How to Make Mornings Easier As a Working Mom

It’s every working mom’s goal: to make mornings easier, both for YOU and for the family/kids. So how do you do it? What hacks and tips have you found? What are you considering?

In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg shares the story of a woman who put her kids to bed in their school clothes to save 15 minutes in the morning:

One of the other panelists, an executive with two children, was asked the (inevitable) question about how she balances her work and her children. She started her response by saying, “I probably shouldn’t admit this publicly . . . ,” and then she confessed that she put her children to sleep in their school clothes to save fifteen precious minutes every morning. At the time, I though to myself, Yup, she should not have admitted that publicly. Now that I’m a parent, I think this woman was a genius.

It’s too true!  Some tips I’ve tried over the years to make mornings easier (particularly as someone who is not a morning person):

  • Sleep well. I’ve been using the Sleep Cycle app to help wake me up at the lightest point of my sleep cycle, and it’s been great. For some reason the need to charge my phone while using the app has always stopped me (it “uses sound analysis to identify sleep states by tracking movements in bed”), but upon realizing that this seemed like a pretty silly reasoning on my part, I bought a 6′ long cord just to keep by my bed. Another trick to try if you feel like you wake up still tired: Take a spoonful or two of peanut butter before bed — it stabilizes your blood sugar throughout the night so you sleep better. You know how in cartoons people greet the day with singing bluebirds and dancing dishes? This is how I feel the mornings after I’ve had a good night’s sleep thanks to peanut butter.
  • Cut what you can from your own morning routine. I used to be a morning shower person… many, many moons ago. Now I prefer taking my time with an evening shower, which vastly cuts down the amount of time I need to spend on myself when I wake up. I also tend to dress in a bit of a uniform (because I work from home it’s pretty casual — black t-shirt, jeans, a different colorful cardigan each day and a different necklace), and I’ve cut my new-mom beauty routine to the quick, too.
  • Do what you can the night before. Set your coffeemaker to go off first thing in the morning, make any lunches that need to be made, pick out outfits (yours and the kids’), set bags by the door…
  • Identify and eliminate the bottlenecks. If it’s like pulling teeth to get your kids dressed… then I totally agree with the woman in Sandberg’s example; put your kids to bed in their school clothes. Do what works for your family.
  • Hit the ground running at the office. When you finally get a minute to yourself, the urge to dillydally can be strong — Facebook! Websites! Easy reaction-based work, like answering emails! At the end of each day I like to write down three tasks I MUST accomplish the next day, and print whatever I can so there are papers to review — and I do my very best to focus on those tasks first.

Ladies, how do you make mornings easier in your house? What have you tried — and what do you swear by? 

Pictured: Stencil. 

If you're a working mom, you know that mornings can be TORTURE -- how to get everyone dressed, packed, and out of the house? Sheryl Sandberg famously admired one mom's advice of putting her kids to sleep in their school clothes -- so we rounded up other tips for working moms. How CAN you make mornings easier?



  1. I have to be at work earlier than before-baby (BB) because I can’t stay as late as I used to so I have moved virtually everything I could in my morning routine to the office. So, I now have coffee, breakfast and do my make up (if I do it) after I get to work. Sometimes I’ll have coffee at home, too, but I don’t bother if time is tight and I am the one who has to make it.

    My most successful mornings I’ve laid out my clothes the night before so I don’t have to worry about picking out what to wear or making sure its not wrinkled. As far as baby goes, we have a childcare arrangement where she’s sometimes home and sometimes not, and when it’s a “not” day, I try to pack her diaper bag and make her food the night before so that it’s one less thing for me to deal with in the AM.

  2. Legal Canuck says:

    I do lunches for the kids and us before bed. I meal plan and prep on the weekend so that all we need to do is either take meal out of freezer to heat up, or toss in slow cooker.
    We put the kids clothes out the night before as well.
    I alos get up 1/2 hour before the kids so that I can get ready. While they are eating breakfast, I prepare my coffee and any last minute items that need to be done.

  3. PhilanthropyGirl says:

    I also go to work earlier and come home earlier than before-baby. I now go no-make up (with rare exceptions) and have a haircut that I can let air dry if necessary. I typically have a protein smoothie breakfast in the car or at my desk, and I save that first cup of coffee for the office.

    My mornings run the best when I get up before baby. A daunting feat when he was getting up at 6:15. Now that he’s sleeping till about 6:45 I find a 6:00 am alarm seems to do the trick. I can shower, dress and do whatever I need to with my hair before he gets up. If I don’t have to wash my hair, I even have a few quiet minutes to myself. I usually leave by about 7:15. This means I’m in bed pretty early, and often asleep by 9:30, so I’m not tempted to hit the snooze button.

