7 Sanity Preserving Habits for the Working Mom: A Working Mom’s Morning Routine
I’m still not convinced that there is such thing as work-life balance. I think that there are competing priorities, always will be. Some weeks it’s necessary to throw yourself 100% into motherhood. Other weeks career and relationship will take precedence. The need to focus on competing priorities and go with the flow from week to week, month to month makes this so called “balance” unrealistic.
I do believe, quite wholeheartedly, that establishing a solid morning routine is critical to maintaining sanity in this world that demands more than ever of women. This is critical to everyone and especially the working mom. These 7 sanity preserving habits are easy to implement, will help set a positive tone for the rest of the day and will ultimately preserve some of your sanity amidst this crazy, hectic life:
1. Create your to-do list:
A good morning routine actually starts the night before with a plan. The last thing I do before I leave work for the evening is revisit my to-do list. I glance at my calendar to make sure there aren’t any early meetings or calls that I forgot about it and I mentally prioritize tomorrow’s tasks.
I’ve been experimenting with Teux Deux which is a to-do list app/website. I have three to-do lists integrated into Teux Deux:
I like seeing the totality of my to-dos in one place. Also, the Teux Deux app and website are integrated so I can easily use my phone to add something to my list and that is reflected when I log onto the website (which sits open on my computer all day for easy referencing). If I don’t finish my to-do list for a day (which is the case 100% of the time), Teux Deux automatically moves the unfinished items to the next day.
That being said, there are a million resources out there for to-do lists and there’s nothing wrong with a good, old fashioned pen and paper list. Experiment with what works for you!
Also, I live and breath by my Outlook calendar for both work and personal items. Every meeting, call, doctors appointment, wedding, dinner date, etc goes onto this calendar! If you don’t have some sort of calendar, stop everything and get one NOW. Message me for recommendations if you don’t know where to start but just GET ONE!! It will change your life.
2. Wake up earlier than your kids
This is the backbone of my morning routine. I recommend waking up AT LEAST an hour before your kids. I wake up an hour an half before ThriveToddler which puts me at a 4:30am wake up call (7 days a week). Don’t be scared; it’s a good thing and I’ve adjusted my bed time accordingly. This early wake up is the sole factor that allows me to accomplish the other components of my morning routine. Somedays, this hour and half is the only time I have for myself and it’s critical to preserving my sanity and, in general, being a better wife, mom and coworker. Try it for 7 days. I guarantee it will change the tone of your mornings completely.
3. Exercise for 30 minutes:
Short and sweet but effective nonetheless. I’ve been a habitual morning workout person for years. In a prior, childless life I didn’t have to squeeze a workout into a 30 minute window but gone are the days of 90 minute yoga classes and hour long cardio sessions. The Nike Training App is a good (FREE) source for 20-30 minute at home workouts.
I believe that building exercise into your morning routine is critical to a solid start to the day for a number of reasons:
- Morning exercise improves your physical and mental energy; that’s just science: It’s life’s natural cup of coffee AND Mom brain is real so we can use all the help we can get!
- Exercising in the morning improves consistency: The best laid plans of mice and men go awry as they say. There are so many pulls on our attention throughout the day and it’s so easy to run an errand or take a phone call in place of that work out you swore you’d get to in the evening. By ticking this to do off your lists first thing in the morning, you’ve avoided the temptation to skip the workout in favor of other tasks.
4. Practice mindfulness and gratitude:
This does not have to be a long and involved part of your morning routine. It isn’t for me. I allocate roughly 5 minutes of my morning routine to practicing mindfulness and gratitude which isn’t much, however, I’ve found that a quick bit of reflection each morning sets the stage for the day in a positive manner. Some strategies:
- Journal your thoughts – This practice could be as simple as buying a beautiful leather bound book and taking five minutes to jot down a few things that you are thankful for and your hopes for the day. I am not a particularly introspective person and so raw, unprompted journaling is not something that comes easy for me. I have been using The Five Minute Journal for about a year now and prefer the templated prompts in place of a blank slated journal.
The Journal prompts you to jot down three things you are grateful for, three things that would make the day great and a daily affirmation.
I know this sounds really simple but this small tweak to my routine really helped me start the day in a positive way and I find that that positive mindset spills over into other aspects of my day.
- Deep breathing/Yoga – If journaling isn’t for you, take 5-10 minutes in a comfortable, calm place (this can be in bed still), close your eyes, take purposeful breaths and just be. Let your mind wander and be aware of what it wanders too. I recommend this article from Mindful.org for tips on how to practice mindfulness.
There is a free app called Sanity and Self, dubbed the #1 self care app for women, that has guided meditation and visualizations that I highly recommend.
5. Make your bed:
If you haven’t read Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World you should. The point here is that starting off the day accomplishing a task, not matter how menial, starts the tone for the rest of the day:
“If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.
By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.”
6. Listen to something that fills your spirit as you get ready:
As you get ready listen to something that fills your spirit. What this might be may vary from day to day but make a purposeful choice here. If your spirit needs joy, listen to your favorite music. If your spirits need intellect, listen to a Ted Talk.
Audible.com has been the best thing to happen to me since SiriusXM happened to me. I love reading but can’t stay awake long enough at night to finish a book in a reasonable period of time. I often listen to a book using Audible.com while I’m getting ready and it’s a great compromise to my book loving self. I have a great morning show on SiriusXM that I listen to most days as well that keeps me feeling intuned with the world.
7. Eat a good breakfast:
I know. It’s SO tempting to grab an almond croissant at the coffee shop on the way to work and be done with it. PLEASE – do yourself a favor and plan for a healthy and wholesome breakfast everyday. I’m not suggesting that you allocate 45 minutes a morning to whip up a spinach, tomato, egg white omelette with fresh cut fruit and rosemary potatoes. Most days, I eat a bowl of yogurt, granola and fresh fruit. It’s not glamorous but it works and it takes sub 3 minutes to prepare. Importantly, I can eat this while sitting on the floor playing with ThriveToddler with minimal fuss.
A smoothie is also a great option that can be largely prepared in advance. Buy a frozen bag of mixed fruit from the store, spinach and whatever else you fancy. On Sunday, divy up the ingredients into five mason jars and keep them in the freezer. Each morning, dump the ingredients into a blender and you’re done; We use the Magic Bullet. It’s compact, affordable and easy to clean..
Because my metabolism is on overdrive after my workout, I usually take a Perfect Foods bar or an apple and peanut butter with me to tide me over until lunch. Another option is this make-ahead fritta that I posted in last week’s Weekly Round Up.