Cookies! Parties! No one wants to miss a day of school, because there is always something special going on. 

But somewhere between New Years and spring break, the mood shifts. When the alarm goes off in the morning, it’s too cold outside the blankets, and still so dark. I do not want to get out of bed. And it turns out that as my kids get older…they don’t want to get up either! During these dark mornings, getting everyone up, ready, and off to school feels like a monumental task. Like many military spouses, my morning routine (as well as the after school routine) is a one-parent job. My three kids and I are tired, cranky, and increasingly on each other’s very last nerve between 6:30 and 7:30 am. It’s not “back-to-school” or “new-year’s-resolutions” time; rather, we find ourselves right smack in the muddy middle. But it turns out that there is no better time to refresh our routine and take back our mornings. Feel the need to take back your mornings? Here are a few tips to get you started.


Involve the kids

I asked my elementary school aged kids to make a fresh checklist of everything they need to do in the morning before school. It’s not that they don’t know what to do, but everyone has been getting bogged down and distracted, and I am weary of repeating “go get dressed!” twenty times as the minutes tick by. With a bit of spelling assistance, my first grader made the following list on her white board: 

  • Wake up
  • Made bed
  • Get dressed
  • Pick up clothes
  • Eat breakfast
  • Clear dishes
  • Brush teeth
  • Brush hair
  • Lunch box
  • Shoes, jacket

It’s her list, and checking off each item gives her a sense of accomplishment. If she gets distracted or starts looking lost, a simple reminder to check her white board helps her get back on track – no (or at least less) nagging required. 


Be Prepared 

In an idyllic world, I wake up a full hour before my kids, prep for the day ahead, and then devote all of my attention to their readiness once they are up…but the reality is a bit less polished. Some nights, interrupted sleep means that an extra 30 minutes of sleep really is necessary. Sometimes headaches show up uninvited. And sometimes, for no apparent reason, I simply hit snooze a few too many times. The more things that I can prepare the night before, the better: make lunches, prep coffee, pick out clothes (involve the kids with these tasks too!). As someone that is not a morning person, I do prioritize at least 15-30 minutes alone in the morning for food and caffeine intake before I have to talk to anyone. And while I still try to get that whole hour before the day takes off, I know that we can still be on track if it doesn’t happen. 


Set the mood

If you don’t already know this (but you probably do), I’ll let you in on a little secret: Mom’s mindset sets the tone for the entire household (hence my need for coffee before the kids get up!). In addition to trying to get my own head on straight when I get out of bed, I’ve recently made an attempt to create a peaceful atmosphere as well. I always knew that having an orderly space is important, but I’m learning that aesthetics are helpful too. Just little things, such as lighting a candle and turning on calm or inspirational music before the kids come down, actually go a really long way. 

Is your family in the thick of a tough season or experiencing the winter blues? What small changes can help you feel more in control of the more stressful parts of your day? No matter what day on the calendar, now is the perfect time. It’s never too late to make a change.


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Julie Barnes
Julie is the mother of three kids, ages 10, 6, and 3. Although she knew little about military service when her marriage began, she promised to follow her husband wherever the Army would send him. To her continuous surprise and delight, the Army has brought her family to Italy for a second time. A former piano teacher and worship leader, Julie has recently shifted her creative energy to writing. She has contributed to Legacy Magazine and She Is Kindred – A Storytelling Collective. Julie believes that telling our stories can help us understand each other’s unique journey and perspective, ultimately bringing us closer to one another. In her free time, Julie enjoys reading, cooking, sight-seeing, and learning Italian. Julie shares snapshots of her family’s life overseas on Instagram at @juliecodabarnes.


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