    PhilanthropyBaby is home with DH during the day, so I don’t have to worry about packing bags or getting him dressed. But as with my own things, if I did need to get him out the door with me, they’d be packed the night before.

  4. Anonymous says:

    1. I have like 10 outfits, tops, that I wear in a particular season. I spend approximately 15 seconds picking out my clothes each day.

    2. I only shower every other day, if I’m not working out. Three cheers for dry shampoo!

    3. My husband and I eat breakfast in shifts with my kids because they take so darn long.

    4. My kids are in a phase where they don’t care what they wear, which is nice, but when my oldest went through that phase, he had to pick out his clothes the night before, because it would take ages.

    5. I do breakfast prep the night before if I don’t get home too late — e.g., cutting up berries to go in the yogurt, or something. On this note, does anyone have any great recipes/thoughts on healthy breakfast breads or breakfast cookies? It’s sometimes fun to mix things up, and prepping a batch of these on Sunday saves bunch of time in the mornings.

    I always love to hear others’ tips on this topic!

    • Anon in NYC says:

      Google Gwyneth Paltrow’s banana date muffins or her sweet potato 5-spice muffins. Both are delicious! We have done them both as muffins and also in an 8×8 baking dish so we just cut them into bars when they’re done. We just use the flour we have on hand (all purpose) instead of the gluten free flour she uses.

    • I make banana bread with this recipe except I use whole wheat flour and maybe 1/3 cup of sugar. It’s yummy.
      I add whatever fruits I have on hand (apples, pears, etc.) or berries (strawberries or raspberries are delicious). Nuts are good too. So are coconut flakes or dark chocolate chips. You can make it as simple or decadent as you like. But the base is very wholesome and works well for breakfast/snacks.

    • Chelsea Messy Apron’s banana choc chip muffins, made with oats, bananas, Greek yogurt, and only four tbsp of brown sugar per 12 muffins. They are soooo good!

  5. Anon in NYC says:

    We have to do daycare drop off in the morning. We prep all of her food the night before. I prep as much of my food as I can. I have, like, 5 outfits that I wear to work so my getting dressed is literally a question of “have I already worn this outfit this week?” and if the answer is no, I put it on. I don’t care what my daughter wears in the morning (like if she coordinates), so long as it’s seasonally appropriate, this eliminates any sort of issue with my husband on that front. I’ve also started to go to bed at 10:30 (well before my pre-baby days of 11:30-midnight).

  6. I wear a wig. It saves tremendous time getting ready, and I always look polished and put together.

    Also, I am that driver putting on makeup in the car.

  7. Ashley says:

    My greatest challenge lately is that no matter how early I get up, my 4-year-old wakes up about the same time. I do my best to tip toe and ease doors open and shut but somehow he knows. So he comes in my room and wants to chat and sabotages my getting-ready-before-kids effort. Initially I tried to make him stay in his room, but it’s a fight. And it feels terrible to start the day fighting with him to leave me alone after usually fighting him to stay in his room and stop talking to us at night.

    I work at home, but I have three kids to get ready for preschool, including a baby. Thankfully my husband helps, and he drops them off. But what usually happens with my son barging in is I don’t get to dry my hair or properly get dressed — sometimes even eat or shower. And this just sets a bad tone for the day and creates a time crunch later on. If anyone has advice on this, I would love to hear it.

    • Anonymous says:

      Honestly, on mornings like this, my 4 year old gets to sit on the toilet seat or floor in the bathroom with the IPad. She’s happy enough to play her games for 20 minute or so but she just wants to be around me. We also keep a stash of kids books in our bedroom and she’s allowed to sit on our bed and ‘read’ while I’m getting dressed/in the master bathroom. The rule is I can’t stop and read them to her but just being around me and having a bit of chatter back and forth seems to satisfy her need for attention.

    • If you work from home and your husband does drop off, would it make sense to shower/get ready after they leave? Maybe you can move up their departure time by 20 minutes or so that you can still start at roughly the same time but this way you aren’t fighting a losing battle.

    • Samantha says:

      I agree with this. My 5yo just wants to be around me and occasionally talk a bit. Try to get your kid engaged with an activity (coloring, reading a book) or have him bring a toy (a couple of small animals can keep mine pretty engaged with make believe play). I only have to occasionally say an “uhuh” or “oh really” as he chatters about the animals while I get ready. Sometimes the chatter goes on through the closed bathroom door and with the water running, so I get <50% of it. For bathroom activities like tooth brushing, you can have kiddo join in and brush his teeth or comb his hair while you do yours.

