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Working Mom Morning Tips

Morning Tips for Working Moms

By Amalah

I decided on this week’s topic while writing last week’s column: Mornings are tough enough during maternity leave or for a stay-at-home-mom, but for the work-outside-the-home-mom? Oh, my lord, it’s a daily experiment in terror, and I say that from experience. So how to make the morning routine and rush easier once you’re suddenly expected to get yourself AND A BABY out the door on time every day?

This was, no doubt, my downfall as a WOHM. I left late. I forgot my keys and purse and my son’s daycare bag on separate (AND SIMULTANEOUS) occasions. I am pretty sure I forgot the BABY at least once, getting all the way down three flights of stairs and down the street to my car before it dawned on me that OH RIGHT THAT. I have never been a morning person, and it showed. Here are some of my coping/organization tips from that time, though clearly, these are neither exhaustive nor foolproof.

6 Ways to Make Mornings (a Little) Easier

Bounce Back Archives1. Pick out clothes the night before. I know, obvious, but seriously: I’m a wardrobe waffler. I’m bad at visualizing That Shirt with Those Pants, and need to try things on. There is NO TIME for this, once you throw a child into the mix. That first outfit better be the Winning Outfit, so either try stuff on the night before  or keep your work outfits organized in your closet (coordinated pieces pinned or at least grouped together) so you can quickly make a decision in case of unexpected weather or meeting or something.

2. Get an automatic coffee maker with a timer. Learn it. Live it. Love it. I had one that brewed coffee directly into a travel mug. WORTH IT.

3. If your baby goes to daycare, pack the bag the night before. The baby has a lot of routines you can’t skip or condense in the morning  she’ll need a diaper and fresh clothes and breastfeeding or a bottle or even some cereal (and then likely, another diaper and another change of clothes), so don’t even think about mixing the day’s bottles or checking the report card for “WE NEED WIPES” or “PLZ SEND BIBS” right in the middle of that.

4. Don’t be a hero. I chose a daycare close to my job, and my job only. I can’t even imagine how different those months would have been if I’d opted for one close to home instead, so Jason could help out with the drop-off and pick-up and mid-day emergency calls. That isn’t always an option for everybody — and I admit I chose our center because I planned to nurse during the day, something that lasted maybe two or three weeks at most — but oh, if you don’t absolutely HAVE to, don’t do this to yourself and your workday.

5. Write your “mental checklist” down, and hang it next to your keys. Once I realized my tendency to forget essential items in my rush out the door, I made two lists on Post-Its and stuck them above our key holder. One was semi-permanent: PURSE. LAPTOP. NOAH’S BAG. BOTTLES. AMY’S LUNCH. BREASTPUMP SUPPLIES. And etc. Then I made another one that included anything “special” for that day, like a specific file folder for work or extra wipes or a permission slip for daycare or just that book I’d been meaning to return to my coworker for weeks now.

6. If all else fails, mess with your head. Jason moved all of our clocks ahead by 10 minutes, without telling me ahead of time. It took me a couple weeks before I figured out that he’d done this — and thus, the reason I’d actually been on time or maybe only 5 or 10 minutes late, instead of 20. Even after I “knew,” I left it, just because I found the mental jolt of OH CRAP! when I looked at the clock every morning got me moving just a tad bit faster.

As always, leave your survival tips in the comments!


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

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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  • Jennifer

    July 6, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Ask your employer if you can truncate your day by skipping lunch or eating at your desk. Then, IF POSSIBLE, adjust your day by going in to work an hour later. Having more time with my kids in the morning helped us all avoid the craziness of rushing around. If there’s an extra hour in the morning, there’s often a little time, even if it’s just 15 minutes, for playing or reading together before everyone starts their days.

  • claire

    July 6, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    In addition to choosing your own clothes the night before, dress the baby in what he/she is going to wear the next day. For older infants and toddlers, they often wear knit pants with a tshirt or onesie, and that’s practically pajamas anyway (jealous).

    Also, when I’m on morning duty, I try to get completely ready to go before the baby wakes up, whenever possible. Brushing my teeth or putting on makeup gets a lot more complicated with an 18-month old who doesn’t yet understand “just give me two minutes.”

