Inside: Moms are encouraged to wake up before their kids to fit in their morning routine that will make their days run more smoothly. But what if you really can’t wake up early?
Updated December 29, 2019 to include edits to this morning routine.
Mom bloggers are big on having an early morning routine, and the supposed benefits of such a routine are so stinking attractive and convincing.
“It will change your life,” they say. “You accomplish so much before your kids wake up, and you set up your day for success!” they say.
But what if you can’t? What if you’re just too tired?
I haven’t slept through the night in six years. I’ve been on the pregnant/nursing/pregnant cycle for eight years now, and I plan to stay on it as our family grows.
I tried hard to train my body to wake up early, but I finally quit.
Related: My Simple Minimalist Morning Routine (& How to Design Yours)
On the Subject of Quitting
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Quitting has a bad rap in our society. We glorify people who persevere at things, sometimes to the point of stupidity.
Quitting can be just as worthy of fame as perseverance.
When we quit, we say “no” to something that is just not working, and will never work for us.
Quitting makes room for something new.
We only have so much time. Why spend it failing over and over again, when the best choice is to work with your present circumstances instead of against them?
I tried to get up early, and I tried some more. Each day I pressed snooze on my alarm, I felt more guilty, and more like a failure.
I desperately asked over and over, “But what if your baby isn’t sleeping through the night yet? What if you just need more sleep?” My query to all those moms preaching the benefits of an early morning routine seemed to fall on deaf ears.
They meant well, but I don’t think they quite knew what to do with me because I never received a satisfying response. The common one was, “Of course you shouldn’t attempt to cultivate the habit of waking up early until your kids are a little older.”
So if you plan on having a kid every other year until you’re done having kids, you should just….wait twelve years?
The ones shouting the praises of early morning routines are doing so because it truly works for them, and they want to share it with the world. They just want to help. That’s awesome! But they offer no alternative for those of us who will need more sleep for the foreseeable future.
Scientists and doctors regularly share the negative effects of limited and interrupted sleep on our physical and emotional health. I felt them myself just last night: inability to focus, complete exhaustion, extreme emotions, and poor future outlook.
I now choose sleep, guilt-free.
Related: Why Co-Sleeping is the Best Sleep Hack for Busy Moms
A Routine For When You Wake Up With Your Kids
1. Put on a show.
The baby or my second child wakes me up.
If it’s an older child, I’ll put on Wild Kratts, Magic School Bus, or other educational show for whoever is awake.
If it’s the baby, she will generally play quietly for 30-45 minutes after she eats.
Don’t be afraid to use media as a tool. Money is a tool, but it can be used for good or for bad.
Media is the same way, and I have personally vowed to stop reading about how much media is damaging our kids. If you’re stressing about it in the first place, your kid is probably going to turn out o.k.
Think carefully about how you want to use media, how it can help you be a better mom, and what your general limits are.
Related: The Case for Unlimited Screen Time for Kids from a Recovering Control Freak Mom
2. Get food, drink and vitamins.
For years, I used to skip breakfast and just drink coffee. That did NOT set me up for a successful morning with my kids.
Prioritize food and drink first thing in the morning, or else you probably won’t get to it. You already know this, but life with little kids is hectic.
If you forget, by the time you realize you’re hungry, your irritability could derail your whole day.
I start by turning on the Keurig. I eat overnight oatmeal and take my vitamins (switching to these ones make me want to take my vitamins – what am I, a little kid?!) while I wait for my coffee.
I also work a glass of water in before my first cup of coffee or before my second cup.
Whatever you’re preferred food and beverage, make time!
3. Time for Reflection
This part is what all those moms who swear by getting early rave about: quiet time in all its forms. But I believe you can still get similar benefits to those who get up before their kids (you just may have Wild Kratts in the background).
For me, quiet time looks like drinking my coffee, reading my Bible, journaling, listening to music, or praying.
For you? Whatever refreshes you and gets you in a good mindset for you day.
It might be reading a book, just enjoying a few minutes of quiet thought, listening to calming music, or looking over your parenting goals.
It took me a LONG time to let go of my ideal exercise: running outside.
The reality is that 10-15 minutes on the elliptical in the family room is much more practical with babies and young children.
And I actually do it.
It also doesn’t require me relying on my husband to watch the kids – another barrier to making exercise happen.