    • Anon Anon says:

      I work from home and often shower at lunch if I can’t get one in the morning for whatever reason. I did this all the time in my Before Baby days because I would roll out of bed and start working right away, then work out (usually running outside) and shower after. Would that be an option, or do you have to web cam with people?

  8. Momata says:

    I feel the need to shower in the morning (you night or every-other-day showerers, do you never get sweaty at night?) but I only wash my hair every three days or so (yay dry shampoo!) and when I do, I wash it at night, then sleep on it in a twisted bun. In the morning then it’s still just damp (saving time on drying) and already on its way to being smoothed. So my shower is just a quick lather-rinse.

    I make and portion all the kids’ lunches on Sunday afternoon. They eat the same thing all week (but I change it up week to week and they never eat the same thing more than once a month). So the night before I just grab their preportioned OXO blocks and load up their lunchboxes. I also make my lunch the night before.

    I drink a protein shake and have my coffee in the car. If I have any “found” time I will use it to eat breakfast with the kids.

    • Navy Attorney says:

      I never thought of doing lunch meal prep on the weekends, only dinner. I will consider this! Thanks!

  9. I thought the peanut butter trick was interesting – when I was pregnant, I used to have a couple spoonfuls of peanut butter almost every night at like 3 am. My husband would complain about the smears of PB on the cabinets from me fumbling around. I set up coffee and my outfit every night, which is kind of a hassle, but my brain struggles with these things in the morning. Agree with showering and getting as ready as possible before kids get up. It makes the time so much more pleasant to not be trying to do two or more things at once all morning.

  10. In House Lobbyist says:

    My husband stays home so we have been lucky with pretty easy mornings. They kids have gone to preschool 2 days a week but this year we started kindergarten. We do the normal stuff of getting stuff ready the night before but my husband and I started having to get up earlier as well. But the biggest change we made was to have breakfast earlier around 7-7:15 and then the kids are fully ready before we turn on PBS. It has been a life changer in how quickly they move in the mornings.

  11. CPA Lady says:

    I have made my routine mirror my child’s preferred sleep schedule. She’s early to bed and early to rise, so now I am too. It makes me a fuddy duddy, but I’m a well rested fuddy duddy, at least.

    Morning routine is typically:
    5:45 am- I wake up and lie in bed til around 6:00 messing around on facebook, checking my email, etc.
    6:00- out of bed. Start wandering the house doing light chores (unloading the dishwasher, etc), get myself some coffee
    6:15- husband leaves for work.
    between 6:15 and 6:30- CPA toddler makes waking up noises. I get her up out of her crib, take her into the kitchen and I warm up some milk for her.
    6:30- CPA toddler and I sit in the big fluffy chair in her room and I read her books while she drinks her milk
    6:50- I change CPA toddler’s diaper and get her dressed for the day
    6:55- I wash my face, wrangle my hair, put on my makeup (concealer, eye-shadow, mascara), get dressed
    7:10- CPA toddler and I find and put on our shoes, gather bags, etc.
    7:15- CPA toddler and I make the long journey through the yard out to the driveway.
    7:20- CPA toddler and I depart
    7:35- CPA toddler arrives at daycare. She eats breakfast there.
    7:55- CPA lady arrives at work. She drinks the rest of her iced coffee and eats a healthful (haha) breakfast of a granola bar there.

    I do daycare pick up and am home by 5 most nights, we eat dinner by 5:30, and CPA toddler is in bed by 7:00 pm. I shower at night every other night. I get in bed sometime between 8:30 and 9:00 pm pretty much every night.

    • PhilanthropyGirl says:

      I think those 20 minutes of milk-drinking and book-reading in the fluffy chair sound lovely. I think I may incorporate this into those mornings PhilanthropyBaby wakes up early.

    • As someone who takes ~10 min each morning just to walk down the stairs from the bedroom to the kitchen with two toddlers, I appreciate the “long journey through the yard out to the driveway.” How do they find SO MANY distracting things along a path they walk EVERY DAY?

      • CPA Lady says:

        I don’t know! I think just accepting and being realistic about how long things take helped me be less stressed in the morning. If I factor a 5 minute walk from the front door to the car, I don’t get stressed when it takes longer than the 30 seconds it “should” take because she saw the moon. Or an acorn. Or a stick. Or some bird poop on the sidewalk. Or a piece of grass that sticks up more than the other pieces of grass. Or a small rock. Or a spiderweb on the fence that has been there for three weeks that she points out every single day. For example.

