At a panel discussion a few weeks ago organized by Career Contessa, someone in the audience asked, "What do your morning routines look like?" The group of women I was on stage with—who ranged from VPs to Heads of Programming—had so many interesting responses. One said she wakes up at 4:30 every morning to work out for an hour before her four-year-old wakes up, another said she writes a list of ten things she wants to accomplish that day, from personal items to professional goals. And don't get me wrong—I love my mornings. There's nothing more delicious than when Sloan jumps into bed with us, and I love G and my daily ritual of making coffee together—but there's definitely room for improvement. Even though we alternate taking turns looking after Sloan, our mornings that are our own are far from relaxing—so I created a little experiment for myself.
For a week, G took on Sloan duty (we of course switched the next week!), while I spent every morning "testing" out a different, completely indulgent hour-long morning routine, from taking a bath to heading to a coffee shop. The idea wasn't to take a week of mini-vacations, though it certainly felt like that, but to discover a morning routine I can enjoy maybe once or twice a week. Here's how it went:
After Sloan came to cuddle with us this morning, Geoffrey brought her out to get her ready for school, while I stayed, essentially picking up my nighttime routine right where I'd left it off, and read a book in bed (with Luna, of course). While G usually looks after Sloan a few mornings a week, I always get up and start my day with them, checking emails while he runs after her—so it felt like a holiday to be able to stay in bed.
My Takeaway: After reading for an hour—and nearly finishing a book in the process—I felt incredibly relaxed and ready to start my day. The only change I'd make in the future is turning email notifications on my iPad off since I couldn't help but get distracted by a few early work emails that came in.
Taking a bath is one of my all-time favorite ways to relax in the evenings, so I applied the same logic to a regular Tuesday morning at 6:30 a.m., as one does... I lit a candle, poured in some bath salts, set out some iced coffee in place of a glass of wine, and listened to my meditation podcast for half an hour.
My Takeaway: Despite the care I took preparing it, once I got in the bath, it took some time for me to settle my mind—it kept drifting to the steps I'd need to take to get ready afterwards. Once I did relax, the transition from a warm tub to getting ready for my day felt so jarring it undid the calm I'd found.
One of my favorite weekly traditions is making pancakes with my family Sunday mornings after visiting the farmers' market, so after G brought Sloan to school, I pulled out the griddle and a mix—I'm all for keeping things simple on a weekday—and topped them with fresh berries while reading the news on my laptop at the kitchen counter.
My Takeaway: As much as I enjoyed having the kitchen to myself—I listened to some of my favorite music ('90s R&B, always)—it wasn't nearly as enjoyable as cooking with my family, mayhem, Moana sing-a-longs, and all. My favorite part was actually taking the time to read the morning's headlines and dive into a few articles, rather than skimming them throughout the day.
Before Sloan, I used to walk to a nearby coffee shop every morning, but as our mornings became more hectic, I fell out of the habit. On Thursday, I listened to a podcast and walked to a coffee shop, then brought a banana muffin back, which I ate in our back yard while reading a few New York Times articles on my iPad before jumping on a conference call.
My Takeaway: When I do go on walks these days, they're rarely with a podcast since I'm usually chatting with Sloan while she hangs out in her stroller. As much as I cherish those conversations (which is usually when she teaches me songs she's learned in school), it was nice to have an hour to myself to just listen to Howard Stern, who is one of my favorite interviewers. During my conference call, which was an editorial brainstorm, I felt noticeably more creative and at-ease from my relaxed morning.
This morning, I tried a different technique and got fully ready for my day—did my hair, checked my email, did my makeup—then got back under the covers to watch a movie. I ended up watching an hour of No Country for Old Men, a movie I love but haven't seen since it was in theaters.
My Takeaway: For some reason, this felt so much more indulgent than reading a book in bed, and I actually felt a little guilty watching TV in the morning. I found myself checking the time constantly, which didn't make the hour as enjoyable. Perhaps if I try the same thing in the future, I'll watch two quick shows (a la 'Sex and the City') instead of only part of a longer film.
The thing is, during a normal week when I'm not consciously setting aside time, I rarely have fifteen spare minutes to myself, let alone a full hour, but with a little rescheduling, it's totally doable for me to find thirty to forty-five minutes once a week to myself. While activities that take more effort—like preparing a bath or making breakfast—actually add more stress, taking a few minutes to read a few pages of my book or the news made all the difference and is worth prioritizing.