Start The Day

Starting the day…it can feel like a lot. It can be busy and overwhelming. There are so many things that need to get done and so little time to do them all. I know in many parts of the world people are preparing to go back into the world and back to school. Maybe you’ve had a break from the morning hustle and you are about to get back into the swing of things. Or maybe the morning hustle has been just that–a hustle–for too long and you are looking for some harmony. That’s what we are talking about today.

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Starting the day. It can feel like a lot. It can be busy and overwhelming. There are so many things that need to get done and so little time to make them all happen. I know in many parts of the world, people are preparing to go back into work or go back to school. And maybe you've had a break from the morning hustle for a while. And you're a little nervous about getting back into the swing of things, or maybe the morning hustle has been just that a hustle for a long

Time. And you're looking to simplify and bring a little bit more harmony into the start of your day. That's what we're talking about in this episode. Hi, this is Denaye. I'm the Founder of Simple Families. Simple Families is an online community for parents who are seeking a simpler more intentional life. In this show, we focus on minimalism with kids, positive parenting, family wellness, and decreasing the mental load. My perspectives are based in my firsthand experience, raising kids, but also rooted in my PhD in child development. So you're going to hear conversations that are based in research, but more importantly, real life. Thanks for joining us. I want to, first of all, thank Prep Dish for sponsoring this podcast. Prep Dish has been a game changer in our house when it comes to the meals, Prep Dish is a meal planning service, and I'll give you an idea of what it looks like in our house right now.

I've been getting up early on Sunday mornings and printing out my Prep Dish list and heading straight to the store to get her groceries. My husband likes to sleep in a little bit on the weekends. So Sunday mornings have been looking like me getting up, heading to the grocery store solo while he sleeps and the kids watching some TV. Then when I get home, my husband helps me unpack and we do the meal prep for the week and by about nine o'clock in the morning on Sunday, we're done. I like to do this super fast option that prep dish offers it's quick and easy. And then when it's time to actually get the meals on the table, that day that I'm serving them, it only takes 10 or 15 minutes. So I encourage you give it a try, go to

And you can get two weeks for free. