I’ve never been a morning person, and this reality has always carried a heavy dose of shame, especially once I became a mother. How much you accomplish in the morning, before everyone else is awake, seems to be (somehow) symbolic of how much you are accomplishing in your life. If you aren’t rising in the wee hours of the morning to read, work out, start a load of laundry and work on your personal goals, then are you even trying???
This message comes from so many different sources. The workout fanatics. The mom bosses with side hustle after side hustle. And of course, those from inside faith communities who tout the benefits of early rising and Bible reading as a spiritual practice.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wrestled with not being a morning person and the shame I felt over what was obviously a glaring character flaw.
Until this year.
Last year, two important things happened.
First, I read a beautiful essay by a woman who was raised by a mother who wasn’t a morning person. She described mornings where she was up before her mother, and even once her mother was finally up, it was only to go and make herself a cup of tea and return to bed with her morning paper, books, and hot tea. Instead of feeling shame, her mother simply embraced the slow mornings that her body and mind needed and invited her children into this rhythm of rest. She invited her daughters into her bedroom to join in the slowness. The stillness. And today, as an adult, this daughter reflects upon these mornings with her mother with nothing but fondness. She writes about how, though her mother didn’t realize it at the time, she was actually offering her daughters one of the greatest gifts: by showing them how she said “yes” to being herself, she showed them how they could grow up and say yes to being themself, too.
I love how kind this mother was to herself. I love that she didn’t fight what she knew about herself. Instead, she embraced it, and invited her children into it.
Second, I listened to the “Morning Routine” episode from one of my favorite podcasters, The Lazy Genius. I was resistant to listen to this episode because of all the aforementioned reasons, but Kendra of The Lazy Genius always flips what you feel you “should” be doing and speaks into those “shoulds” with so much kindness and practicality that I come away from her episodes inspired to live my life better and more authentically.
One thing that was so helpful in the morning routine episode was the idea that Kendra kept coming back to about small changes. She is a big beliver in the idea that routines are the building blocks to larger life changes, they aren’t the changes themselves.
For example, she says that when you think about what you want your morning to look like, you should start with a small and simple step that is too difficult to ignore. Say you want to become a tea drinker. You don’t challenge yourself to drink one cup of tea each morning. Instead, you begin by simply putting out a mug and a bag of tea each evening, and then see what happens from there. The point being, if the mug and tea are already out, it’s going to be kind of hard to ignore them each morning. And yet, is there anything more simple than just putting out the tea and the mug? See how gentle yet practical this suggestion is? Kendra is the queen of taking the ways we beat ourselves up over what we think we should be doing and showing us the way to move forward with what we really want.
Kendra describes a morning routine as a “collection of pre-made choices, either thoughts or actions” that help us “kindly open the day with the purpose of gradually increasing productivity and energy.”
She says, “Can you imagine a world where we as woman are fully alive in who we are? That we confidently begin our day in a way that makes the rest of our day have life? Where we take initiative in our own stories?”
I think I found this perspective to be the most freeing and inspiring. How often do we beat ourselves up over the things we see others doing well and assume that we should be doing, too? But the thing is, if something isn’t for us, if it doesn’t speak to how we are hardwired, if it isn’t the next chapter in our own story, then it isn’t motivating – it’s shaming.
I know we’ve all experienced this. We’ve talked to someone (or read something or listened to someone) who is SO excited for the thing that has worked for them. And suddenly, because that person has found something that has worked for them, they share it as THE thing that works. THE thing that everyone else should be doing. THE thing that you should be doing.
It is so easy to moralize our choices. It’s so easy to moralize the choices of others! It’s so easy to see the results that other’s are achieving and assume that what they are doing is “good” or “best.” It’s so easy to look at the ways that others are doing things and finding success and think that we should just copy and paste their process into our own life. But that is a dualistic mindset that assumes there is only ever two options – the right option, and the wrong option. This isn’t only a false and limiting belief, it’s destructive and depleting.
This limiting belief fails to take into consideration that we are not all made the same, made for the same things, or living the same story. It fails to take into consideration that we don’t all want the same things, value the same things, or care about the same things. And this is SO IMPORTANT to recognize. It’s important to recognize so that we can free ourselves from a false and unrealistic measuring rod, so that we can instead make decisions from who we know we are and who we know we want to become.
It is easy to see other women rising early to work out or hone their skills and think that they are better. It’s easy to judge them as strong and myself as weak. But instead of judge, I’m learning to look honestly at the way other women do things and simply know that I am not her. And I’m not supposed to be her.
I know I’m not a morning person. I know I don’t care about becoming a morning person. I know that when I think about what I want my ideal morning to look like, it doesn’t include rising hours before the rest of the house wakes to workout, hustle, or accomplish tasks. And this has been the crucial, life giving distinction that I’ve come to realize.
The thing that has deterred and discouraged me the most about other people’s “motivation” behind a morning routine is that it is just another area to get more done and be hard on myself. I don’t need help being hard on myself. I do that on the daily. I don’t need someone telling me to do more, work harder, accomplish more, or be better. I have that soundtrack playing on a loop all. day. long. And I certainly don’t need to rise two hours before my kids to “get more done.” I know a lot of people say that the early morning hours are when they accomplish most of their tasks for the day, and that – honestly – just depresses the heck out of me. Because I work all day for my family. I’m a stay at home mom of four kids and I homeschool. The idea that I need to get up earlier to accomplish even more for these people is a recipe for mommy to lose her ever loving mind. No thank you. I won’t and I will not.
But I have spent some time thinking about what I want MY morning routine to look like, and I’ve learned that I’m not a routine person. I’m a rhythm person. I’m someone who has a few, simple and kind things that I want to include in my morning and I’ve learned that it’s more about moving slowly and thoughtfully through those things than it is about checking things off a list. I don’t follow a clock, I follow a flow. It’s more about intuition than inspiration. It’s more about a feeling than accomplishment.
I want to thoughtfully craft a morning that I care about. One that sets myself and my family up for success. One that allows us to savor the truth that I have been learning lately – there is no rush. There is time. Sit. Savor. Enjoy.
I’m not an early morning person. But I’m allowing myself to become the best version of myself – in the morning.
I’m learning to notice the things that really matter to me. Because, friends, if we can’t notice what matters to us, then what are we noticing? The things that matter…to everyone else? If we are paying more attention to what matters to others then this isn’t allowing us to respond from a deep and rested place of who we are and what we are here to do. It isn’t selfish to start here, because what that means is you are starting with divine purpose rather than mundane people pleasing.
A morning routine that starts from a grounded place of knowing who you are allows you to thoughtfully and intentionally move through your day. Kendra says it best, so I’ll leave you with these powerful words from her episode:
“A morning routine helps you feel like yourself so you’re not frantically searching for yourself throughout the day. It can remind us who we most deeply are. Start your day abiding in the deepest truth of who you are. Why you are here. And the beautiful things you have to offer the world. It’s not about being a robot, but recognizing what you need to gradually increase the energy of who you are and what you want to carry with you into your day.” -The Lazy Genius Morning Routine, episode #58