Mornings around here

When I began writing about time management many years ago, I soon learned that people are not equally interested in all hours of the day. No one seems to care what successful people do on their lunch break, or at 8 p.m. on a weekday. But what the most successful people do before breakfast? That title can write its own ticket.

I think we start the day full of hope. Most people have more energy, discipline, and focus in the morning. It seems like things could go well, so when this desire to start the day right crashes into the reality of stubborn children or traffic on the way to daycare and work, we can feel particularly bereft. We’re always hunting for solutions to make these early hours better.

And people have many good ones! (Exhibit A: The comment section over at The SHU Box, where people are sharing their own morning hacks. I love the idea of calling toaster waffles on the go “road waffles,” as in “kids, we’re having road waffles for breakfast today!”)

Mornings aren’t particularly hectic in my house right now, they’re just really, really long. With 5 kids ranging from ages 2 months to 12 years, the activity that might be compressed into one smaller whirlwind is stretched out over many hours.

I often get up somewhere between 4-5 a.m. these days, depending on when the baby needs to eat. This morning it was 5:15 a.m., which is great, except I also knew it meant I wasn’t going to manage to get back to sleep. (I can usually sleep after a 4 a.m. feeding). I always feed him on one side and pump the bottle for the 1 a.m. feeding on the other during this time. The baby did go back to sleep today. I got up for good at 6:15 or so and showered. Then I enjoyed my little morning treat: a quiet cup of coffee in my quiet kitchen (pictured). I read for a few minutes while watching the growing light out the window.

I woke the 12-year-old at 6:40 a.m. and sat with him while he had breakfast. One reason we don’t have a morning “routine” per se — he has early choir two mornings per week, which starts at 7:20 a.m. So on those days he needs to be in the car at 7:10 a.m. Other days he leaves around 7:50/7:55, either with us or the other parents in the neighborhood carpool. My husband had left early for a morning video conference with Europe (better than flying there) so our nanny came at 7 (instead of the usual 8). The baby was still asleep, so I did the choir run to and from middle school.

I was home by 7:30, at which point I ate my breakfast, and sat with the elementary school aged kids as they ate theirs. The baby woke up to eat again around 8, so I fed him while typing chunks of this (I am getting really good at one-handed typing). G brought the kids out to the bus stop (driveway). I usually do this, but since it coincided with baby-feeding time, we switched. Then she drove the 5-year-old to preschool — just a few minutes away — while I finished feeding the baby and brushed my hair and did my make-up (with baby watching me from the floor of the bathroom…) I was ready for BOBW podcast (video) recording at 9!

So, that was 3.75 hours from waking to being presentable to the outside world. I did get a little work done in there, multi-tasked with nursing, and I did do a few minutes of reading. But given that I spend about 17 hours awake per day that is a fairly large chunk — and I didn’t commute anywhere!

What’s your stopwatch time from waking to (officially) starting work?

Photo: enjoying a few moments before the mess…

20 thoughts on “Mornings around here

  1. My mornings are pretty different now that I have an 18-month old and am back at work full time. I used to get up at 5 to write, but the baby is a light sleeper in the early morning and so I can’t get up before him without risking waking him too early. So these days I sleep in until 7, which is when he generally wakes up, then tag team breakfast, story-time, snuggles, and getting ready for work with his dad before heading for the office at 8:30.

    Between our 90 minutes together in the morning and the 2-3 hours I get with him between getting home from work and his bedtime, plus family lunch when I work from home on Wednesdays (my partner is a stay-at-home dad), I feel great about how much time I get to spend with the baby during the work week. My partner is a night-owl, so my creative time has moved to after bedtime (I’m sewing instead of writing these days) and then we get some 1:1 couple time before bed. It’s a good balance.

  2. On days I’m in the office it is 1.5 hours from wake to work. Not bad considering an hour commute in there, but it does take prepping the night before to only spend 30 minutes getting ready the next morning.

    On telecommute days it is highly variable which I find annoying. I normally start work around 7, but depending on when the baby wakes and trying to catch up on a bit of sleep the routine is all over the place. I need to be better about this.

