Somewhere in the stretch of the morning, sandwiched in between getting the kids ready for the day, and filling up breakfast bowls, and changing diapers, and making beds, and following Alfie around who makes a trail of toys or crumbs wherever he goes, I like to do one thing to boost my sprits and set the tone for my day.
I have found that stirring up my mind with something thought-provoking at the beginning of what is a long stretch of taking care of kids really helps fill me up and ground me with a fresh perspective. While in the midst of mothering three little ones at home, I like to think of this as a slice of something special just for me. Like a cold drink of ice water on a hot day, this one thing quenches my thirst in so many ways. Granted, I usually have to press pause a more than a handful of times and put down whatever I am reading just about every other minute it seems to negotiate a sibling squabble or wipe up something sticky, but I still make time to do this one thing here at home simply because it matters.
With that, here are a few rules I have set in place for my one thing:
- It must positive. – No discouraging news shows. No downer headlines. No social media scrolls. Picking something positive that is going to spill over into my day is very crucial. Although knowing what’s going on locally and globally is important to me, starting my day reading about the various tragedies and sadness does not personally propel me into a state of peace and calm. It does the opposite, so I chose positivity instead.
- It must challenge me. – I love learning. This is probably the underlining reason I became a teacher. I quite enjoy sinking my teeth into something that helps open my mind and dig deeper into topics that I know little about or want to further explore. This makes date nights and lingering evenings after the kids have gone to bed so fun because Andrew and I will get lost in topics that revolve around something other than our three, which as you parents know, it what can very easily happen on nights out (or even in!) with the husband!
- It must be relatively short. – Because let’s be real here, I don’t have heaps of time to read about cognitive development theories or the delicate balance between being busy and practicing the art of stillness. With that in mind, I like to keep whatever I am going to listen to or read in the morning less than one hour or so.
And that’s it. I also like to keep my journal nearby to jot things down that make me go “ah ha!” or quotes that I know will linger and will invite me to revisit them later on that day or week. I keep that journal handy because it always seems like I am wanting to ponder something from my one thing morning sessions throughout the week.
And what about the kids? What do I do with my three little rascals? I know this must be in the back of your minds, how in the heck does she listen to a podcast with three small ones who are very much dependent on her for pretty much everything? Well, I make time because it’s important to me so I’ll do my best to set them up with something engaging that gives me a moment to recharge. I think it makes me a better mom, at least a more patient one when I make sure to carve out some “mama time” thought the day.
Here are a few things I’ll do to give me time for my one thing:
- Let them explore and play outside. Our backyard in fenced in and full of green garden nooks and flowery spots for the kids to explore and go on adventures. Because the mornings here are not too hot right now, we’ll set up camp out there with a blanket full of books and toys and chalk. I let them have at it and as long as I make a big fuss about how cool it is that we are outside with all these activities, they usually buy it. Sometimes we’ll head to the porch to play or the front yard where I can watch them from our rocking chairs. Either way, giving the kids time to be outside is almost always my default unless the weather is crumby and they love it just as much as I.
- A sharpie/acrylic paint-free craft station. A month ago I would have just typed craft station, but recent experiences have taught me that small children can paint/market many, many things very, very quickly (and sneakily) in a small amount of time with mama in the other room. Acrylic paint and permanent markers are now a “must do with mama” craft. With that being said, watercolors, wax crayons, colored pencils, stencils, chalk, glue sticks, very dull scissors, odds and ends like pasta noodles and stationary scraps, and of course craft paper are all great. I put on Raffi and let them make all the things.
- Good ol’ nap time – Yessss, I could be sweeping remnants of breakfast under the table or folding onesies or prepping for supper, but this time is a wonderful one to rest, and by rest I mean sit down and sink into something worthy and wonderful and recharging. Right now we are on an odd nap time schedule. Alfie takes two naps, one in the morning and another in the afternoon. Theodore takes one long afternoon nap, and Stella does quiet time while the boys are asleep. This gives me about an hour or so with the kids in their beds to tend to whatever I need to, which some days means revisiting said thing I started in the morning. But because I really enjoy beginning my day with my one thing, I sometimes do this when Alfie naps.
