“It’s a serious thing
just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in this broken world.”
– Mary Oliver
A few weeks ago I had a conversation with our dear, old neighbor on the porch, and our neighborly chatting turned to matters of sleep. I asked him what time he wakes up each morning and he told me quite simply, “When I wake up.” I remember thinking, “Uh, okay. What does that mean exactly? So you just get up when you’re awake?” But I nodded and let him continue. His reply sounded easy enough, but what struck me was the discipline he had to actually move his body no matter the time merely because his eyes were open and his brain was turned on. Maybe this sounds like a no-brainer to you, but not to me. He went on to tell me that sometimes this means getting up at 5 AM, but other times 7 AM when his alarm rings. He does not wake up to do anything per se, but rather wakes up and then decides what he wants to do with that time. He said he sets an alarm and if he wakes up before it, he gets ready for the day no matter hour – presumably, silly hours like anything before 3 AM are off limits.
As someone who frequently wakes up before her alarm, but then rolls around in bed snuggling covers and then spends far too much time scrolling around online, I quite liked the sound of starting my day off like this. It was as if my wise old friend was giving me permission to try on a new way of waking up outside of the way I’ve been doing things for as long as I can remember. I think I have been asking for “just five more minutes” on repeat since I was five! I am a chronic alarm snoozer and lover of sleep. But sometimes I think what I really love is comfort and I actually make myself more tired by not waking up when my body is ready. And sometimes (only sometimes 😉 )I forget that I can form new habits and change things around just because I want to. Do you ever feel trapped and then all of a sudden realize that you are in charge of making decisions to change things? I do. I guess one of the perks of being an adults is that we can do things like this. My neighbor’s gentle confidence and no-nonsence attitude was refreshing to hear and the push I needed to give this new way of waking up a try.
For the past month or so I have been going to bed at a reasonable hour and then getting up when I wake up. Most times it’s before my 7 AM alarm because I truly think I am wired to wake up before the sun, somewhere around the 5:30 – 6 AM mark. I’ve come to view these hours of solitude as a secret little gift just for me. If you have kids, you know that magic feeling of a quiet house before everyone wakes and requests all of the things. Our kids are loud in the morning and when one is up, they are all up! After that, it’s a succession of bottles, cereal, diapers, lunch making, and so on. Waking up before everyone else gives me a moment to pause and clarity to start my day by giving first and foremost to myself. This fills up my cup almost more than a whole night’s worth of sleep, which is an incredible blessing because I am able to ease into my role as mom with patience and gratitude instead of rushing to meet needs and wipe bums, my eyes half awake.
When I wake up, I head downstairs in my fluffy, white robe and make a big pot of coffee. I’ll light a candle, curl up somewhere cozy, and do something for me. I usually read, listen to a podcast, light yoga, or write. My one thing a day is the perfect way to spend this time alone. I try not to view this chunk of time as productive, like let’s get stuff done hours (or minutes, depending), but rather a time to feed my soul and set positive intentions. In fact, I’ve come to see, that this my friends, is productive. The effect this time has on the rest of my day is astounding and is why I have made this a part of my daily rhythm.
If if any of this sounds familiar to you, perhaps I can be that someone who’s nudging you to try something new? They say it takes around 66 days to form a new habit, so set a goal for one month and you’ll have welcomed a new rhythm into your life if this feels like a fit. I know many of us are always on the search for more time and balance, right? Well, the only way to get more time is to make it and this is a beautiful way to honor that. I have the words “One Day?” or “Day One.” written on our chalkboard in the kitchen. We, no one else, get to decide how we start our day, among so many other things. Decide what your morning to to look like, and make tomorrow your “Day One.” period. No questions asked. You so deserve it.
Catelyn - This is so relevant! It’s amazing how much of a difference the subtle shift of thinking from “be more productive” to “make time to invest in me because I’m worth it” makes! 😉
Elizabeth - This is perfect! One of the best parts of being a mostly stay-at-home mother has been the banishment of the alarm. However, I turned that into letting my daughter be my alarm and not getting my day started til I heard her awake and needing me. I needed this nudge to get up and get going as soon as I wake up and make that time for me.
