What a morning routine with young children actually looks like

Anya Hayes, The Supermum Myth

On becoming a parent, mornings can lose their charm – with 7.30am considered a lie-in and tea in bed a recipe for disaster. Anya Hayes, author of The Supermum Myth, shares what a morning routine with young children actually looks like…

Anya Hayes is a Pilates teacher, editor and the author of The Supermum Myth: Become a happier mum by overcoming anxiety, ditching guilt and embracing imperfection using CBT and mindfulness techniques. She lives with her husband Ben and their two sons: Maurice, six, and Freddie, two.

On an ideal day, I wake up without a toddler attached to my boob, having had more than six hours of solid sleep without him in bed with me. Bliss it was on that morn to be alive.

The reality: At the moment my toddler has renounced sleep entirely and is usually in bed with me, clamped to my boob from around 1am (I know, I know, don’t judge!).

Usually the boys are up by about 6am at the latest, and they come into our room and jump around on our heads/start bickering until we realise there’s no going back to sleep under these circumstances.

I’m lucky that I have somehow over the years assigned morning duties to my husband, so he goes into the kitchen/living room with them and begins the process of getting food into our eldest (six-year-old Maurice) quickly enough to avoid the hanger grump from hitting.

Ben doesn’t have to leave for work until 8.45am, so being able to delegate this part of the morning routine to him is brilliant. It means we have a bit more time in the morning: he gives the boys breakfast, and gets them dressed.

When I’ve literally had no real quality sleep, I tend to renounce the morning meditation

I take this precious alone time to lie in bed and treat that as my meditation. I have always found the label ‘meditation’ problematic, and something that I can’t do, but actually since reframing it as silent breathing and thought contemplation I’ve come to really need it as a morning intention-setting.

It has noticeably positive effects on my day if I can take five minutes to breathe deeply, slowly and low into my belly to make sure my diaphragm is fully opening, and simply have space to organise my thoughts a bit.

I set an intention for something positive that day, even if it’s just to make a point of not giving myself a hard time if I don’t manage to get everything done then I get out of bed – and after that I’m always more energised.

I do a very quick yoga/Pilates wake-up routine in the bathroom, literally less than five minutes, just to shake out my old spine, stretch out tight hamstrings and wake up my breathing a bit more.

If I’ve got more than half an hour before I have to be out the door on the school run, I do some dry body brushing before getting in the shower: brush towards the heart, all over the body. Wakes up the skin, body and spirit.

But when I’ve literally had no real quality sleep, I tend to renounce the morning meditation, yoga, body brushing part of the morning routine and simply go back to sleep (lying on my tummy, ALONE).

I have to have a shower (if I don’t have a shower then I don’t wake up all day), then again – fully indulgent self-care strategy – I always, always give myself a facial massage putting on my moisturiser. Particularly if I haven’t slept too well. Gets the circulation going and (hopefully) makes me look less puffy!

On those mornings when I haven’t had much sleep and don’t have time for stretches, I leap out of bed at the last minute to give me time to have a shower and run out the door with the boys.

Either way, I have ring-fenced this morning alone-time as I know that I would be a more angry mamma without it.

But back to the slower, calmer mornings. When I’ve had some sleep and Ben has the kids downstairs…

I throw some clothes on, try to make myself vaguely presentable (I’m not great at letting my guard fully down to the world and going to the school run with absolutely no make up on, I think the “Are you ok, you look tired!” comments would cut too deep), and then join the breakfast crew in time to get their teeth brushed, shoes on and book bags gathered before we tumble out the door.

I rarely have breakfast myself which I KNOW is wrong and I usually have a mid-morning snack so that my blood sugar doesn’t suffer, but I’ve decided to sacrifice breakfast time for this quiet contemplative time. It’s one or the other right now, and that’s often the only time I get as alone-time in the general melee of working/juggling toddler/school runs/life especially when I’m teaching in the evening, so it’s non-negotiable sanity time for me.

We leave the house and it’s either a 30-minute walk or a short bus ride to school. We potter and say hello to a neighbourhood cat on the way. I drop Maurice, then swing by to leave Freddie at pre-school four mornings a week, and I run home. I’m at my desk sweaty and ready by 9.30, where I have two hours to do work before having to leave at 11.30 to pick Freddie up from pre-school.

What does your morning routine with young children look like – does this sound familiar?