5. Put in a load of laundry.
Laundry is crazy around here with now seven people in our family. Even with capsule wardrobes, I do at least two loads a day, sometimes three.
Switching over anything from the washer and getting in a new load in the morning keeps me from getting behind.
And getting behind when you have five kids? It can be a serious problem.
Related: The Best Tips for Establishing a Laundry Routine That Works
6. Shower & Dress
Make sure any tiny ones are either safe with older children or in a bouncy seat in the bathroom with you.
Take a 2-minute shower (or longer if time allows, but I don’t count on it) and get dressed.
You can absolutely choose to stay in your comfy clothes. For me, there’s something about getting dressed that totally changes my outlook on life.
The whole day can be the worst ever, and yet I’m showered and dressed, so there’s something.
Related: How to Create a Minimalist Makeup Routine for Faster Mornings
7. Tidy the Upstairs.
There’s something about starting the day tidying something in my house, no matter how small, that jump starts my tidying habits the rest of the day.
I turn off the TV, and get breakfast for the kids.
Next, I tidy the bathroom and our bedroom while they eat (except I don’t make the bed…ever), mostly putting laundry in the correct hampers. The bathroom in our new place is tiny, so anything on the floor makes it feel extremely crowded and messy.
Use this as a template, and make your own routine based on what works for you and what you need in the morning.
Related: 12 Tips for Keeping a Clean House with Kids
For every mom who simply can’t get up early, you can have a morning routine even when you wake up with your kids.
Stop feeling guilty: you’re not superwoman. You’re just a mom, taking care of [lots of] tiny humans, who just needs a little more sleep.
P.S. A good morning routine starts at night. Crystal Paine has three kids, is an entrepreneur who runs two blogs which support her family.
She credits her ability to “do it all” (though of course no mom actually does) to a solid morning and evening routines.
Her evening routine course is one of her most popular courses! You can check it out HERE.
Read Next: 10 Tips for Creating a Night Routine with Kids (that tames the chaos)
This is exactly what I needed to read!!! It felt like you were talking to me, it was SO relatable. Thank you for sharing- and being so real. Everything and everyone says to wake up before your kid, but I literally can’t even when I try- he manages to wake up way too early. Seeing that there’s another way (that doesn’t condemn screen time cuz girl, mama always needs a minute) is really refreshing and encouraging.
I’m so glad it was helpful, Jennifer!
Thanks for being real, girl. I appreciate this so much because I’m also not a morning person. I’m reveling in my children’s autonomy now and they have breakfast, and are out the door to play before I even brush my teeth. My quiet time is never truly “quiet” and I have them help in the daily chores. It’s funny to me how many homeschool/Christian blogger moms all have similar things to say on their blogs when it comes to waking up early and staying organized. Thanks again for a simple routine that is realistic for me.
You’re so welcome Samantha!
Thank you for this! My oldest is 12. When he was younger he was the best sleeper and so content to play quietly in his room or snuggle me if he woke up super early. But back then, it was easier for me to wake up slightly earlier 🙂 then when he was 9, God blessed us with our second child-right after moving to a new state and before we could get into a new routine.
She’s just over three and we still haven’t found our stride! I feel so much guilt over it sometimes. Which is ridiculous. She had health issues that kept her awake all night until she was around two. I also was breastfeeding and pumping which kept me up all night until she was a little over two. She finally got in a sleeping groove until two months ago. She’s now randomly waking up after midnight and it’s been a battle to say the least. But to add to everything, I wake up with my husband every morning and go back to bed when he leaves. His schedule depends on where he’s working, so some mornings I wake him at 3 and some mornings it’s at 6. I have tried just staying awake to get these glorious schedules going that people talk about, but it just doesn’t work. I’m so stinking sleepy by mid morning, which doesn’t bode well for homeschooling my son. And my daughter takes her naps at 2. So I have to go back to sleep until the kids wake up or I’m not my best version of mommy.
So thank you for this, which makes me feel much better in this stage. Because as a mother of a tween, I know it’s just a stage and I will miss all of this. I don’t want to waste these moments living in guilt and comparing to others or always striving to meet these expectations that are nonsensical right now!
PS. I am also looking to get back into relaxed homeschooling and our family practices minimalism as well 🙂 And I just started “working” from home (Social Media Specialist for a local college). Lots in common 🙂
What a refreshing take. I just googled “help for the mom who struggles to get going in the morning” and found this. So perfect. I’m a mom of five, ages 1-7. Life is demanding and sleep is elusive. I have trouble GETTING GOING. I love that you say put on a show…it really is the easiest and most captivating way to keep them settled for me to wake up. #selfcare 😛 I’ll be looking into more of your blog today 🙂 Glad I found you!
