What the most Successful Mums do Before Breakfast Time

 039.jpgI got up at 6am to write my blog. No I’m not an insomniac, but I am currently reading  ‘What the most successful people do before breakfast time.’ By Laura Vanderkam.  The book claims to help you achieve more at work and at home in those waking hours. According to Vanderkam, we have 168 hours a week (including sleeping). I don’t know about you, but much of my time is spent working, sleeping, eating, talking or exercising and wasted on social media, emails and my personal care routine. No I don’t have children if you were thinking I lived in a parallel Universe. I have been a Nanny and done many a school run in my time to know how hellish mornings can be.

I know women are great at multi-tasking (sorry boys this is a scientifically known fact) so you probably think you are getting a lot done in the mornings – feeding the cat whilst shutting the washing machine door with your foot, mentally writing a shopping list and planning play dates whilst repeatedly shouting at your children to ‘Hurry up and do it NOW!’

Too early

The ONE big race against time

I often coach children who are sleep challenged and struggle to switch off at night. Evidently, they are tired and grumpy the next morning. I hear Mums say to me: ‘Even on the rare occasion we are ahead of time, there is usually a missing shoe or homework situation which means total meltdown before school. This applies to Mums and Dads who are burnt out. Helping your child regulate their emotional state relies very much on your resilience and good mood.

You want your children to go to school happy (especially if they don’t like being away from you or are not a fan). You want to start your day without raising your blood pressure and then subsequently guilt-tripping yourself for being a Mean Mummy. How about if we re-write the morning scenario by getting up a little earlier? Sorry, I didn’t think you were going to like that.

It really is all about quality not quantity

The book goes on to explain how couples  feel like ships that pass in the night and those who both work find only 12 minutes a day to speak to each other. I’m guessing that’s whilst slumped in front of the TV when the children have gone to bed.

‘If a week has 168 hours, if you work 50 hours and sleep 58 (8 hours per night) that still leaves 62 hours for other things.We can probably find more than 84 minutes (12 x 7) in there somewhere where.’ ~ Laura Vanderkam

You can never get time back again but it is our most precious commodity. Mornings are a great time to spend quality time as a family reconnecting. Time is one of the love languages and this is how we find connection with our children. I have a theory that if you start the day off right by connecting with your child so they will feel good about themselves; they will be more open to learning and listening at school. It’s like giving your child a permanent invisible hug that loves them even when you are not there.

 Develop rituals which make your whole family happy

morning routine

Like any new behaviour, you need to master the art and that takes commitment , hard work and willpower. It takes around 30 days to create a new habit through repetition and knowing that we have more willpower in the morning than we do late at night – that is when diets are more likely to be broken, affairs started and addictions, puts us on the front foot. If you deem yourself to be a night owl, there is a whole piece around converting yourself to a Dawn Buster!

Of course PRACTISE PRACTISE PRACTISE is key. You can build on your new routine by adding in one change at a time. Maybe try it out for a week and see how it goes before introducing another one. Perfect the art of your morning routine and your kids will love you for it.

Please don’t tell me you don’t have time. We can convince ourselves of any ‘excuse’ if we let our minds go there! I do it all the time. If you have time to watch TV, then you have time to give some thought into mixing it up a bit in the mornings.

Here are 10 ideas to help you re-shape your morning routine for the better (unless of course you have it sussed and want to share more ideas with us in the comments section below):-

1. Notice how you spend your time now – the book provides a link to a download where you can do this or you can scribble in a little note book; a bit like you did when they were small to record  ounces of milk and hours sleep! This is your time journal.
2. Daydream your perfect morning. Romanticise about you and your children picking daisies from the garden if you must! Now work through the logistics in your head so you can make it a little closer to reality. I personally think having something fun to look forward to every day makes getting out of bed early, that little bit more motivating.
3. Take an audit of your existing morning. Using your time journal. Look at what isn’t working now or what creates the most arguments or stressful moments. Mark Twain said: ‘If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.  Come on! Let’s mix it up a little bit.  Involve your children in this process so they feel as if they have some control over what their day looks like. A day at school is full of rules and time-tabled activities (some of which they won’t want to do) so it’s empowering to feel as if you have some say in your day.

4. Get up earlier – give your family the best of you, not what is left over at the end of the day. In fact you know how fractious tea time or the ‘witching hour’ as I like to call it can be. Getting up earlier means going to bed earlier (sorry!). I discovered recently that I was going to bed at midnight as I was wiling away the hours on Facebook or online. The internet can be such a time thief.  Consequently, I would wake up the next morning tired and grumpy. I am now trying a no screens before 8am and after 8pm routine. I’ll let you know how it goes.