Melissa Rigdon - I just adore you and your blog. I feel more at ease just reading this. 🙂
Jackie - How I long for this alone time! This sounds so peaceful. Someday, I will strive for this, when I’m not waking 3-4x a night…with my 14-month old! :/
It sounds like you might have some phlegmatic temperament in addition to your self-described Type A? 🙂 I’m currently reading Authentic Parenting: A Four Temperaments Guide to Understanding Your Child and Yourself. Highly recommend!
Jessica - Haha Jackie I am also up numerous times with our 14 month old! And then she usually starts her day around 5am-5:30am. I do long for the time when I can wake up before her and begin to nurture myself. Here’s to the future!
admin - Jackie, I haven’t heard of this book OR temperaments, but it sounds like something I’d really enjoy! As for the waking, man it can be so hard can’t it? Thankfully our kids are finally all sleeping through the night but every now and then one wakes for whatever reason and needs soothing and it’s always so hard for me to fall back to sleep! Are you like that too? x Amanda
Shelley - As a working mother of three boys, I so need to carve out quite time for myself and my soul. Thank you for the inspiration in turning my One Day, into Day One. I so enjoy your beautiful blog.
Tierra - Love this!
I’d like to know what your evenings are like onece the children are asleep? Do you also go to bed? Spend time with hubby? Clean?
I’m trying to find a better rhythm for my family and myself once dinner is done, they’re in bed, etc. I’d love to wake up early before everyone and to a clean house!!
admin - Tierra, evenings are NOT for cleaning haha. They are only for time with Andrew – most nights from 8 PM onward usually until 10 PM or so. I very rarely go to bed when the kids do because they are down around 7 (unless I am really pooped or not feeling well) but those hours before bed are so important for both Andrew and I to connect and relax together. I am going to share our daily rhythm and what that looks like right now next week! x Amanda
Kelsey Lantz - I’m curious about your nighttime routine as well! I’ve always been a night owl and taken my “alone time” at the end of the day, usually around midnight. But with two littles I need some time to invest in my soul before the demands of the day begin. I’ve been trying to be in bed by 11:30 during Lent this year and while it hasn’t been perfect, having a set time to wind things down has helped. Is it silly to think I can make such a huge move to morning solitude instead?
admin - Kelsey, so I usually have my alone time in the morning and the evenings are time to spend with Andrew. That time together at the end of the day is the best! We both go to bed fairly early, like 10 or 10:30 … he’s more of a night owl than me though! For my personality it’s really important to start the day with calm, otherwise I feel so rushed! Maybe you are like this too? Getting up a little earlier than the kids has helped me so much. x Amanda
Vanessa Clarkson - Thank for this post Amanda. I have been attempting to reset my body to wake up earlier for a few months now. Sometimes I find that a broken night’s sleep with the little one or a glass of wine in the evening can make it harder for me, but overall, I enjoy those golden hours of solitude in the morning. I wrote a little post about it recently http://www.vanessaclarkson.com/leaning-into-motherhood/ xx
Elizabeth in Tennessee - I had this experience this morning! Spring has enabled us to open our windows, and I’m now woken up by the singing of birds, rather than the synthetic sound of my alarm clock. (Not every day, but most days.) Today, I got up at 5:45, and thoroughly enjoyed a solitary hour+ with tea and a good book. Even as a mom of just 1, I rarely seem to get just a bit of time to myself, but that brief morning solitude brings me a lovely sense of peace! It sets me up for the day when I get it, and I miss it when I don’t!
