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Better Mornings For a Family of Non-Morning People

Better Mornings For a Family of Non-Morning People

By Amalah

Dear Amy,

I want to start with saying that my husband and I are not, and have never been, morning people. Added to that, we are both in fields that give us quite a bit of freedom and flexibility in our schedules (academia and the nonprofit sector). This year, my New Year’s resolution is to get up earlier and start my work day and a regular-people time: e.g., sometime before 9:00am. Plus, it would also be nice to drop my son off at daycare before his friends are halfway done with their morning art exploration project.

Except I’m having trouble, because my family is a bunch of grumpy slackers in the morning. My husband (who supports my plan in theory) is still adjusting and doesn’t particularly LIKE getting out of bed before, say, 8:30am, but he understands that this would probably benefit all of us and is willing to work on shifting his own internal clock.

The main problem is my 27-month-old son. He HATES waking up in the morning before he’s ready. Like, teenager-level hates it. He usually takes a decent 1-2 hour nap at school during the afternoon (roughly 1:30pm-3:00pm). We have a pretty decent bedtime routine that seems to work for him and us, though he has recently learned a variety of stalling techniques which include (but are certainly not limited to): asking for specific stuffed animals to be put in his bed; asking me to sing him a song–no, not that song, a different song; needing his wet pajama shirt changed because he spilled water/blew snot/cried too hard after we shut the door and told him to rest; and saying “I’m not ready!” whenever we try to transition him between different bedtime activities.

All told, he probably goes down around 8:00pm or shortly thereafter. We give him a bath, pick out and change into PJs, read a story while he nurses, then put him in his bed. Sometimes he’ll have a hard time falling asleep and start calling for us around 10 minutes after we leave the room, and putting him back in bed and singing a song usually does the trick. He may or may not wake up once in the early morning, but he’ll go back down pretty easily. We have an “OK to Wake Clock” that turns green at 6:15am, at which time he is allowed to come in our bed to cuddle and nurse. After about 10 minutes of nursing he will fall back asleep, then sleep until around 8:00am or 8:30am if we let him. As a family, we have collectively gotten out of bed after 9:00 am on the weekends.

Usually I get out of bed to take a shower and start getting ready for work around 7:30am while my husband and kiddo keep sleeping. Around 8:00am I have to get husband up to go downstairs and get the coffee started. Then I start trying to wake up the kiddo. And he just whines and yells, “I still sleepy!” while burying his head in the pillow. It ends up taking me over half an hour to coax him into getting up and getting dressed, by which time my coffee is cold and I’m thoroughly annoyed that I am, once again, not out of the house before 9:00am.

I’m sort of at a loss as to how to transition him to an earlier waking time. No matter how early I try to bump up his bedtime, he just naturally falls asleep around 8:00pm. I’ve had him in bed with the lights off by 7:30pm, only for him to spend the extra half hour awake and playing in his room, then calling us back in around 8:00pm when he’s actually settled enough for bed. Does he really need a 12-hour chunk of sleep per night with a two-hour nap in the afternoon? After getting him up he’s perfectly agreeable and doesn’t act at all tired during the day.

Is there something I’m missing here? Please help fix this before he needs to be at school and/or actually becomes a petulant teenager.

As a fellow-non-morning person, I both applaud your resolution while also fighting the urge to crawl back into bed and bury my head under the pillows because ugggghhhhh I would sleep until 10am every morning if I could.

Your son is also not a morning person, and expecting a toddler to shift his internal clock is a Big Ask, and is something that will probably require more time. (As I’ve learned from experience after lazy summer vacations, I have to start working my kids towards their school schedule a couple weeks before school starts or else mornings are just too much of a shock.) 14 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period is on the high end of the “how much sleep does a 2-year-old need” range but still entirely developmentally appropriate. Since you mentioned this is a New Year’s resolution and we’re not even two full weeks into 2016, I think a lot of the problems will resolve themselves with more time and CONSISTENCY in the morning routine.

But that makes for a pretty boring and not-particularly helpful column, so while “time and consistency” should be your number-one takeaway from this, let me toss out a few other suggestions:

1) Try to push back the early morning nursing session and eliminate the morning “catnap” he’s taking. I am married to a TOTAL morning person who regularly sets his alarm for 5 a.m. so he can work out, get to work early, be a productive member of society, etc. I, of course, wake up as well, glare at him and then burrow back under the covers because NOPE NOPE NOPE. So I fall back asleep around 5:30/6 and then wake up an hour or even two hours later. (My kids’ school days currently don’t start until 9:30. It’s weird.)

And yet: I admit it’s MUCH MUCH harder to wake up from that second catnap than it is for me to just sack up and get out of bed the FIRST time I wake up. Falling back asleep for an hour or two means I have to wake up at an early/difficult point in my sleep cycle and my body and brain just want to fight it extra hard to stay asleep. Whereas if I just get up at 5:30 and make my coffee and accept that okay, this day is happening, it’s easier for me. (Do I do that? What, you think I am a sensible person? lol ur cute.)

So applying that experience to your son, what if you changed his Ok to Wake clock time to about an hour later, to 7:15? Then at 7:30 or so, after nursing/cuddles, don’t let him doze off. You BOTH get out of bed at the same time. Get him up and dressed and eating breakfast first, THEN start on yourself. This might be an easier transition for his brain, plus you won’t have coffee getting cold while you battle with him. And since he’ll be ready FIRST, you’ll know that once you’re showered and ready to go, you really and truly can just GO, without the wildcard of how long he’s going to fight with you.

2) Consider offering an incentive to make getting out of bed even more attractive.  Like if he gets up and gets dressed by 7:45, he can have a special privilege like watch Sesame Street during breakfast, or get some special breakfast treat like a toaster pastry. Doesn’t have to be a permanent habit, just something akin to potty training rewards to help get over the initial scheduling hump. We have “get up and get dressed on time” on ALL our kids’ behavior/star/sticker charts, and have for years. It’s a tough one for kids — my morning kiddos just want to get up and play in their PJs for hours, my singular non-morning kid just stays in bed and moans. (So again, don’t expect this to stop being an issue overnight.)

3) Lastly, if you want to throw some money/technology at the problem, take a look at the fancy Phillips Wake-Up Lights.  I don’t have one of these yet but ohhhhh IWantOneSoBaaaaad but my morning-person spouse doesn’t understannnnnnd what it’s like for me and why waking up to an alarm on my phone fills me with pain and rage. (I added one to my Amazon Wish List and even sent him this review in an attempt to explain why I want a $100 alarm clock and he STILL didn’t get me one for Christmas. FINE. Buying one myself, eventually, grumble.) Since you’ve got a whole family of non-morning people, I’d totally say it’s worth the investment, especially for your bedroom where all three of you end up in the morning.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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