Hi Jessica! So fun to “meet” someone with so much in common. And kudos to you – your littles are even younger than mine! We just had our fifth last week (ages 9-newborn). Yes – our morning show continues to be a necessity. Currently, the toddler gets his and then the olders get one educational. Eventually, I hope we can cut down to one, but I’m not stressing. 🙂
I loved this and needed to read this, this morning (late morning, lol!) while I’m rolling out of bed and hear my one year old daughter waking up in her room. Feeling like a small failure every morning for not getting up early is sucking precious energy from me. And so I’m getting rid of that mind set. God bless you!
Absolutely LOVE this post! My kids have always been early risers and taken until age one or later to sleep through the night, so for me, getting up before them means getting up at 5am. Even then, I swear they wake up earlier when I do, which ruins the whole point of me getting up earlier! I work my showers in at night when possible and work the tv to get some ‘alone time’. Thanks so much for sharing!
Reading this was such a relief. I’ve got three boys – 8, 4, and 2, with another baby on the way. We are really hitting our homeschooling stride and I’ve felt a lot better about charting my own path with my kids and our homeschool, but I’ve always, always been a late riser, and while I’ve given up on pushing myself too much, I have still felt guilty about getting up at 8 or 9, even though our routine works! And being pregnant just makes me all the more tired! But I’ve been pregnant and/or nursing for 9 years now, and I don’t see it going away any time soon!
I was involved with a homeschool group for a while, and it seems almost a point of pride, the earlier the mom got up, with some rising regularly at 5 or even 4! And here we were, missing scheduled events that started at 8 because I just *couldn’t* be ready and function and have everyone ready and then DRIVE.
I’m a night owl. I need that quiet time after bedtime to sit and sew, or watch TV or, read, or do nothing at all. I plan my next day during that time, sometimes do my bible study, or whatever.
The ladies in the homeschool group were lovely, but I did not fit in, and that was fine, and it’s been such a breath of fresh air to go at this on my own at my own pace. It’s really heartening to see that there are other perfectly wonderful homeschooling mamas who are similar late risers. Thanks for writing this blog post – it’s the only one I’ve read about morning routines that doesn’t stress getting up early!
As far as practical knowledge I’ve aquired figuring my family out, I will say, teach them how to make breakfast ASAP! An 8 and an almost 5 year old are perfectly capable of pouring some cereal or operating a toaster. Even better is the 8 year old who changes diapers! A Godsend for the really, really sleepy mama.
I am so glad it was a relief for you! That is exactly why I wrote it: I also found no other mention of a morning routine without getting up early. We are still trying out different homeschool groups, and *may have* finally found one that works for us. So much trial and error there.
My oldest is also extremely helpful in the a.m. 🙂 Thank heavens!
I absolutely LOVE this! Thank you for sharing!!
Amen. Love this!!!!
I just have to tell you that I am so grateful for you and your blog. I have never read one that I related to more, in so many, many, many ways!! Thank you for helping to relieve my guilt on media, and minimalism, and my less-than-perfect mommying & homeschooling. 5 kids, a tight budget & just trying to do everything right. Sometimes I wonder if I’m just being selfish, and if my kids are really as well-adjusted as I hope, but knowing there are other mommys out there who go through the same things is really better than therapy, which I wouldn’t be able to afford anyway 🙂 I know this may sound extreme, but I feel like God led me to your blog when he knew I needed some extra encouragement, and you’ve been blessing me with it ever since. I really look forward to your posts in my inbox. Thank you
Jennifer! I’m so so glad you found This Simple Balance! It is always a pleasure when someone feels right at home here. You are so welcome and I look forward to connecting with you more. 🙂
I absolutely love this. I have tried so hard to get up with my husband at 6 am. But my son nursers all night long still and on the nights he miraculously sleeps through my daughter’s wakes up for some reason. Early morning wake up is impossible for me. Happy to not be alone.
I’m so glad it encouraged you! You are absolutely not alone – just the ones who get up early are a little more vocal than the ones who don’t. 😉
Thank you fit writing this! I beat myself up thinking I already started the day on the wrong foot by not getting up early. This helps me and some of things I already do but didn’t think of it that way.