 If you have to wake your kids in the morning, they aren’t getting enough sleep.  Every hour of sleep less than they need sets them back a year in access to brain function, meaning they act a year younger. ~ Dr. Laura Markham

5. Unplug – I stopped listening to the news years ago as I found it was rather depressing and changed my mindset before the day had even begun. I’m not a fan of the TV first thing. Screens and mobile phones are a huge distraction and not a very gentle way to wake up. I quite like the radio on in the morning or sometimes just silence to gather my thoughts before I start my day. The on-line community will not miss you for a couple of hours when you are going about your morning routine.
6. Lay everything out the night before. I know when my gym stuff (right down to my socks) is laid out at the end of my bed, I’m more likely to get up and out the door. I work from home so I need something to make me get up and out of the door every day. There’s lots you can prepare the night before so think about what gets lost and what is stressful in the mornings and then go to bed knowing you are good to go for the next day. My Niece often sleeps with her hair in a plait (not only does it give her curly hair) but it also means there is drama free hair styling the next day.

Little housekeeping fairy tired of home chores

7. Devise a morning schedule where there are designated jobs for everybody to do on waking. Micromanagement is inefficient and it shows lack of trust. Sit down with your children and explain to them what you expect of them in the mornings. Ooh I’m starting to sound like a Sargent Major now.  These may include:-

  • Wash & brush your teeth
  • Get dressed
  • Draw curtains and make bed
  • Put pyjamas where they live (if everything has a home then it’s much easier to get your hands on it again when you need to)
  • Emptying dishwasher and reloading after breakfast (would it help to know that this only takes 6 minutes)
  • Putting lunches in school bags
  • Helping prepare breakfast or if you are big enough getting your own breakfast
  • Get something out of the freezer for dinner. Vanderkam writes in the book not to over think dinner as the point being to spend time together as family, not to be Delia in the kitchen, although some of you may enjoy cooking and your kids may like to be a part of that.

I’m sure you can think of other things. Every house will have a different morning routine. I have to say that investing time in training your children to do things for themselves may seem like it makes more mess and well, it’s quicker for you to do it.  However, you want your children to be independent beings and start thinking for themselves.

8. Talk about your lives over breakfast. They say have breakfast like a King, so enjoy a good breakfast together. Stray from your usual bowl of porridge. Lay the table as you would at supper time and make time to talk about the day ahead. Get your children in a positive frame of mind. The families I have worked with who have ‘badly behaved’ children (mmm no such thing, just unhappy ones) are the ones who don’t talk and share. If you get up earlier (see point 4) then you can do this. If your children aren’t fans of eating on waking, it’s a good change to make. They need to try a little something to kick start their bodies out of starvation mode first thing.

9. Set a second alarm by which time your children need to have their coats and shoes on and be ready to go. Have a spot by the door where everything goes. By that I mean mobile phones, keys, shoes, book bags, PE kits etc. Then you are under no pressure to worry about time escaping. I keep my eye on the clock in the mornings as being late is one of my pet hates. You can keep giving them time checks and have a countdown if your children like to know what’s coming next (most of them do).

Früh am Morgen10. The promise of a reward if they are ready early they get 10 minutes to do what they want to do whether that is with you or alone. Some great ways to connect with your children in the morning are more cuddles, more reading, more whatever they say they don’t get enough of (obviously not sweets or screen time). It’s probably more time with you and this great for your relationship. So start a project together – a jigsaw that you leave out and complete each day or a photo album where you scrapbook old pictures. How about trying some meditation to set you up for the day? Deep breathing releases dopamine, seratonin and oxcytocin into the body (feel good chemicals). If everything else is done, you can take this time out with your children and watch as it totally transforms your morning and the day ahead. They are emotionally calm and so are you. You have time to get things done, so you are not losing your temper.

“We draw more energy from meaningful things.” ~ Laura Vanderkam

Getting up in the morning and carving out a connected way of being with our families, gives us the right kind of energy when we need it. Of course, that might not be right for every family, but you won’t know until you try. I highly recommend this book. It goes on to talk about how to schedule children’s activities at the weekend and how you can make the most of not being at work by minimising your to-dos and compressing your chores. It also talks about self- nurturing so perhaps you need to get up earlier and let your little ones doze, while you prepare yourself for the day head. Whatever works for you. Guaranteed whatever morning routine behaviour you are role-modelling your children will follow suit.

Nothing lasts forever

Last week, I coached a little boy whose dog had died. He kept saying to me: ‘If I could have had one more day with him…just one more day!’ You can’t buy it back time. It’s the one thing that marches on regardless.  These days don’t last forever and all the work you put in now, you are laying down very solid foundations for your child’s future. So remember, You have less than one thousand Saturdays with each child in your care before he or she is grown up! Now there’s something worth making the most of!

Image credits © Ana Blazic Pavlovic – Fotolia.com and © Ilike – Fotolia.com © wildworx – Fotolia.com


  1. So love the idea of the second alarm! I’m going to buy one first thing tomorrow. This cupcake has sucked it up! lol
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