What getting up before my kids has taught me

Two years ago I spent every night feeding my ginormous one year old every hour (he for sure didn’t need the milk!). Life was tough, I was so sleep deprived I don’t know how I made it into work, let alone functioned. In those days the idea of ever setting an alarm to wake me before the screams of my child seemed madness. And it would have been.

I start this blog there, to say there is a season for everything.

If you are waking to babies in the night or suffering with chronic illness this may not be the season for waking early. This blog is not a guilt trip for you amazing people who long for health restoring sleep. No, this blog is not for you, take a big cup of grace and love and stop reading! This blog is for the rest of us. Those who maybe need a kick up the bum to make a change, to push through a little bit of pain and to set that alarm a little bit earlier.

My ideal day

When someone asks you ‘what’s your ideal day look like?’ what do you say? My answer would definitely include, being quiet, reading, exercising (though not the sweaty kind!) and taking time to breathe, to think, to process my own thoughts. Around 18 months ago I realised that these things made up zero time in my day. What with work, time with my husband, kids, friends, church, cooking, washing (so much laundry!), cleaning, the list could go on, the things that I knew would be especially life giving for me got pushed to the side. I would try and exercise in the evenings but I often had things to do or lacked motivation, I fell asleep reading every night and rarely had a quiet moment with my own thoughts.

A simple calculation

I realised that if I really valued those things the only regular part of my day that I had control over was my mornings. I wrote down my ideal early morning routine and calculated that it would take me 45 minutes to an hour. At first I was horrified. Surely I wasn’t considering giving up an hours sleep when my children were also asleep? That sleep had been a long time coming, it felt crazy to give it up! But I decided to give it a go. When my alarm went off the first morning I wanted to cry. The first week was hard. But a year and a half later I’ve hardly missed a morning (and when I do I suffer for it!) and I’m totally converted to the value of getting up early.

Here’s what I’ve learnt.

  1. I’m a nicer person.
    I wake up ‘for’ my kids, not ‘to’ them. When I see them I feel ready to be their mum rather than resentful they are dragging me away from my duvet. This has been really wonderful. I actually smile when I see my kids! This was not the case in the past and even thinking about that makes me sad. It’s so great to know that I’ve given time to myself so now I’m ready to give time to them.
  2. How else would I regularly exercise?
    It’s the only way I’m regular with exercise. Early morning is really the only predictable part of my day, which means I’m way less likely to have an excuse (or reason) to avoid working out.
  3. Mental Health Boost.
    Having time to still by myself, to write and think has helped me start each day which much more positively. Being quiet and taking time to breathe made me realise I spend a lot of time holding my breath (anyone else guilty of this?!), using reading, prayer and meditation each morning has helped me carve out moments of calm to rest my all to frantic brain.
  4. I set the agenda for how I feel.
    By not reaching for my phone and instead doing things that encourage me, I’m choosing to stop other voices influencing how I feel right at the beginning of the day. It’s so important to stop a social media or news app from setting the tone for my day.
  5. Start small and build up.
    I didn’t begin with everything I do now. I started by simply getting up a few minutes early and writing 10 things I was thankful for, that was it. I slowly added to that and got up earlier to create the routine I wanted.
  6. Preparation is everything.
    I put my Pilates mat out every night, along with my notebook and a bottle of water. It’s a small thing but it means I go to bed having set my intention for the following morning.
  7. Grace, grace, grace.
    Sometimes the kids wake up early, sometimes I miss my alarm, sometimes I’ve had a terrible night’s sleep. I give myself grace, fit in what I can and I don’t allow one bad day to write off the whole week. I set my alarm for 5.20am and try again tomorrow.

My routine

There’s no perfect morning routine but I think a simple plan to, Move your body, still you mind, encourage your heart is a good place to start. Here’s what my mornings look like.

  • Thankfulness – Wake up and write my gratitude journal, I use the 6 minute diary morning and night.
  • Water – I was surprised at the difference downing a glass of water makes!
  • Pilates – 10-35 minute workout, I use Lindywell and love that there’s plenty of breathing and stillness built in (also a fair bit of lying down!
  • Bible – I write a passage of the Bible out each morning, it takes a few moments but is changing my life.
  • Prayer Journal – I write my prayers, I just get too distracted if I try to sit still and think them. I love giving my day over to God right at the beginning of it.
  • Stillness – I use the Calm app to have 10 minutes of stillness, sometimes this is totally silent, sometimes a led meditation. I use this time to think about the day ahead.

It’s not that tidy!

I know this sounds like I have it all together but the honest truth is that this is my morning at it’s best! Some days I have a child climbing on my while I’m exercising. More often than not the word ‘snack!!’ is being shouted at me repeatedly while I try to read my Bible.

And that’s ok.

Yes my mornings get disturbed fairly often but I actually think it’s great that the kids see their Mum prioritising those things, they know this is ‘Mummy’s quiet time’ and, though they are working on the ‘quiet’ bit, I know they are soaking up these moments.

Hopefully it won’t take them until they are in their thirties to realise they are worth the time, they are worth the investment, that looking after themselves is sometimes the best way to look after others.