I do have a rather personal question to ask: how do you pray? I mean, how do you actually speak to the Divine and say what’s on your mind or in what way you’d like help? I can’t seem to get past formulaic language or prayers that I’ve heard growing up, and it feels inauthentic and distancing. I’ve recently started a centering prayer practice, where you don’t actively think or pray, but sit in silence, and that seems to be a good start. But I want to delve more deeply with God and feel more like I’m having a conversation. I realise that this is intensely personal – maybe too much to ask to reveal to a complete stranger – but I am curious about how people I observe living a wholehearted, spiritual, and meaningful way commune with God. I’d appreciate any advice!
stacy - i have been an early riser since the birth of my first child. i actually enjoyed those 4am feedings. feeding her in the rocking chair and then putting her back down. but, i was awake. full on awake. so i just started my coffee and would take in, MY quiet time. My time, alone doing whatever i felt like doing.
ever since then i have never needed an alarm clock. my body must know that i am ready for my day.
i love my still dark early mornings.
admin - Stacy, it’s so interesting how motherhood shifts our instinctual rhythms – I feel like I am always on alert even while sleeping. The finest whimper and I am up even if in a deep dream! I am not up as early as 4, but still, a dark morning is my favorite way to start the day. x Amanda
Sarah - Now that our daughter sleeps through the night (and so, me too) I tend to go to bed around eight o’clock each night and wake up at four. I used to be a ten to six sleeper, but waking up at a 4 a.m. (which could classify as presumably silly) gives me two golden hours of quiet at the start of the day. The darkness is comforting and encourages stillness (no house cleaning) and I find my mind is clearest at this time of day. I write, read, plan out my day, pray/meditate. I need a lot of quiet time. My husband knows that, so he’s good with me doing what I need to instead of staying up with him at night. I am kinder when I get this time! I have always thought that the advice so many women’s magazines give to “carve out ten minutes for yourself each day,” is the silliest advice I’ve ever heard. Ten minutes and your tea hasn’t even steeped… Enjoy your mornings, Amanda.
admin - Sarah, this sounds so much like me! I find a kind of comfort in the dark, quiet, stillness that is nowhere to be found once the sun rises and the kids are up. It’s so hard for me sometimes to wake get out of bed, the waking isn’t easy, but I love the cozy warm blankets! Thanks for sharing mama, and I agree 10 minutes is kind of a joke if you really want time to yourself! x Amanda
Tonia - This post came at such a funny time for me because just this morning on that Facebook app that shows you what you posted on this day years past, it showed me that I had written this in 2013 (pre-baby): “Woke up, wide awake, at 5:30 am. Thought “I better try to sleep a liiiiiittle longer or I’ll be dying by late afternoon.” Tossed and turned for a while, fell back asleep an hour later. Woke up AT TEN, totally exhausted and fuzzy-brained. Crap. Even when my body tries to make it easy on me, I find a way to not be a morning person.”
Ha! Oh to sleep until 10…..Those days are gone forever I think. I am still not a “morning person” per say, but having a baby has forced me to be able to be halfway functional in the early morning, since my daughter wakes up around 6:30 most days and hits the ground running. If I want to give myself a chance to come alive before I have to be Mommy, that means getting up an hour before her.
The key for me is to go to bed earlier. As a night-owl this is so difficult, because I am most turned-on in the night. My creativity ignites, I have more energy, I’m more social, etc. after about 5 PM. But on the nights I manage to put myself to bed before 10, and get up before the baby, and sit in a quiet house with my coffee and no one needing anything from me…..it is worth it! 😛
Natasha - This is a beautiful article. What a dear, wise neighbour.
Try reading Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf. There’s links between your message and this beautiful, short book.
I think you’d love it!
Sandee - Thank you so much! You brighten my days!
Jacquelyn C Healy - I am grateful for you. Thanks for all you give to so many; though we’ve never met, I count you a dear friend.
PerlaGiselle - so beautifully written! <3
Danyell - This is a great concept. I am a chronic alarm snoozer, too! I sometimes even set alarms earlier than intended because I know I’ll hit snooze at least twice. So, I think it would totally transform my morning if I just got up when my alarm went off the first time or rolled out of bed when my sleeping stopped–whether that was 5am or 630am. I think I might try this!!