  12. Navy Attorney says:

    I ended up showering last night due to extracurricular activities. I thought not having to shower would cut down my morning routine. I woke up at the usual time, but still left the house at usual time! I have no idea where my extra time went.

    • Heather says:

      My husband always says that I expand to fill the time allotted me. :) I’m the same way!

  13. My only tip is to get the older kids independent as soon as possible. If they can dress themselves, put on their own shoes, pack their backpacks etc., you can be doing other things (like dressing the younger kid) while encouraging/nagging them to do what they need to do. Even if it takes forever, I’m still doing something else during that time. I have three kids to get out the door (3, 5, 7), so every little bit help.

    Also, not a tip, but a complaint – don’t schedule impromptu calls between 7 and 9! I have sat on many a call while walking the kids to school. There is no flexibility on when school starts!

    • EB0220 says:

      I know, right? (On the calls.) On the plus side, my girls are already experienced with speaking up in meetings.

  14. EB0220 says:

    Our morning routine is pretty streamlined in some ways:
    – I have a dress for each day of the week
    – We always do the same steps in the same order
    – We always have the same breakfast
    – I moved hair things and socks downstairs since we do that after dressing
    – We have a designated spot for shoes and bags so we’re not hunting them down

    • I moved my hair things and makeup downstairs as well recently, it really helps! I often stand in the dining room doing my makeup while my son eats breakfast and my husband is showering. That way he gets attention/conversation but I’m still getting ready! (my breakfast happens at my desk in my office)

  15. I rearranged my morning entirely. I used to get up, run, shower, get kids up, leave for work at 8:00 (with all the other people heading into the city for 9:00am arrivals). Now I get up at 5:45, put on running clothes, do an hour of work while drinking coffee and eating breakfast, get kids up at 7:00 and do their breakfast (while also emptying the dishwasher, packing my lunch, and often sticking dinner in the crockpot), then when my husband comes on kid-duty at 8:00, I go out for a 30 min run with the dog, then shower, then get on the road at 9:00 — it now takes me only 40 min or sometimes less to get to work instead of 60+min. because there’s so little traffic. Because I was online at 6:00am, my assistant already has any tasks in his inbox when he walks in at 9:00 and often he’s got stuff ready for me by the time I arrive at 9:45.

    • ChiLaw says:

      I love the sound of this!

      I don’t hate my morning routine, but I really wish there were a way I could get my exercise in there. I wonder if what you’re doing is the solution. (Alt: make husband entirely in charge of baby’s morning so I can sneak out to gym. Except, honestly, I like doing morning stuff with her, snuggles and cereal are fun.)

  16. NewMomAnon says:

    I am in charge of morning routine 3 mornings a week. On a good day, our schedule looks like this:

    Kiddo wakes up sometime between 6:30 am and 7 am. Alternatively, kiddo wakes up 15 minutes before my alarm.
    We snuggle for 10 minutes in my bed.
    We spend 10 minutes getting “breakfast” on the table. Her breakfast is literally a bowl of peanut butter and a cup of milk.
    I’ve started setting a timer to give her only 20 minutes to eat breakfast. We got into a bad stretch where she would get distracted from breakfast, wander away, then melt down when I tried to remove her bowl 45 minutes later when I started panicking about being late.
    I check work e-mails while she eats and respond to any that are urgent or require only a short response.
    After breakfast, kiddo sits on the potty and (on a good day) gets herself dressed while I throw on sweats and a t-shirt for daycare drop off. On a bad day, she doesn’t get herself dressed and then becomes terribly offended when I forcibly shove her clothes onto her body.
    I put kiddo in the Ergo for the elevator ride and walk through the garage (this is a 5 minute journey for an adult but an unpredictable 10-30 minute journey if a toddler is walking independently – the Ergo keeps it to a predictable 5-10 minutes)
    Daycare drop off- round trip, this takes about 15-20 minutes
    Then I do my morning routine and usually arrive at work by 10, but can make it by 9:30 if I cut out the extraneous FB/personal e-mails/household chores stuff.

    On the days kiddo’s dad picks her up for daycare, I eat breakfast, go for a run, cool down while doing household chores, and then shower/prep and arrive at work.

    I keep my shoes, makeup, favorite tea, and snacks at the office, along with some spare blazers and a scarf.

  17. Having outfit “uniforms” and picking them out the night before makes such a big difference for me. Now that my daughter is older I didn’t think I’d need to do it any more, but I discovered that I still need to keep the morning routine streamlined or I’ll slow my own self down. Like someone mentioned above, the time magically gets filled!

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