  • Auntie G

    July 6, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    My favorite “joke” since becoming a mom is that I’m not getting better at the gig; I’m just learning to idiot-proof my life…the brainpower never returns. Here’s my tip (albeit one that my frugal husband does not always appreciate): whenever possible, have multiples of supplies on hand — at your desk, in your car, etc. I went through a phase where I could NOT remember my keys and kept getting myself locked out — so now I many spare sets in my purse, all the diaper bags, etc. I bought a back-up pump off Craigslist (after I tripped and broke my first…so really, got a replacement and THEN another one!) and kept a set of the pumping supplies in my desk, just in case I brought the milk home but forgot the stuff. We keep a cheapo umbrella stroller in the back of our car since my current item to forget is the stroller for my toddler who is much too big to carry for long. And there’s a diaper bag that stays in the car, too. ET FREAKIN’ CETERA.

  • Kristen

    July 6, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    Have your husband drop whatever bags he can in your car on his way out to work (if he leaves before you). I can handle the baby in the car seat, daycare bag and my bag but you add that damn Medela bag and forget it – so he drops that off for me on his way out.

    If you are pumping, have a 2nd set of everything so you aren’t washing things in the morning or late at night.

    Do NOT get dressed until the last possible minute – lest the baby ruin that one outfit that you fit into/looks good on you/is clean.

    And once you get your routine down, don’t mess with it! I do the exact same thing every morning – in the same order. If I mess with that order I end up at work with no underwear or some craziness.

    • Stephanie

      July 16, 2015 at 9:44 am

      I LOVE!!! that you mentioned not getting dressed until last. At first I thought it made sense to get dressed first and be ready before waking up the baby, but you’re totally right! Inevitably, the baby will pee/puke/poop on whatever you are wearing and then you’re stuck looking for something else at the last minute!

  • Hi, I'm Natalie.

    July 6, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    Wow. Good timing – I start work tomorrow after 12 months of mat leave. (I was even considering writing a Smackdown letter about this exact topic!) Cheers!

  • Katie

    July 6, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    My number one tip: Get your husband to be in charge of morning readiness and drop-off. 🙂

    I am up and at work before my boys even wake up. It is a daily miracle. Plus it gives us more time all together at home in the evenings since I get home earlier because I start my day earlier.

    (I do realize this won’t work for most people, it just makes me happy!)

  • Cassie

    July 6, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    @claire how do you dress the baby the night before and not have him pee/poop/spit up/dribble food/slobber/etc on it and not need a change before getting out the door the next morning anyhow? Because I would totally do that if at all possible! *g*

    Duplicates: Absolutely! We have onsies, diapers, wipes and individual packs of applesauce with a spoon in each car. Just in case. Ya never know, and either dad or I invariably get caught unawares with a baby and no bag.

    Pre-packing: Saves my life. I pull out baby’s clothes and set them on his dresser and put all the daycare needs in his bag (minus formula, which is in the fridge) the night before. Saves tons of worrying and time. Also good if dad is in charge of him on any given morning, since dad gets flustered and always is so hyper-aware of baby that he forgets the THINGS THAT GO WITH HIM or FREAKS OUT OVER WHAT OUTFIT TO DRESS HIM IN. (Yes, he does. Frustrating but also very cute.)

    As for my own pre-packing – everything in my purse and lunch bag (sans actual lunch which is right next to baby’s formula in the fridge) and on the bench by the front door. Ready to heft on my shoulder and go!

  • Lisa M

    July 6, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    Check with your daycare to see if you can leave supplies there. Less items to worry about bringing with you, plus when they’re running low, they’ll tell you at the end of the day when you have a chance to remember.

    I’m with Claire about getting ready before the boys are up. Anything I can get done before is awesome, because after they’re up, not only does everything take twice as long, but I also have to mediate fights, get milk ready, etc.

    I only brought my pump home on weekends; at first I’d bring it home every night, but I was always paranoid that I was going to forget and get massively engorged, and clogged ducts.

    I’m trying to get back into the routine now. My husband was laid off a month ago and therefore was in charge of morning. Now that he’s back at work, he’s also back to being out the house before my alarm has even gone off.

  • Christy

    July 6, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    I cannot stress enough how important it is to prepare the night before. I get all bags ready to go and my husband puts them in the car for me I leave for the day with my son. Without preparing ahead of time, I know I would forget something every day. Also ditto on the same routine every morning. I know if I am running late if I look at the clock and am one or two minutes off my hair drying time! (I’m THAT scheduled!)

  • Susan

    July 6, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    I am dreading mornings after this baby gets here, my mornings are already crazy with just a toddler, and I am horrible at planning…I think my biggest help is going to be doing most things the night before!! I will keep checking back with this post to see any other tips..I also love the one making dad take a bag to the car on his way out, it will make me feel much better about him being gone before I even wake up in the morning.

