With five children and action packed weekends (or packed to-do-lists anyway), my days can be full and hectic. I love the bustle of family life and I am grateful for the busy-ness of a full day. Taking care of my grandmother in the years before she died really made me appreciate how lucky I was to have the health and energy to live a full life. I could see that she would yearn to do more for herself but was unable to. She would remind us, but perhaps more herself that there was a time that she could take care of her home and family as well as everything else being a farmer’s wife through at her (harvests, caring for livestock, vast extended families and their squabbles and celebrations). Because of the perspective she gave me, I have never begrudged how much work I have to do in any given day or how long my day can be sometimes.
However, over time I have realised that running around and being busy all of the time is neither healthy nor sensible. If nothing else, more and more I see the benefit of taking time for self-care, relaxation, introspection or stepping back to plan my day rather than wait to be assailed by all that comes along during it.
Usually weekend mornings at home mean I get very busy with breakfasts, getting babies dressed and getting everyone organised for the day. If I get up late and find myself waking up at the same time as the kids, its very likely the noise and demands of the children will start upon waking and continue until we go back to bed. That's a long day of noise, fighting, arguing, complaining, or in Gorgeous' case, just making noise of some kind in case the worlds forgets you exist.
I love my children like crazy, but 16-18 hours of noise where you can't think straight can leave you slightly distracted and wild-haired (like a crazy woman).
So my answer has been to take advantage of the early mornings. There is a hadith that is very beloved to me:
Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said: “Allah made the early hours blessed for my Ummah.” (Ahmed)
I have found in recent years, where the fajr (dawn) prayer is not very early (i.e. 6am rather than 4am), that staying awake after fajr can lead to a very, very productive day. I can have mu chores and housework dawn well before midday or use the time for my personal projects or me-time.
Even when fajr is very early and it is not realistic for me to stay awake, I find it useful to use a little time after fajr to so something useful before I go back to sleep, even for a short time. This might be tidying or organising something, getting things ready for the day ahead, some reading or perhaps a brain dump (you can see how I do this here and here).
Another big benefit for me is that I get a peaceful breakfast, I get to drink my coffee before it gets stone cold and I don't resent the fact that I will get no quite time for many hours. As each of the children wake up and drift downstairs, I wish them good morning. The babies get big hugs, everyone else usually asks what the plan for the day is. I am happy to see them and care for them rather than annoyed that the day has started and I won't get any rest, because I have already dedicated some time to whatever I feel I need.
So in the last few days, whilst I have been off work, I have been staying awake in the early morning.
I have been for an early morning walk, had my coffee warm had time to write or plan ahead for this blog and for the Muslimah Mastermind Group.
We have just finished the refurbishment of my living room, it now has stopped looking like a cave (everything had to be re-plastered because one of the walls was crumbling from damp from a water pipe that had been leaking under the house and the room has had no light fixture for a month).
I have been unpacking boxes of paper-work, books and toys and even better sorting through and getting rid of things we don't need whilst the children are still asleep and blissfully unaware that their old toys are sneaking into bags to disappear from the house (because that broken toy that no-one plays with becomes the one toy they can't live without the minute you mention getting rid of it).
There are some things that I am finding go with being an early morning person. You will find yourself flagging in the afternoon and getting tired if you are sleeping late as well as rising early. I have been able to get away with burning the candle at both ends for the last 20 years or so, but in the last year I can see bags under my eyes (vanity is as good a reason as any to catch up on your sleep) and I find that it is slightly harder to get up in the morning.
So my aim now is to couple my early mornings with earlier bed times and also make more effort to incorporate the sunnah of the qailulah, or the sunnah short mid-day nap into my daily life insha’Allah.
Are you an early morning person? Or do you find it tough to get up early or stay awake after fajr? How do you have calm mornings with your children and make sure you start the day in the best way?