Mornings at my house are a zoo. But not like a normal zoo, more like a post-apocalyptic zoo where the human caretakers are zombies and the animals have set up their own Orwellian society. Ok, maybe I’m being a tad dramatic.
Neither my husband nor I are early birds—which is legitimately a conversation we should have had prior to having a child—and we are now beholden to our toddler’s sleep schedule.
Let me just say, God bless those early morning parents who pop out of bed 90 minutes early in order to get a head start on the day. You are unicorns, and I don’t understand you. I’m also fairly certain you’re all closeted serial killers, but I digress…
After three years, my body has begrudgingly programmed itself to wake up at 6 a.m., one hour before my daughter, and I hate it. I refuse to do anything truly productive during that time, and instead sit silently in bed and watch the news, check my email, and buy whatever shit is on sale at Anthropologie.
With maybe 10 minutes to spare before my daughter gets up, I rush to rinse off, brush my teeth and throw on whatever clothes are within reach.
That’s when my morning really begins. Immediately, my daughter requires three different things of me at the same time:
- My emotional support to affirm and reaffirm her fashion decisions for the day (usually one of five mermaid shirts, purple glittery pants, Cinderella underwear, Paw Patrol socks, and a very large pink bow).
- My physical presence as she makes at least three 5-10 minute trips to the potty in the span of 45 minutes.
- My full and absolute attention as she recalls whatever has been on her mind that week. Usually it’s recounting something that made her nervous. It would appear that “The Pumpkin Ghost” episode of Paw Patrol is a real mind fuck.
And by this point, I haven’t actually done any of the normal shit I need to do in the morning: brush her hair, make her breakfast, unload the dishwasher, load the washing machine, feed the dogs, make lunch…blah blah blah. I can pretty much guarantee that whenever I finally press brew on my coffee machine, the mug will sit there for at least 30 minutes before I even take a sip.
So my best trick is by no means groundbreaking, but it is life changing because I needed to hit reset on my mornings. I found that prepping breakfast in advance helps to minimize the chaos and clutter of the morning. It also forces me to use a phrase I deplore: “meal planning.” I hate the term not because of what it means, but because of what it implies.
For the record, I am not one of those truly selfless moms who enjoys the mind numbing minutia of motherhood. In fact, it’s the opposite. I “meal plan” because I’m selfish and just want to drink my coffee while it’s hot.
When removing “making breakfast” from the morning equation, it creates a domino effect not just for the day, but for the entire week. For starters, it lessens my stress load, and that’s better for everyone. (My husband agrees.)
If breakfast is already on the counter when she comes out of her room, I’m no longer having to negotiate with her on every part of the meal, from the food itself to the utensils she uses. If she sees the “overnight oats” she helped me make, she doesn’t argue that she would rather have a waffle. And that’s not because she wouldn’t prefer a waffle (who wouldn’t?), but rather the personal investment she has in the oats. She knows she helped me make it, and at the end of the day toddlers are all tiny narcissists, and happiest in a state of self-adoration.
Secondly, when I plan ahead, I’m making healthier food. Simple as that. And when she’s eating better food, she’s in a better mood than if she’s all jacked up on syrup and cereal. And a toddler in a good mood is a gift for everyone.
Finally, I have less dishes to clean, which doesn’t suck.
But meal prepping does take a chunk of time. I look at it this way, instead of spending an hour at the park or playing Candyland, I have her pour ingredients, pull apart broccoli heads, whisk eggs…you name it. She’s old enough to hold her attention, but still too young for that “go play quietly in your room” stage of parenting. And she actually has fun doing it, which allows me to avoid any potential child labor violations.
Sure, asking your child to tear apart broccoli florets can add about 15 minutes of cleanup, but that sure as hell beats the added hour it would take if I chose NOT to include her. She would find a reason to wander into the kitchen every few minutes with a new question or request:
“Mama, can I have a snack?”
“Mama, I’m thirsty.”
“Mama, I ate Archie’s food.” (Archie is the dog).
“Mama, my tummy hurts.”
“Mama, hold me!”
Eventually, she gets real deep or real desperate:
“Mama, what does ‘cloud’ mean?”
“Mama, why are you a grown up?”
So, while I am so flattered by the amazing response to my instastories of our meal prep, I am not doing it to be a “mom of the year,” I’m doing it because I want to continue sitting in bed doing nothing for an hour before my kid gets up.
Since so many of you asked, here are the links to the recipes I used this past weekend. I do not fancy myself a cook; I can follow instructions and I know how I like things to taste, but that is about the extent of my culinary expertise. (Save for a pumpkin pie that would change your life).
Peanut Butter Overnight Oats:
(You can sub peanut butter for sun butter and agave for honey!)
Green Toddler Smoothie Freezer Packs:
(Tropical Green, Peachy Kale and Peanut Butter Spinach)
Tasty Breakfast Egg Cups:
I’m always desperate for suggestions and ideas, so please share in comments below!!!