  • Olivia

    July 6, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    I get up about 20 min earlier than I used to. When my baby was under 10 months, I would get myself ready, but NOT put on my shirt in case she decided to spit up. I’d wake her to nurse then put her back to bed (stay at home dad saves the day). Now that she doesn’t need that morning nursing session, I still get up early. I have my clothes out the night before and the coffe pot ready to just be turned on. I try to get at much done as possible before she wakes up (some days she’s still sleeping when I leave), but if she does wake up I know I have at least an extra 20 min of time built in.

  • Andrea

    July 6, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    I second having dad put all the bags in the car. Our cars are parked pretty far from our front door, and it’s no easy task carrying three bags and an infant that far while wearing heels! I also eat breakfast at my desk when I arrive at the office, which cuts down on the morning routine. I just keep oatmeal or english muffins at my desk.

  • Julie

    July 6, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    I second the “get up that much earlier than you think you need to” approach. Take your normal routine time. Add in the time you think it will take to get the baby ready. Double that. Then add in an extra 10 or 15 minutes for good measure. Set your alarm accordingly. Every time you are late running out the door, set the alarm another 10 minutes earlier from then on out. Eventually you’ll figure out the timing that works, and most days might even get to work early enough to enjoy a cup of coffee and an internet check before the work day stats, (or be able to start working that much earlier and leave that much earlier) and have the slack room buillt into the schedule so that on the days when baby has 3 dirty diapers on the way out the door, it’s not the end of the world.
    It’s easier said than done, so any of the above tips that you can use to streamline things are great. But bottom line, if you’re always running 10 minutes late, set your alarm 10 minutes earlier and actually get up when it goes off – sometimes adding moire time to the routine is the only way to fix it.

  • Stephanie

    July 6, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    To echo Amy, choose a daycare CLOSE to home and not work. That way you can share in the pick-up/drop-off responsibilities. Plus, if you actually get sick and take a sick day, you only have to manage to drop your child a few miles away as opposed to 20 miles (at least that’s how far I drive to work). It helps immensely. My husband is the primary morning person now since he works closest to home/daycare, and I pick up. I help him by getting all the bottles ready before he gets up, he feeds the baby and changes her. What I haven’t gotten down is picking out her outfit the night before. When I pick the baby up in the afternoon, I sometimes laugh out loud when I see the outfits he chooses. Always build in more time. Everything seems to take longer.

  • Ioana

    July 6, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    Thank you for the tip, Amy. One follow up question: any advice on managing the morning routine with TWO kids, especially if the oldest has lolly-gagging tendencies. Mine are 10 months and 5. I was doing fine with just one but I find that since there are two of them, the oldest often ends up having a melt down in the morning, even with my husband helping. Thoughts?

  • Marnie

    July 6, 2010 at 11:56 pm

    night before, night before, night before. I suck at that, but it’s worth it. I still do it, and my daughter’s in elem school. Also, I second whoever said to get the hubby involved. I would wake up, nurse, then hand her off for hubby to clean and dress while I showered and dressed. I am not a morning person – never have been, never will be – but I adjusted my schedule and got up earlier to start work earlier so I could get home earlier. That schedule has stuck with us and hopefully will for a while, as painful as it is in the morning!

  • eva

    July 7, 2010 at 12:21 am

    Make lunch the night before and wake up before your kid so that you have showered and prepped breakfast before they wake up.  Also, if you have a dog that has to go out, get the spouse who’s up and out the door first to do it.  That way one parent does the dog and one does the kid.  Now that my daughter’s two and a half, I also favour sending her to her room to pick out her clothes and dress herself as much as she can – gives me 10 minutes to drink coffee, glance at the newspaper, and clean up any of her breakfast mess.  I also get her to help with dishes by helping me empty the dishwasher and then I load it, so that when we come home at the end of the day the kitchen is not chaotically messy and we can start dinner without doing any clean up.

    Oh and “start dinner” for a family with two full time working parents and a dog and a penchant for exercising after work generally and often means driving to Whole Foods for dinner, or ordering sushi/pizza/thai/whatever.  I just don’t get when cooking is supposed to happen!!

  • Abby

    July 7, 2010 at 7:52 am

    @Ioana, I don’t know if this helps you, but my kids are nearly the same ages, and I’ve found that I must get some food or drink into the older one ASAP or it’s nothing but tantrums and crankiness until then. I also offer most things as a choice (“do you want to get dressed now or in one minute from now?”) so that she feels like she has some control. These don’t always stop the meltdowns, but they definitely make them less frequent.

