Mindful parenting and finding joy in the early hour

“There came a point where I realised that rather than expecting them to change, I had to find a way to embrace the early hour.” Sam Toon on using mindfulness techniques to stop feeling annoyed (and to actually feel good) about being woken early by your children…

The routine was always the same. I’d slowly come round to the sound of intermittent crying from the other room. I’d glance at the clock, which told me it was somewhere between 4am and 5am and I’d pause hoping that maybe this morning, she may settle. When she didn’t, I’d bring her in to bed with us, hoping cuddles may send her back to sleep, but they wouldn’t.

I’d lie there, foggy with tiredness whilst she batted at my face and wriggled around trying to wake me, my husband fast asleep beside us. Eventually I’d give up with a huff and we’d go downstairs. I’d be grumpy and uncommunicative until the day eventually started to bring me round and then I’d start to feel guilty because of course, this wasn’t her fault or my husband’s fault. She was just an early riser.

I’ve had two toddlers now who’ve spent the best part of 6-12 months getting up super early and there came a point where I realised that rather than expecting them to change, I had to find a way to embrace the early hour.

With my eldest daughter, this coincided with me learning to teach mindfulness and I realised I could use mindful techniques to help me manage my reactions to the early awakenings. So, if you have a persistent early riser, here are some suggestions to help you respond better in the morning until they eventually start to sleep later.

Accept that they will be waking up early

This may sound obvious, but even though I told everyone that she was an early riser, I definitely held out hope every night that my daughter would sleep until a ‘normal’ time and every morning, I felt like I was being dragged out of bed before I ‘should’ be. Once you accept the situation as it is, you can start to make positive changes to make the most of the situation.

  • Set your alarm for the same time every morning (around when they wake up). This serves two purposes. Firstly, you go to bed expecting to be up at this time and secondly your body clock gets used to waking up at this time, making it easier to do so.
  • Think about how much sleep you really need to feel rested. If you need 8 hours of sleep and you’re getting up at 5am, then you may want to go to bed at 9pm, at least a few nights a week.
  • If you still find it difficult to accept being woken up at this time, you can repeat an affirmation to yourself as you wake up. For instance, “It is time to wake up. I embrace the day.” This helps to offset the negative thoughts patterns that you may be holding on to and starts to replace them with new ones.

Start the day with gratitude

When we’re continually starting the day before we want to, we often feel like something has been taken from us (i.e. sleep). This scarcity mindset casts a negative influence over our mood and productivity for the day. I remember wondering how I could go and give a presentation with such little sleep and I know many people feel like their daytime activities are compromised.

I therefore recommend thinking about or writing down three things that you’re grateful that day. This helps us to start the day with an abundance mindset, inspiring feelings of possibility, joy and productivity instead.

Plan something to look forward to in the morning

One of the benefits of getting up early is that you don’t have to rush through the morning routine, so plan something in to look forward to when you get up. I used to enjoy making pancakes for breakfast or doing toddler yoga with my girls. Sometimes I’d let them watch a bit of TV while I meditated or journaled if I felt I needed to. It’s important to be kind to yourself so you have the resources to look after others. Having something positive to look forward to definitely makes getting out of bed easier.

Get outside if you can

If the weather is good enough for you to get outside then try it. Exposure to the sun will help your body to wake up and being in a more natural, open air environment is proven to boost mood and reduce stress. Hanging up washing, pottering around in the garden together or just drinking a cup of tea on the grass are gentle, mindful ways of connecting together and enjoying the moment.

Forgive yourself for any bad mornings

Even with the best intentions, tiredness can cause us to be grumpy and unreasonable. If you do have a bad morning, take a moment to catch your breath and think about what you can do next to be kind to yourself and kind to your family. It’s never too late to start again. One of my favourite quotes from Rachel Macy-Stafford is “Today matters more than yesterday” and it’s so true. There’s nothing we can do to change the past but we can influence what we’re doing right now. Forgive yourself, be kind and look forward to the next moment. The day is there for the taking.

Sam Toon is a mindfulness coach for life, parenting and work. Follow her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/breakingwavesmindfulness and Instagram: @breakingwavesmindfulnness. And visit her website: Breaking Waves Mindfulness