Thursday, 28 May 2015

A Morning Manifesto

a morning manifesto

I had one day recently when I got all five of us out the door in an hour and a half. Not only were we fed, washed and watered, but we all had clean clothes on.  I even had make-up on - always a huge achievement.
I was elated, but the best thing was I didn't once raise my voice at the kids or tell them off for not finding their shoes - it was a calm and happy morning. Even better, because I felt so buoyed by my success, I was on a high for the rest of the day. Which meant I had the energy I needed to get things done and enjoy time with my kids. It was a Super Mum day.

But unfortunately, this was a one-off. Most of my mornings with the kids don’t go so well at all. More often than not I underestimate how much time I have and how much I have to get done before it’s time to leave. Before I know it, I’ve got fifteen minutes left to get the kids' teeth brushed, dress the babies and pack Mr B’s school bag.
I spend those last fifteen minutes in a state of panic, running around the house, snapping at the kids, to hurry up or stop arguing. Along the way, I meet the obstacles: nappies that need changing, missing sunglasses, forgotten News day at school. I frantically watch the minutes tick by and catastrophise in my head about how late we're going to be, picturing us circling the school looking for a park and trying to get the four kids from the car to school before the bell goes. The pressure is intense and overwhelming.

a morning manifesto
Once I leave Mr B at school, I slowly exhale and start to normalise. But the stress has been replaced with guilt and shame. I hate myself for freaking out or yelling at the kids, hate that they have to see me like that. I think of how my stress impacts them and I feel sick. You can imagine how the rest of the day goes from there. It's hard to recover from such a bad start.
I know I’m not the only one that finds mornings tough. I’ve seen the faces on other mums as they rush their kids through the school gate seconds after the bell goes. The stress is obvious - their eyes are downcast, anxiety imprinted on their faces. They hold their child's hand tightly, willing them to HURRY UP! I imagine their morning to have been just as hard as mine.
There’s a good reason why we find the whole thing so bloody traumatising. During stress, our bodies go into overdrive to cope with the situation. It's fight or flight syndrome -  only in modern times. Whereas this used to be about running from a bear or defending our food supply, nowadays, it's about dealing with everyday stressors - traffic, financial worries, daily hassles.  When we perceive a psychological threat, our body releases a huge amount of  stress hormones, which help us face the situation. But that doesn't mean we always respond well. (ref: http://www.theperformanceclinic.com)

I'm sick of having mornings that cause all this. In the name of mummy savvy, it's time for a morning manifesto. 

A Morning Manifesto

Think positive

I've learnt that being prepared for a busy morning is as much about mental preparation as it is about practical preparation. So having clothes and lunches prepared is great, but so is a focussed and positive mindset. Find a mantra that works for you and repeat it to yourself continuously. My personal favourite: 'I will kick this morning's arse'. Even if you’re dreading the busy start, beginning the day with a positive attitude is key to getting through it intact. Use your mantra to kick-start your motivation.
Prepare PREPARE Prepare 
Have a list of what you need to sort out the night before. Stick it up somewhere. While the kids are eating dinner, run around for ten minutes emptying lunch boxes, checking notes from school, and preparing clothes for the next day. This includes getting everything for yourself ready too. Weirdly, all this will take you three times as long to do in the morning, so it makes sense to get it done now.
Stay focussed
When it's 'getting ready' time, avoid distraction. For me, this means avoiding my phone for those sneaky Facebook checks when I think I've got two minutes free. Revelation: there are NEVER two minutes free!
Be realistic

If the clock is ticking and you know you’re not going to get everything done, prioritise what absolutely must be done and can realistically be achieved before you leave the house. No one's going to judge you (or even know, for that matter) if you leave the breakfast dishes in the sink or the washing unhung. 
Get one up on Time
 Instead of stressing about the time, find a way to get on top of it. Set your clock ten minutes fast. Aim to leave ten minutes before you actually should. Get up earlier than you need to - however much this pains you. For me, this is a battle because so many of my nights involve broken sleep. But getting in the shower before anyone is up makes such a difference to the progression of the morning.  
Be kind to yourself
Morning stress is made worse by the way we speak to ourselves. Keep your inner thoughts gentle and don't berate yourself for forgetting to do something or falling behind the schedule. The add-on effect here is that by being kind internally, you'll exude a much calmer presence for your kids. 
 
Turn off the TV
Unless it works for you. You’ll get no judgement from me. But if you're after a more relaxed atmosphere, try swapping the box for your favourite tunes. Your day can start beautifully with some soothing melodies or energising lyrics.
Smile at a mum (or dad)
You're sure to bump into a few other parents during your morning travels. Why not offer them a smile? You don't know what their morning has been like and a connection with you could change their day for the better.
 

How do mornings go at your place? What helps yours go smoothly? And what completely unravels them?!

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