  • andrea

    July 7, 2010 at 8:43 am

    Been doing it for a year and still looking for tips!

    One thing that new moms often discuss is how to get ready for work in the morning sans husband help.

  • Cobblestone

    July 7, 2010 at 8:48 am

    I use tomorrow’s clothing as tonight’s jammies about 1/2 the time. More towards the end of the week when ShortStack is feeling less …. flexible. That way we have more time for playing (yippee for boys!).
    I have found that the argument about reading / not reading a book is longer than just reading the %$&()! book to him. My husband who does drop off just keeps a case of diapers in the car for the times that we miss, “more diapers plz” on the notes.

  • Simone

    July 7, 2010 at 10:29 am

    One thing that I found helpful was that I left my pump at work and kept a hand pump at home for weekends and the random evening pump. I was lucky enough to have a semi-private lactation room at work (aka the IT storage closet), where no one else ever went, so it was safe to keep my pump there. This cut way down on morning craziness and my inability to remember everything. I second and third having doubles of all pump parts, a lesson I learned on the inevitable day when I forgot mine and had to leave work to do a frantic shopping trip to buy more. Amy please do write about how to do it with two kids. We have our morning routine mostly down with our daughter but when we have a second I have NO FREAKING CLUE how it’s going to work. None.

  • Dawn

    July 7, 2010 at 10:49 am

    For a while I had two pumps, one I kept at work and another at home. Then I burned out the motor (or something) on the work one so I’m back to one. I agree with getting everything prepped the night before though we don’t always do that. Since we both get up at 5 am (me to pump then shower/dress and him to shower/dress)we get a lot knocked out in the morning though we’ll stuff Noelle’s bag with her things the previous evening. The baby is watched at our house by his grandma but that will all change come January when he starts in daycare.

  • Laura

    July 7, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    Oh god, the pump. I once forgot the pump. On more than one occasion, I brought the pump but NO bottles. Then NO flanges for pumping. Then I did it again. I think it was my mind telling me to give up the pumping! But seriously… get an extra set of pump parts and a few extra bottles or bags for milk storage and keep them at work or in your car. Because the panic! The panic! The driving home on your 30 minutes lunch break but now when will you pump panic?!

  • DB

    July 7, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    Have your husband do as much as possible! Especially since their morning routine is probably less involved than yours (shower, pants, shirt, tie, go). We are fortunate that our day-care is actually at my husband’s job so he takes our son there and picks him up every day. But since his morning routine is a lot simpler he can focus on getting our son ready and getting both of them out the door while I get ready for my job. They also keep all the supplies there and feed them breakfast, lunch and a snack with their food so once he hit the toddler room there is nothing he needed to bring unless they ran out of wipes or something.
    Of course, I’m sure things will get much more complicated when # 2 comes along in 3 months!

  • Jessica

    July 7, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    All I can emphasize is, do whatever you can to make sure you don’t forgot the pump. Or the flanges. Or the bottles. Or the tubing. Or the power cord / battery thingy. I have forgotten all of these on separate occasions — especially those damn flanges. Can think of 3-4 separate crises involving those. Unfortunately, my job is not at all flexible, but fortunately, my husband’s is. He made more than one “special delivery” of various pump parts discretely tucked into a shopping bag… Also fortunately, I work in a hospital. In absolute emergencies, I’ve been able to snag bottles to pump into from the NICU pumping rooms and (with the kind help of sympathetic nurses) entire pumping set-ups to use the with hopsital grade pumps in said NICU pumping rooms… 

    So glad to be done with that — I get an ulcer just thinking about it.

  • AG

    July 7, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    If you have the room in your house, and the idea of having a roommate doesn’t freak you out, an au pair is the way to go. I walk downstairs every morning with the baby, usually still in her pajamas, possibly needing a diaper change, and definitely needing breakfast, and the au pair is waiting to take over. Perfection.

  • Katie

    July 8, 2010 at 10:31 am

    I bought a bunch of extra pump stuff and it has totally streamlined my morning routine. Each Sunday night, I make sure a bunch of bottles are washed and stick them in my pump bag. Then, I prepared little ziplock bags, each with a clean flange/valve assembly and stuff those in the pump bag. So, I just bring the whole pump bag to work on Monday and leave it there all week. Each day, I bring home the bottle(s) in the little cooler bag, but never have to worry about washing parts or restocking my supply at the office during the week. I don’t bother washing stuff at the office… I just replace the parts in the ziploc baggies and bring it all home to wash. I work part time, so I only pump once a day. But, it has made such a difference that I would totally buy more bottles and parts to replicate this routine for multiple pumping sessions a day.