- An episode a semi–educational show. We are not big screen people during the day, but we do love a show now and again. Here are a handful of ones we love around here, especially in the mornings while they are playing with their toys. This bunch is a round up of old school gems, for reasons I am sure I don’t need to dive into here, other than they’re fantastic:
- Sesame Street
- Daniele Tiger’s Neighborhood
- Little Einsteins
- Little Bear…sigh
- Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood
- And last but not least, play-dough & molding clay. We are big fans of this creative stuff. I like giving Stella fun themes like “the zoo” or “the farmer’s market” and she will create objects or animals to go along with that.
And now onto the meat of this post, the good stuff, a few things to get you started so you too can have your one thing in the morning! Some of these gems are podcasts, some are articles, some are books, and some are videos…take your pick and enjoy. I will be updating this and sharing more with you as I go along, and feel free to share some new things with me. I’d really love that.
- Pico Iyre on What Leonard Cohen Teaches Us about Presence and the Art of Stillness by Maria Popova | Brainpickings
- The Disease of Being Busy by Omid Safi | On Being
- How We Spend Our Days Is How We Spend Our Lives: Annie Dillard on Choosing Presence over Productivity by Maria Popova | Brainpickings
- The Joy of Quiet by Pico Iyre | The New York Times
- Books (pick a chapter or two for this morning exercise):
If you start doing this, make sure to stop back and let me know how it’s going!
Caitlin Cress - I don’t have kids yet, but I still try to structure my morning so I have time to both exercise and do some reading before work. The calm and joy it affords me is worth the early alarm.
Callie - Hi Amanda,
I love your posts and search to see if you have posted a new one often. I have been reading Simplicity Parenting as I have a little one on the way and it hits me right where I want. You mentioned this book somewhere a while ago and I’m so glad I found it. Love the resources that you posted today too . . . I did want to ask though, have you read the first book of Marie Kondo’s on tidying up – The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up . .? I saw that you mentioned Spark Joy, the second book, and The Life Changing Magic totally rocked my world and was so transformational. I get so excited and motivated about that book, and tell people about it all the time, however, it really, really needs to be read before Spark Joy. It sets a very solid and transformative foundation for Spark Joy and makes Spark Joy make so much more sense and be so much more helpful. Just wanted to put that out there . . . 🙂 Thank you for sharing your life and rhythms with us – you are a positive and life-giving influence. Blessings.
Livi - Oh thank you for this- your timing couldn’t be better- we’re days away from welcoming baby #3 and I’ve been feeling a little lost- I’ve noticed too that how I start my day influences so much- just 30 minutes of quiet, coffee, reading, listening- makes me kinder to my sweet but incredibly needy little boys.
Stephanie - I love the idea of starting your one thing in the morning! It serves as fuel for the rest of the day. I can’t wait to dive into some of the suggestions you made. Thanks Amanda! 🙂
Nicole - Hi Amanda,
This sounds very familiair. I love learning as well so I know what you mean when you want to protect that time and opportunity like a lioness 😉
Maybe I have something else for you to watch/listen to during your precious me-time:
– do you know the talks by Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic orchestra, on how to turn a negative spiral into a postive one? Very inspiring! I won’t attach a link here cause your site will think i’m spam but you can find it easily on the internet.
– I read a nice post on ’50 things you should do before the age of 12′ recently, most involve nature and exploring and being creative. Gave me lots of ideas to do with my 4 year old.
– and during your personal learning session you could listen to all music by Snatam Kaur, who I love 😉 This (kind of meditative) music is in Hindi or Indian so I don’t understand a worth but my body and emoticons do, however… It’s very intuitive and healing, I think.