You’re welcome Rayna!
I love this. We are in a season of transition right now and this summer was a season of challenge. I am exhausted but the mom guilt factor just never quits 🙂 I love that you said if you are stressing about media to begin with, you’re kids will probably be okay. So true! 🙂 Also so glad to find your blog. I am also a (newly) homeschooling, Jesus-loving, mama of 2 – and a recovering perfectionist. 🙂
Welcome Natalie! Seasons on transition are always challenging, and they seem to come along more frequently than we ever anticipate, don’t they? The mom guilt factor really doesn’t quit – but if I ever do meet a mom who doesn’t have mom guilt, I’d love to know her secrets! And we have definitely gone through a media heavy few weeks here, and it definitely has me thinking more about media and what exactly it is about it that makes us feel so guilty as moms. I’m sure it’s a post in the making, so keep a look out. Welcome to the homeschool world! It’s fun and exciting and just a little crazy. Be sure to check out The Best Homeschool Book I’ve Ever Read (so far) and 10 More Books Every Homeschool Mom Should Read. Amy Dingmann’s book “The Homeschool Highway: How to Navigate Your Way without Getting Car Sick” is working it’s way up to the top in my list of “must-reads” for new homeschool moms (it was on sale this weekend for .99 – you may still be able to grab it here). Happy homeschooling, and so glad you’re here! 🙂
I love this! I wish someone had told me this when I was failing and failing over and over again at getting my act together in the mornings. Awesome encouragement!!
I’m so glad it encouraged you Sabrina!
I am no longer a mom of babies (*sniff*) since my baby is 5, but I do struggle with the whole “get up early” concept. My two kiddos still at home (ages 10 and 5) are light sleepers, and no matter how early I decide to get up, guess who is up within 10 minutes? Yep…both the kids! Sort of defeated the purpose of early quiet time and I had sleep deprived, irritated kids on my hands all day. No thanks, I’d rather sleep in and start our day at a reasonable time that works for everyone! It really is hard to come to terms with the “failure” of getting up early when there are so many mom bloggers and Christian mentors who sometimes aggressively promote how beneficial and necessary it is. So from one “can’t get up early” mom to another, thanks for publicly enlarging our club!
You’re welcome, Michelle! That was absolutely my intent – while it may work for many, there are just some it doesn’t work for. Time to stop feeling guilty!
You are my hero. Thank you for writing this post! Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who has tried over and over and failed over and over to get up before the kids. I feel less guilty about this after reading about your experience and how you chose to work with it. I appreciate your honesty, and your encouragement to other moms to “do you”! Thank you. 🙂
You are so welcome! It’s what I wish I had several years ago when I was still steeped in guilt and futilely trying to make it work. Upon further reflection, I realized that the other reason I have embraced staying up late is it’s unique benefits for moms. When I get up early, I am bound to be interrupted – I don’t end my time on my own terms. At night, even an infant can be nursed and put back to sleep. I get to decide when I go to bed, and I get to actually complete a task uninterrupted – what a gift! For moms who spend their days unable to complete ANYTHING they start without multiple interruptions. Best to you Katie!
You know I really love coming across other mothers like myself. I thought I was the only one who is not a fan of waking up early. Don’t get me wrong, I love waking up early because I get so much more stuff done. Duh, I have more time. However, the few moments when opening your eyes, warm and all snuggled in your blanket, in your comfy bed. That’s the moment that gets me. Do I really want to stop this moment? Lol. Even though I know I probably should because I have a long to do list ahead of me, I choose to let that list wait. Haha. Anyways, I love this post. Great tips! Thanks for sharing ?
Thanks Stephanie! It is such a relief to find like-minded people. Sometimes we can find ourselves surrounded by many people who think differently, which is not wrong but can be lonely at times. That’s why I love blogging and the internet! What a gift to be able to find like-minded people at the click on a button. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Here’s to comfy beds in the morning and one more minute of sleep!
Mornings suck. No matter what I do i hurt in the mornings. I finally decided to work with my body instead of fighting it and I homeschool later in the morning or in the afternoon. My kids are all teens or grown now and they prefer the later mornings, too. The adults get out of bed and look after what they need to do for work and their daily lives and they are capable of doing whatever needs to be done in their lives. I have raised 3 to adulthood and 2 more in their teens and I STILL get told to make mornings my friend. Why? I am not a morning person and we are fine. I think God makes some people night people and some morning people. Have you ever noticed that only the morning people preach how lovely mornings are and we night people are told to feel bad about who we are?