  • Katy R

    July 8, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    I must respectfully disagree about the daycare proximity because living in the dfw metroplex makes traffic Cuh-RAZY! I feel much more comfortable having my kids down the street from where I work so I don’t have the pressure of getting to the daycare before they close! If I’m stuck in traffic with the kids, who cares? We’ll make it home eventually! Otherwise I would be like ‘OMG there’s another accident and bumper to bumper traffic again! And I have 10 minutes to get to the daycare before they close and start charging me AAAHH!’

  • stacy

    July 10, 2010 at 7:29 am

    If you have an older child to get ready in the mornings, I would try to put them to bed earlier and get them up earlier. Sure it’s annoying to be one of “those people” who goes to sleep before the news even comes on — but I have to tell you, KIDS HATE TO BE RUSHED. They like to take their sweet time about things, and — considering you are going to be away from them the majority of the day — isn’t it worth it to wake up and spend a relaxing morning with them, and not giving their whole day (and yours) a stressful and crappy beginning?? I have over 15 years experience as a nanny, and for many years I was the one arriving just as mom and dad were flying out the door, loaded with briefcases and purses and travel mugs while their children were half dressed and crying in a heap on the floor…. The few times I worked with families that woke up early and had a slower morning, the difference was DRAMATIC. Happy children, calm parents!!

  • Dawn

    July 12, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    Four days a week I bring my 6 month old to my MIL which tacks on about 30 extra minutes to my commute so I get up 30 minutes earlier than I used to). But I keep formula and cereal at her house and just replace it when she tells me she needs more. I do get totally ready myself in the morning before waking up the baby. I have him wear whatever onesie I changed him into before bed. So I wake him, change him and put him in the car seat and go. (My MIL feeds him when we get there). I do a lot the night before including showering, making my lunch, ironing and setting out my clothes and packing the diaper bag for the baby. I bring all of it out to the car before I wake the baby so once he’s in the car seat, I just grab him and my keys and we’re out the door. I can see all of this becoming more difficult if/when he starts waking up before it’s time to go and/or we add another child to the mix. And it took about a month for things to go this smoothly once I went back to work (mostly because he sleeps until I wake him up to go now!).

  • jive turkey

    July 13, 2010 at 11:53 am

    Showering in the evening before bed has helped my morning routine immensely. Yeah, my hair does not always look rock-star awesome, but it’s just work. I’m there to get paid, not laid, my friends.

    I am lucky enough to have a daycare equidistant from home & work. But if I had to choose, I’d definitely choose one closer to home. You cannot IMAGINE how important this becomes when you are at death’s door (thanks to a daycare-contracted illness, no doubt) and can quickly shuttle the child to daycare so that you can zip back home and wallow on the couch/in the bathroom in your misery.

  • Nanette

    July 13, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    We have a luggage tag attached to my daughter’s daycare bag with a list of the essentials. Since she goes part-time, we tend to bring more of her daily supplies (extra change of clothes, nap blanket, lunch, sippy, etc.) instead of leaving stuff at daycare. This way I have a quick checklist to counter my Mommy Brain and/or help out Well-Meaning-Dad-Who-Sometimes-Has-No-Clue. 

    I also echo finding a daycare close to home although I get what the other commenter meant about traffic. We had an awesome daycare near my office…then I got laid off. So when I started working again, nowhere near my old office, we had another daycare search. Now my husband and I share drop-off/pick-up duty.  

  • Patty-Jean

    July 14, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    Some GREAT tips! Although I’m a Work AT Home mom, and don’t always see an outside face before 9 or 10 am, I still have a morning routine, which usually starts with a glass of lemon water and a 4 min. work out – which invigorates and wakes me up for to manage the “littles” and home and business tasks.
    thank, thanks!

  • Kait

    February 9, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    I am so glad to know that I’m not the only one struggling to get to work on time. I thought it was just that I generally tend to be disorganized as it is without worrying about a 4 month old. I even wrote my manager an apologetic email (because it’s getting to a point where my co-workers call me because they’re worried/really irritated with me). I’m not glad for any of us that we’re all having a hard time making it to work on time in the mornings, but it is such a relief to hear that even the most organized of us struggle, and it says nothing about me doing something wrong.

    But I second the fear of forgetting my pump or various parts of my pump. There have been times when I’ve taped styrofoam cups onto the flanges because I forgot my bottles. There’s nothing that strikes more fear into my heart than the possibility of forgetting my pump and all of the things I need for pumping.

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