  3. My mornings have gotten very long as well, with the arrival of our third son, last July. I take the 3:15AM until 7:00AM shift so my wife can get a few hours of solid, uninterrupted sleep. I’ve found it works out pretty well. I manage to my email inbox to empty, get some administrative things out of the way, catch up on the business news on CNBC (something I hadn’t done for a few years), and get some quality time with the little guy when he wakes up (usually around 5:00AM). The older ones usually wander down around 6:00AM, so we get some boys’ time.

    It’s changed my sleep patterns a bit, but for a guy who generally runs on 5-6 hours of sleep, it’s not existential. I’ve always enjoyed the early morning hours, and now have more of them. I’m not sure I’ll every go back to sleeping in until 5:00AM (believe it or not)!

    1. @Jeff – Congrats on the new little one! If 5 a.m. is sleeping in…whoa! We split the other way. On the nights the two of us are covering, my husband is responsible for the 1 a.m.-ish feeding, and I get the baby at some point after that. So I can sleep the first half of the night and then he gets the second.

    2. This seems…incredible. I always admire/am jealous of people who can wake up that early and still function. A few times a month I wake at this point in the night (naturally) and am just so efficient. I get caught up on paperwork, read a book, go for an early-morning run on the treadmill – all before I’d normally wake and go on to function relatively well.

      But it just doesn’t seem to be sustainable. I burn out quickly from that. Also, my husband (who early in our marriage was ALWAYS up before me), likes to eek every minute out of bed. His job is very demanding and he really cherishes relaxed mornings, so getting up early when he’s home isn’t really ideal. BUT he travels enough, that I think I should have a split schedule (though I know sleep researchers say it’s best to keep things consistent) – when he’s travelling, I should get up at 5:00ish, especially since I am facing all the kid-related tasks solo and it’s so nice to have fit in some work, reading etc before they get up.

      Anybody out there switch it up (some mornings early, others not)?

  4. I’m at the opposite end of the kid spectrum – 2 teens – and I have them every other week. My mornings vary a good bit. If i’m on my own, I get up at 4:30, get to the gym from 5 – 6, then get showered, dressed, packed up and out the door at 7:00 to get to work at 7:15. If I’m not working out, I get up at 5:15 and use some of the time to catch up on homework for my class i’m taking, pay bills, rotate laundry, etc. whatever needs done.

    When I have the kids I am up at 4:30, gym, rush home and get a fast shower/dressed, pack my breakfast, lunch, help my daughter (15) with hers, and get out the door at 6:45 to drop her at school before getting to work at 7:15. If i’m not working out, I’m up at 5:15 and make us a heartier breakfast (scrambled eggs vs yogurt), pack her lunch as well as my son’s (18, he leaves later for school), and have a slower paced morning enjoying a bit more ‘quality’ time with her while she stares at her phone when she eats.

  5. I started seeing patients at 6:30 yesterday and I was reflecting on how insanely early my pre-medicine self would have found that to be. On the other hand, the benefit of having to be at work this early is that I completely miss the drama associated with getting out of the house. I personally would find learning about what people do over lunch to be fascinating. I like to talk to people, but that’s not always possible. And sometimes I don’t get lunch at all. I wonder what others do.

    1. @omdg – from what I’ve seen, a lot of people either eat lunch at their desks or go to the local fast casual place (or cafeteria). It can be a time for a walk or reading or conscious networking/management (like taking a different direct-report out daily) or something like that but people need to really think it through and have a lot of control of their schedules to do that.

  6. Whirlwind mornings here! I used to get up earlier, but similar to another comment above, one of my daughters is a super light AM sleeper and will wake up if she hears me up early (and she’s a preschooler who needs her sleep so the result is a lot of crankiness – it’s better for us all if she sleeps until 7!). Which means I tend to shower at night and then just read quietly in bed in the morning until 7, then I get my daughters and myself ready and am out the door between 8 and 8:15 (although my husband brings them to preschool, so I just hand out hugs and remind everyone I’ll see them at pick up that evening!). 15 – 20 min commute with parking, so I’m usually at my desk by 8:30 or 8:40. I’m not great at immediately jumping into work though, have to work on that. But in theory that’s 90 minutes from start to when I could immediately be working on something.