I agree Angeline! I think everyone is looking for the perfect solution to the perfect day. The morning people’s hearts are in the right place – it probably has been life-changing for them, but their enthusiasm can sometimes get carried away into making their way the “right” way. Isn’t that the human condition though?
I love late nights because I can go to bed on my own terms. The few times I did get up early, I was constantly on edge, waiting for a kid to wake up, ruin my solitude, and interrupt whatever I was working on. As moms we already deal with so many interruptions, night is the only time I can work for a stretch without interruption, and I LOVE that.
It’s so good to hear from someone who has been OK with being a night person for a long time! We run a late schedule here, which to be honest makes night outings so much easier with little ones. Everyone else’s kids are so cranky and done by 8, and mine are still going strong. Thanks for joining the conversation Angeline! I love when people take the time to comment. 🙂
I’m so glad to have found your blog through Simple Homeschool! I have four kids with the same interval as yours (6, 4, 2, and 1 month), mine are also late sleepers, and I have also beaten myself up about not doing the early morning routine. With the recent addition of a baby, I’ve been rethinking our mornings yet again, so it’s great to get some ideas from another mom in the same boat. Do your kids get dressed before breakfast? I feel like it takes an hour just to get everyone dressed and downstairs!
Thanks for stopping by Heather, and congrats on your new baby! I’m rethinking here all the time – it feels like nothing stays the same long. I constantly experiment with new ideas for how our days can go more smoothly. I have one kid who gets up earlier than the others and dresses himself (5). My three year old asks to be dressed as soon as he wakes up as well, which is generally later than the others. My oldest, however, seems like she could stay in her pajamas all day long, if I let her. If we have something planned, I will ask her to get dressed so things will be easier to do later. Sometimes, I just let it go, though. The baby? If he’s up early, he stays in PJs half the day because his clothes are in the boy’s room. So yes, it can take an hour or more to really get going.
I’m not sure if you came here through the link to this post, but if you look under “My Life” and then “Homeschooling”, you will find my day in the life post I recently wrote. That also may give you a better idea of how our days look around here. Quite honestly, some days are total flops. The only thing consistent at this point (because my toddler doesn’t sleep well even still) is me reading a chapter or two of our latest read-aloud to my oldest after all the younger ones are in bed. Sometimes, that is all we get done in a day, but since we do it pretty much 365 days of the year, it counts as lots and lots of school. I lean towards unschooling, if that gives you a better idea but I still can get discouraged by how little I am able to do with three young boys around here constantly interrupting. 🙂 I hope this encourages you!
These comments are just as valuable to me as the post! Sometimes I feel like I’m the one who takes forever to get downstairs with the kids, or whose toddler doesn’t sleep well and makes it so hard to get up in the mornings! I also rely on the consistent read aloud time with my oldest at night all year long to get in much of our reading, and school at different times throughout the day as it works out, but it never seems like enough, and I also get discouraged. I’m probably getting done more than I think!
I agree – reading at night is becoming more and more my go-to with my oldest as my boys are at a totally different place in interests and attention span.
Thanks June! That really helps. I did get here through the day-in-the-life post and have so enjoyed exploring your blog! Reading to the eldest after the littles are asleep is a great idea since naptime doesn’t really cut it anymore as my 4-year-old no longer naps. We also are mostly unschoolers, and my biggest challenge is finding time (and energy!!) to engage with all the kids’ different interests.
I dread the day when my youngest stops napping! Unfortunately, mine were all early nap droppers, usually shortly after 2. Fingers crossed my littlest will break that trend. It is definitely a challenge to keep up with all the different interests. My oldest wants to take up sewing for instance, which Grandma helps with from time to time but lives long distance. Finding time to sew with her with the baby and the older boys…I just don’t know how it’s going to happen. I’m going to need to get creative – I’m thinking when the boys have their show choices when dad is home. Any thoughts? It’s tough to juggle it all. I hope you have a great week! Remember you’re doing so much more than you realize.
Oh sewing. I dread pulling out my sewing machine the few times I use it because it’s like moths to a flame! I’ve tried to have some special craft supplies for the little ones for when I’m trying to work on stuff with the older ones, but it’s not easy!