Keeping Mornings Sacred with Babies

1. Light a candle.
This is one of the very first things I do upon coming downstairs in the morning. I keep a couple of beeswax candles on our mantle, and having one lit while the blinds are still closed to the bright morning light just makes the living room a cozy place to sip coffee and read a few books to my girl. There's just something about candles that makes everything feel more comfy.

2. Make breakfast.
Even if it's just a smoothie, scrambled eggs or a quick four ingredient pancake, making something first thing in the morning can really give you a boost of energy. Feeding yourself and your children something you put together with your own hands is incredibly rewarding. And I think letting them watch you work to feed yourself and your family goes a long way, too.

3. Wash your face.
While Edie finishes her breakfast, I usually sneak back upstairs for 30 seconds to splash a little cold water and soap on my face. Morning showers are a thing of my pre-baby past, but I've realized simply having a clean face is enough to wake me up and refresh me for the day. I slather on lotion before bed, so I'm feeling pretty greasy come morning. Rinsing all of the night's oil away feels awesome.

4.. Resist the urge to turn on.
Your baby or toddler kept you up all night and the last thing you want to do is pay attention to them after they force you out of bed, and Netflix is full of cartoons that are half-educational, right? Whenever I catch myself in a daze and feeling tempted to turn on Curious George so Edie will leave me alone with Instagram, I try to think about the longterm. Yes, I'm exhausted today, but in a few years will I look back on the mornings I sucked it up and played with my girl and think, "Man, I really wish I'd used that time scrolling through social media." Or will I look back on the mornings I couldn't seem to stop looking at my phone and think, "Man, I had no idea how short that season would be. I wish I'd been more present in those moments with my daughter." I'm guessing the latter. I also notice the days I check my phone a lot are the days my anxiety is higher and my fuse is shorter. If I get down on the floor, forget the rest of the world, and let Edie tell me stories, bring me books, and crawl all over my face--if I let myself see how much she really just enjoys being with me--I'm more likely to be patient when she feeds half her lunch to Penny or has a hard time going down for her nap. I've realized that keeping those sleepy first hours screen-free really sets the tone for the rest of the day--a sacred morning between Mama and baby (or babies) often expands into a beautiful, sacred afternoon.

5. Sip something warm.
Coffee, tea, hot lemon water--warm drinks just go down easier first thing in the morning. The older I get, the more I realize I might just love the RITUAL of coffee more than coffee itself. There's just something about sipping on something warm while welcoming a new day.

6. Keep in mind that soon you'll be begging for hugs.
This one kind of fits in with #4, but I remind myself of it often when I'm feeling like, "PLEASE JUST DON'T TOUCH ME FOR FIVE MINUTES." The nursing, grabbing, pinching, hair pulling, climbing, clothes yanking--it's a lot, isn't it? There are days I go hours without sitting down because I know if I do I'll immediately have someone on me who won't want me to stand up without toting her along. But most of the time I try to, again, keep in mind how fleeting this season is. Our teenagers won't want to sit on our laps. They may not even want to be in the same room as we are. So when she plops down and headbutts me in the nose so hard my eyes water, I try to stop and smell her hair. And the times where she's somewhat gentle, well, those are extra special.

7. Laugh at the mess.
I've learned that I can look at this whole motherhood thing one of two ways--I can constantly stress out and follow her around trying to pick up after her, tell her no over and over, and freak out that I can never get the house clean, or I can laugh as I notice her trying to drink out of a big cup like Mama does, pulling all of the books off of her shelf because she can't decide which one she wants to read, and encourage her desire to help me fold clothes by letting her unfold them all over the floor right after I set them neatly in the basket. I'll be honest--the first option is often my instinct. I like a clean space. But deep down, more than that, I love a creative, daring child who just wants to explore her surroundings and figure out how things work. She learns more when I let her learn, and I'm happier when I laugh at the mess.

8. Breathe--naptime is coming.
You will get some time to clean, to read, to work, to recharge. Just be patient and present this morning. Don't worry about later today or dinner tonight--just be with your baby until nap, and then go from there. 

9. Throw sleep expectations out the window.
This one should have probably been first, because sleep really can set the tone for the morning--the entire day, really. Sleep deprivation is the language of motherhood, and because of that there are so many differing opinions, methods, etc. for dealing with it. Because of that, I'm just going to say with the hope that it will encourage you--there is nothing wrong with your baby or toddler if she is not sleeping through the night. There is nothing wrong with her if she still nurses. There is nothing wrong with her if she was sleeping great for months and is suddenly waking five times a night for the past week. 
What is wrong, I think, is the expectation we've put on babies to sleep alone for eight plus hours after they've spent nine months connected to their mothers for comfort, nourishment, and rest. We expect them to sleep through painful growth spurts or confusing fears or hunger. I think we get our best sleep when we feel thankful for any sleep at all and give our babies grace for being babies. 
So instead of getting up for the day angry that you only got a couple hours of restless sleep, tell your child, "Let's do something fun this morning to get your mind off whatever you must be going through!" Realize she may not be able to tell you, "Mama, my mouth hurts," but she might have teeth coming in. She may not say the words, "Mama, I'm going to walk soon," but her little mind and body are racing a million miles a minute trying to get ready. 
When we accept this as a normal part of motherhood and let go of whatever expectations so and so set for us, we can enjoy our awake time with our littles much more--no matter how much (or how little) time we spent asleep.

10. Be open to starting over.
If baby has a meltdown, the morning isn't ruined. If you lose your crap, breathe and start over. Drink a glass of water, sit down and offer to read a book. If you have an older toddler, invite her to do some yoga and meditation with you. Get outside if it's nice enough. For too long I've lived by the rule, "This happened, so I'm done." Especially when it comes to marriage (I've wasted entire days of vacations or date nights because of my stubbornness), but I've seen it in motherhood, too. Edie throws a fit, so I tell myself she's having a bad DAY and am on edge for the next however many hours because of it. But she can be screaming one minute and hugging Penny the next. Children are incredibly forgiving--of themselves and of their mothers. They love us, no matter how we acted ten minutes ago. Start a new activity and move on.