  7. I would be interested in how mornings duties are split in two parent households because we have found an almost complete split to work really well. My alarm goes off at 7:10, I help get the kids up at 7:15, then I get dressed while they have 15 minutes of screen time with their Dad (we all take showers or baths in the evening). I help get breakfast on the table a bit as I get my things packed up but head out the door at 7:40 to be at work by 8:00.

    My husband is primarily a stay at home Dad and we found that due to a convenient bus stop and preschool situation it’s not that hard to get both kids (5 and 3) to the bus at 8:45 then preschool at 9:00. Having a second parent around in the morning didn’t help that much, but having me home at 4:20 pm instead of 5:20 pm makes a huge difference in our afternoons. We can have short family outings, or switch off and get some down time. I’ll probably shift my schedule even earlier this summer so I can be around for longer playground or pool trips. You’ve written about the value in schedule flexibility and I think this ability to shift my schedule is really the difference for me between a happy balance and feeling like I’m missing out.

  8. With my job, I don’t usually have to be in the office until 10am at the earliest (though I work lots of evenings and weekends to make up for it!). However, my husband leaves for work at 6:30, so I’m getting the kids out the door by myself in the mornings. I’m usually up around 6am. The kids are usually up by 6:15a, and by 8:10 we are out the door to drop the oldest one at her bus stop, and the second one is dropped off at preschool by 9am. Then I come home and have about 30-45 minutes to do the laundry, or prep dinner for my husband if I’m working late, or whatever other household thing needs doing- or sometimes just reading or playing with the baby. I always arrive at work at 10am feeling like the day is already half done- which, I guess if you count wake to desk as 4 hours, well, that’s equal to half a work day right there. I often look at the clock at some point in the morning and think, “How can it be only 9:30am?” Meanwhile all my childless co-workers roll in at 10-ish am looking freshly showered, eating their bagels, having woken up around the time I was dropping my second kid at school- not that I blame them- we work late hours so a lot of us are night owls. I once had a manager comment that I was always so early to work, while my cohorts were always 5-10 minutes late. And I replied, “well, when you have to take your kid to the school bus at 8am, getting to the office by 10am is easy.”

  9. If there is one thing I’ve learnt from reading and listening to both you and Sarah, it’s that it seems in general that Americans get up really very early in the morning! Either our 8 year old or our alarm wakes us at 6.30am (which in the UK makes us notably early risers!) then my husband pops our porridge in the steam oven and empties the dishwasher whilst I shower. We then switch and I will pack lunches, prep dinner and finish breakfast. We all eat together at 7.10am then teeth and dressed. My son is rewarded for being done quickly by playing some bedroom football for 5 minutes with daddy. We catch the 7.47am train into the city. We go early enough to avoid the rush and head to a cafe for 8am. 3/5 is my husband, I do the other 2. We sit in the cafe with my son and have a coffee whilst he does 20 minutes of homework daily. It’s brilliant to have no distractions or alternative options and therefore no debate. He is dropped at school at 8.30am so the dropper is at work for 9am (the other for about 8.30am). My husband gets home too late for dinner as a family so to enjoy a daily family meal, plus a little play, plus some homework and a coffee/chat is, I think, a good way of starting the day.

  10. Most mornings my morning routine is compressed. I start working early and as a result don’t cover kid care in the morning. Most weekday mornings I am up at 4:45, but sitting at my desk at 6:30 preparing to see patients beginning at 7. That includes some planning/reflective time with coffee, showering and dressing, and a 35 minute commute (I do my podcast listening during this time). There was a time when even leaving the house at 5:55, I often got ready for work with a baby at my feet. My youngest is 4 now and (knock wood) those days seem to be over now.

  11. It’s so interesting to me what a difference it makes how many children one has. I have one child- an 11 year old boy. I and my partner work full time, different hours mostly to each other, and we have had no childcare since our son was 4 years old.

    My morning starts around 5 am out of choice (I love quiet early mornings), I make coffee, listen to Before Breakfast (!), feed the cat, open the windows and then read for an hour and 45 min or so. Then around 6.45 I help son get up, give him breakfast, then he does his music practice. I have breakfast, prepare lunch for work, shower get dressed etc, while son does the same, then around 8 am we are off. I drop him off at school which is on my way to work. I am usually at work by 8.30

    So different to your routine! But they both sound good. And I’m sure with years passing these things change in all sorts of directions.

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