I have always been a morning person. When I had 5am wakeup calls in college for volleyball workouts? Not that bad. That 4am alarm clock for my weekly flight to California for a semester? Doable. Having a body clock that naturally woke up around 7 each day, no matter how late my night was? Ideal. Then a funny thing happened. I had kids.
The thing about having kids is this: you are no longer the keeper of your sleep. It’s in someone else’s very tiny, unpredictable, needy hands and let me tell you- my first “someone” was ruthless. Oshiolema was not a good sleeper by any means. I’ve said here before that I eventually moved an exercise ball next to his crib because I had to bounce him so long and so often. He didn’t sleep through the night until his first birthday and still long after that would wake up at random hours of the night crying, calling for me and unable to fall back asleep. Then Keogena came along and was our perfect little sleeper from the start, but that 4 month sleep regression hit us like a steel plank and I felt like sleep was just an unattainable tease- a memory from sweeter times. To top it all off, I have a husband I love and like to, you know, talk to from time to time. I have this blog that fulfills so many passions, but also steals so many hours. I have these dreams that keep me stuck to webinars and glued to paintbrushes well into the evening and this body that needs exercise to counteract the bagels.
Maybe you have a new job that steals all your time away. Maybe your studies and research keep you up all hours of the night or work requires you to wake up far earlier than your ready for. If you can relate on any level, you know that sleep starts to feel like food on a deserted island. You have to hoard every bit of it you can get because you truly don’t know when more of it is coming. So, since my first pregnancy three years ago, I had not had a consistent set alarm. I’d wake up every day alone in the bed because my husband had his prayer time and gym session at 4am every single day. I was waking up to my crying child(ren) and immediately was thrust into care-taking, managing and making. I’d read a snippet of my bible on my phone while nursing, play a podcast while cooking breakfast and promise myself that later I’d have a deep meaningful quiet time to reflect and pray and set goals for the week and it would be fantastic. Well, when later came, the time slot was already filled. I started my day overwhelmed and ended my day even more so and while our kids are now sleeping great and I’m not shuttling my toddler back to his bed 5x a night or nursing K in the wee hours of the morning, my evenings now require more of me than ever. As much as I couldn’t bear the thought of giving up one single millisecond of sleep, I knew something needed to change.
So mid summer last year, I set my alarm.
I realize I’m being dramatic when I say it changed my life, but there isn’t another phrase to properly express how large of an impact this one decision has made. I am more clear headed, somehow more rested and more purposeful and present in my day than I have been in all of motherhood. When my kids wake up, I’m ready to be there for them and when the evening comes, I’m not wasting time scrolling or mindlessly staring at a TV (except for pretty much the entire month of December when I finished The Crown and Boy Meets World…no regrets.) It’s not always easy, but the difference I feel is worth every dark o’clock wake up. Here are my greatest tips that helped me change my morning routine.
1.Realizing the success of my morning routine starts the night before.
I had to learn the hard way that I couldn’t have the same night routine with my new morning routine. Watching makeup tutorials at 11:30 to “unwind” from the day was just not going to cut it. I have to be very strategic with my nights and set myself up for a successful next day. Now, my nights look something like this:
6:15 set up the kids diffusers, run the bath, set out pajamas while O gets the last of the kids wiggles out in the playroom.
6:30 bath time/bedtime
8:00 tidy the kitchen and playroom with O
8:30 most weeknights, this is often work time for me. I’ll tackle one of these things: writing and curating content for the blog, illustrating, designing one of our Flip projects, pulling inspiration and plans for our lakehouse renovation, editing photos, taking a course and learning, or working on a project for friends and family. O usually works across from me so we can spend this time together.
9:45 goal to be upstairs, skincare routine finished, teeth brushed, fully ready for bed. (I reach this goal MAYBE 1x a week…its usually closer to 10) I aim to do my diastasis recti exercises now as well (and often that doesn’t happen)
10:00 this is my personal time for the evening. O and I will read a marriage or parenting book together at this time one night a week and the other nights I write in my journal or read a book.
10:45 latest to be asleep.
I’ve found that I just don’t function well if I go to sleep after 11, but honestly it just happens sometimes. It’s rare, but when it does happen I remember how that feels the next night as motivation not to do it again!
I’m also sure every night to do the little things that are big things come 5am; filling my huge water bottle, setting out my workout clothes, putting my slippers by my bed and whatever else I’ll need right in the morning will make all the difference.
2. The first week is hard, the second week may be harder.
I was filled with so much adrenaline and confidence and gumption the first day that I hardly felt it. I was proud! I felt great! I went to bed at 9:30 like any responsible woman would, of course, and when my phone sang at 5 the next morning, I wanted to drop it in a cup of water. That first week is hard, but for some reason really settling into the idea of not “sleeping in” that next week was even tougher for me. It takes 21 days to create a new habit- stick with it, don’t give up!
2.5. You can inch up your wakeup time minutes at a time.
This is an option and its totally personal preference. I went cold turkey because that’s just how I personally work best, but if you have woken up at 8 for years and are switching to a 5am wakeup time, that adjustment may be pretty brutal. Many people find greater success working their wake up time 10, 20 or 30 minutes at a time. Set that alarm to 7:50 for a week. Then 7:30. Then 6:00…just commit to a time and stick to your commitment. You’ll reach your goal in no time.
3. Don’t press snooze.
It was so tempting to reward myself with just five more minutes, but that really does make it so much harder. I committed, instead, to jumping up right when your alarm goes off to let my body know it’s the only option. I’ve been sneaking a workout in after my quiet time for however long I have until one of the kids wakes up (usually 30 minutes) so I throw on the workout clothes I set out and head right downstairs without looking back.
4. Starting my day in the same spot and diving right into what I woke up for made all the difference.
O and I read a chapter of the bible and a devotion every single morning at 5. After we finish, I go to the same place every morning-right into my office. It takes away any distraction to use these precious quiet hours for things they weren’t intended for. Freedom looks especially wonderful at 5am…I don’t want to waste that time on browsing things for my dream kitchen on Pinterest or going through emails. If you woke up to work, work. If you woke up to study, study. If you woke up to meditate, meditate. I wake up to spend time in the Word and get in a workout before the kids wake up. Remember your “why.”
5. I’m all about a reward
Whatever a reward looks like to you in the morning, implement it. For me its lighting a delicious candle and making a cup of tea. I might keep a cozy blanket or fresh flowers nearby. Make this something to look forward to…I personally wouldn’t want to wake up at 5am to go sit on a cold hard chair with ice water. I’d probably cry.
It’s been a long holiday season of skipping this morning routine and sleeping until Oshiolema runs to my bedside with his clock saying “I DID IT!” The first few days are always brutal but I’m back in the swing of things now. I’d love to hear all about your morning routine! Are you an early bird? Did you change after having kids? If you’re currently waking up to your day and not for your day, I challenge you to try it one day this week. Maybe try planning one day this week to go to bed at 9:30, set your alarm for 5am and let me know how the day went! I hope you found helpful and when you’re up at 5, know I’m right there with you. (not in a creepy way. in the good way.)
I’ve recieved TONS of questions about my office furniture and I’m so sorry to say I decorated it 6 years ago and nearly everything no longer exists! I’ve found some super similar items, though:
here are some cozy morning favorites (including the robe I just got for Christmas and have named the best item ever in my possession) if you need an incentive to get out of bed:
all photography in this post is by Paula B