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16 Easy Little Morning Habits to Get Parents Ready for the Day

published Jan 9, 2022
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Weekday mornings, my alarm is set for 6 a.m. When it goes off, I hit snooze one time, then lay in bed for an extra nine minutes, enjoying how warm I am, thinking about my to-dos, and steeling myself — especially lately — for a dark, chilly run outside. When I hear it chirp the second time, my day truly begins.

My husband teases me about how strict I am with this little ritual, but I find that it gives my day structure and helps me prepare for the day ahead. Many other parents do the same, adding little habits and rituals to their mornings that they depend on for a smooth entrance. I surveyed about a dozen friends to see how they get ready for the day — here’s what they shared about their brilliant and often life-changing habits.

Wake up at least 30 minutes ahead of the kids

The number one suggestion from my friends: get up before the kids. Whether the parents use that time for fitness, to have a cup of coffee, or to catch up on the news, having at least 30 minutes to oneself is a priority. “I feel like my day is off to a bad start if I don’t get any alone time,” says Lisa, a mother of three in Birmingham.

Check your calendar and to do list

Another thing to do in those early minutes: get a sense of what the day entails. Jennie, a mom of one in Seattle, writes her to-do list the night before to review in the morning, while Kate, a mom of two in San Francisco, lives by her calendar, so she uses that time to figure out the day’s schedule and priorities. 

…But don’t check Instagram

Or email or texts. “I put my phone on Do Not Disturb from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. and don’t look at email until we’ve gotten our son off to school — this helps me feel like I’m not working 24–7,” says Laura, a mother of one, who lives in Queens. Plus, this compartmentalizing helps to curtail any feelings of overwhelm before the day starts, leaving parents in a better mental state to tackle the already-hectic mornings.

Credit: Tamara Gavin

No screens in the morning

Not for kids, not for grownups, according to many friends. Mindlessly watching TV or getting sucked into YouTube can make it hard to focus on what needs to be done to get everyone out the door. “Concentrate on the now,” says Robin, a parent of two in Raleigh. If your kids struggle with screentime restrictions, try letting them listen to an audiobook or some music to unwind in the mornings.

Set out clothes the night before

This is one of my tricks: I lay out my workout clothes in the bathroom before I go to bed, so I don’t wake my husband rooting through our dresser drawers if I want to go for a jog first thing in the morning. Knowing that they’re there clears one hurdle for motivation, too. And even if you aren’t working out — by taking away one decision in the morning, you’re clearing your mind for the day ahead.

Make time for fitness

Speaking of working out: Folks’ preference run the gamut from stretches and yoga, to pilates or classes at the YMCA, to a brisk walk or jog outside, but for many, sneaking in a workout is key for mental clarity, comfort while sitting at a desk all day, and starting the day with a sense of accomplishment. “This keeps me from getting quite so frustrated with toddler delay tactics,” says Emily in D.C. And those endorphins are especially useful in winter, when many struggle with seasonal mood shifts.

Check the weather before you shower

If you don’t lay your clothes out beforehand, you can use those five minutes of downtime with the water running to figure out what to layer and bring along for the day. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

Empty the dishwasher

Olivia, a mom of two in Brooklyn, always runs her dishwasher at the end of the day, and empties it first thing in the morning. “Then, at least the kitchen is fresh and new for the day before the mess starts building up again — it’s my way of setting the stage for the chaos to come,” she says. If your kids are older, you can also build it into their chores — as long as it doesn’t delay the getting-to-school rush.

Drink coffee from an insulated mug

Even if your coffee is made first thing, that doesn’t mean you have time to drink it right away. Alayna in D.C., who has one child, swears by the Yeti mug with the Magslider lid for keeping her coffee hot through the whole morning routine. “It’s my new baby shower gift,” she says. “Great at preventing spills while, say, feeding a baby.” And if you’re on school drop-off duty with the kids, it’s a tiny luxury during the walk or drive to school.

Make yourselves a real breakfast

Katherine in Raleigh, who has teenage sons, swears by making a real breakfast for herself and her kids, too. “Scrambled eggs can be made in no time, and it starts the day off right,” she says. Amal, who has two children in Colorado, always has a quick to-go breakfast, like a hardboiled egg, oatmeal, or piece of fruit, on hand: “This is big for me — I need to have something I can eat while getting everything else going. If we run out of bananas, I’m basically not ok.”

Assign parent tasks

In two-parent households, having clear morning parenting responsibilities — who’s in charge of breakfast, who’s brushing the kids’ hair — helps the morning go more smoothly. My husband and I trade off tasks for our two daughters so each of us has a block of time with no kid duties to shower and brush our teeth.

Make it a contest

If the kids are having trouble motivating themselves, consider turning it into a race: Thao in Ohio, a parent of one, races her daughter to see who can get out of bed, dressed, and down to the breakfast table first. “It’s fun and lighthearted for mornings when we’d all rather be in bed,” she says. We do the same, but on the back end: As breakfast tapers off, I run upstairs to see if I can get showered and dressed before my daughters. (Pre-kids Me would never have believed I could be showered, dressed, and blow-dried in under 11 minutes!)

Leave out visual reminders

When I plan to bring my lunch to the office, I assemble it all the night before, but leave my lunch bag on the counter to help me remember to bring it. Similarly, we leave the backpacks right in front of the door and the kids’ water bottles on the counter, ready to be filled. 

Credit: Erin Derby

Get dressed last

While many parents relish that time in the morning to get themselves mentally ready, most wait to throw on work clothes until it’s almost time to walk out the door — to avoid maple syrup fingers or crying over spilled milk. In my earliest days going back to work after my first child, I have fond memories of sitting in my bathrobe, in full hair and makeup, to nurse her in the mornings.

Keep shoes and socks by the door

We’ve always kept our shoes by the door, but recently we started keeping the kids’ socks in a bin there, too — game-changer! In fact, it was such a game-changer that now I keep a few pairs of my own socks stashed in the bin with my sneakers. That way I’m not running upstairs to my bedroom when we’re trying to get the kids out the door to the bus. 

Heat up the car

Especially in the winter, taking a minute to do this (with gratitude toward the car manufacturers who let you do it with the click of a fob!) makes the drive to daycare, school, or work much nicer. Bonus points if you can turn on the heated seats too. Even if the seats don’t heat, keep a blanket or two in the backseat to keep the kids nice and bundled.