An arm, heavy as a sledgehammer, slams into the side of my face.
Wincing, I attempt to pull the blankets up over my shoulder as I’m met with resistance from the little body that lies next to me. I sigh loudly before curling up into a ball to maintain some heat. Just as sleep finds me again, a finger pokes me in the arm. I grunt, irritated, as my son’s little voice proclaims that it’s morning. I glance at the clock as the sun glitters in through the half open blind. 7:12.
I thought I had three more minutes to sleep, but this angelic little face before me disagrees.
I stretch out on my bed, mindful of the other little person tangled in my feet. My chest feels heavy, and my breath quickens as I run a mental scan of my to-do list for the day. Phone calls, emails, reports, classes to plan, groceries to buy, a gift to return, a house to clean. I shut my brain down before I have a full-on panic attack. I snap at my kids to get dressed as I stumble to the bathroom to brush my teeth, tripping on a plastic car and curse as I hobble on my now throbbing foot.
Teeth brushed, I race downstairs, barking out orders as I whip open boxes of cereal to feed the kids, feeling slightly guilty over the lack of nutrition they’re starting their day with. I should make them smoothies but seriously, who has time for that?
The next half hour is a flurry of racing feet, impatient reminders, and frantic movements until finally, everyone is off to school and I return home, feeling triumphant that once again I made it through the morning scramble still somewhat intact. I slide down the door to sit on the floor, feeling exhausted already and emotionally depleted from the flow of impatience that permeated my entire body for the last hour.
Guilt floods through my wall of armor as I reflect on the harshness of my tone and the complete lack of attention I gave my children. Mornings had now become an anxiety driven rush of movement, lacking any connection between the four of us.
I sigh deeply as I glance around me at the assortment of hats, mittens, and boots scattered about the floor. I curse again. I don’t have time to just sit here, I think to myself, my to-do list awaits. Begrudgingly I stand, feeling heavy and depleted already and the day has just begun.
This story isn’t me today, but it was. I have lived mornings like this in the past but, thankfully, they are few and far between. This story is also one I hear time and again from friends and clients, describing to me the flurry mornings bring alongside chaos and irritation. And every time I hear these stories I suffer from both a pang of sadness for them, and a pang of pride. After my second baby was born, I was depleted, anxious, and overwhelmed. I made a single decision that would forever change how my mornings looked.
No longer would I awake to immediate anxiety, but I would find peace and calm despite the seemingly chaotically paced life.
No, I didn’t hand off my kids or hire a Nanny to deal with them. I didn’t call in reinforcements so I could sleep in late. Nor did I plead with my hard-working hubby to take over mornings.
What I did was simple and free, and changed my life.
I Started to Wake Up Earlier Than My Kids
And this practice (because it IS a practice!) is something I recommend to ALL the women I work with, unless, for whatever reason, they must have more sleep (hey adrenal fatigue, I’m looking at you!).
Here are five reasons I strongly encourage you to start waking up earlier than your kids, whether it’s fifteen minutes or two hours:
1. Self-Nurture Time
How often do you have time to just do what you love to do, and do so without distraction? It could be as simple as reading quietly or having a warm bath by the candlelight. Movement fits in nicely in the mornings; whether you workout or practice yoga, you can care for your body as well as your soul.
Spending time filling your own proverbial cup every morning allows you to be better equipped for chaos and better able to give to those around you.
On an airplane, you are instructed to put on your own oxygen mask before your child’s. While this may not feel natural, it is vital to care for yourself first if you have any hope of caring for your child. The same can be said for your daily emotional, mental, and physical well-being. Begin your day early and indulge in “me” time to ensure you are at your best.
2. Greater Creativity
Robin Sharma, the author of The Leader Who Had no Title, calls the hour between 5:00-6:00 the Holy Hour, where you are at your most creative point and have the greatest focus. Indulging in a creative outlet such as painting, writing, or even dancing not only improves your well-being overall but you will also find more inspiration and ideas during that first hour of your day. For all you Mama entrepreneurs out there, soak up this opportunity to get your juices flowing.
Be honest. Have you ever found yourself locked in a bathroom just to find five minutes of quiet? What about the dark corner of your closet to just be alone and breathe for two minutes on your own? Waking up before kids is much like those mini retreats, only you don’t need to listen to the screams of “Mommy!” as they realize you are no longer in the room. Nor will anyone bang on the door. You are free and clear to enjoy the quiet hours of the morning, in silence.
4. Intention Setting
There is a distinct difference between letting the day drag you around for the ride and setting an intention for the day, connecting you with your highest values and proceeding from there. The mindset of life happening to you leads to feelings of overwhelm and lack of control.
Being proactive (as opposed to reactive) in the morning with an intention allows your perspective to shift to see that you are in control of your life; maybe not the events that occur but your perspective of them. If you want to design a life you love, you must begin by designing the day you want to have.
5. Increased Productivity
This reason makes the bottom of my list because while I don’t consider it to be the most important, but it is a benefit that occurs when you wake up earlier than your kids. You can get a jump start on your to-do list (AFTER you’ve nurtured your soul first!) because let’s be honest, getting things done with kids around takes at least 780908 times longer than doing the same things on your own.
Robin Sharma claims that those who wake up earlier get the most done between the hours of 5:00 – 8:00 and tend to be more productive within those hours than those who begin their day later and spend eight hours trying to get stuff done. Again, entrepreneur or work-from-home mamas, this is great news!
Whether you choose to get up 15 minutes before your children, or two hours, I am confident you’ll find this practice to be a game changer.