Anyway, thank you for sharing, felt like giving you something in return that might inspire you 🙂 Enjoy your day!
Sarah - A really great list. I too like to take some time to myself each morning to prepare for the new day. I mostly journal or do some reading. I look forward to working my way through your list of inspirations. Thank you for sharing
Sarah x x
PS I’m glad to see you back on Instagram – I missed your posts.
Ashley Woodbeck - I recently read Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly – so good! I haven’t listened to her TED talk yet, but I will definitely have to now. And I have been seeing Mary Oliver’s name popping up all over – what’s her story? Is she a must-read?
Helen - Great, great post Amanda! Thank you for sharing. I would love to know where you find Little Bear- is it on DVDs? I’m sure my 4-year old would love it.
You might enjoy Melisa Neilsen’s (of Waldorf Essentials) talks about “holding the space”. I’ve just listened to this one and it’s wonderful: http://www.waldorfessentials.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/run-recentering-holding-the-space.mp3
Also the book Taking Back Childhood by Nancy Carleson Paige is fantastic and seems up your alley.
Karen - Hi!
I love reading your blog and your advice in home making. I work full time and I am about to be a mom in October! Since I commute by train I read your blog on my phone. Can I please suggest that you enable some sort of mobile device friendly feature on your blog? It will make reading much easier and also the font is really tiny! Aside from that I absolutely adore the colors and pictures of everything! Keep it up!
Jane - This is possibly a silly question, but I was wondering if you have any go-to books that you love about the “art” of homemaking? I struggle with being content at home, and enjoying (ahem, actually DOING) cleaning/taking care of the home, so I’d love any suggestions if you have them! Or perhaps you’ve mentioned this before and could point me to a blog or IG post? Thank you so much!
Abigail - I love listening to the happy hour with Jamie Ivey podcast! Totally worth checking out for all you mamas out there.
Kate B - Thank you so much for sharing! I’ll definitely bookmark this post. I’m always looking for inspiration to recharge my creativity/ mama time. I have really been loving podcasts lately. TED talks are always a favorite. I also love Read-Aloud Revival (so many great book ideas) and a new favorite that just started is At Home. A great group of ladies talking all things home, mothering and education. Hope you check these out!
Claire - I just started “Unglued” by Lysa Terkeurst about controlling raw emotions and it is a real gem. My third pregnancy left me reeling from PPD and one of the most upsetting parts was the mommy rage that has seemed to seep in and shows no signs of letting up. Three under four requires a great deal of patience that I no longer seem to have command over, and thus I began a search for combating this particular aspect of PPD. It has done wonders to read a bit in the morning or during nap time to help set the tone and give me something to work on. Talk about on-the-job training to help employ the advice and techniques. All I have to do is look up and try and shape my responses differently to whatever challenge is facing me that moment..because you know, there is always something to be refereed or fixed. Also, it would be amiss to not mention the BIBLE–the most perfect way to begin the day. Blessings to you and your beautiful family.
Margaret - I love this idea! Thank you for sharing so many inspiring resources. You posts are often my one thing.
Show & Tell | Round 3 » Homesong - […] utterly human struggle and have chosen to put the work in to rise above and not give it credit. It’s my one thing right now. Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic podcast called Magic Lessons is one of the tools […]
A New Way of Waking Up » Homesong - […] 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, […]
Christie - I needed this post, thank you for that. I organize my day quite well, but sometimes I forget that time for myself…I almost feel guilty taking it which is ridiculous. My husband always pushes me to take more time for myself. I’m a reader, so I will try to sit down with a book every day, but I was looking for something besides that. This post really helped with that. It not only told me that I need to do this, but gave me ideas on exactly what to do, and the ideas were very thought provoking that might help me in other areas of my life.
admin - Christie, I am so glad this post resonated with you! I find that whenever I make time to do something just for me that also uplifts and stimulates my mind, I am such a more patient mom, wife, friend, etc. Thanks for sharing! x Amanda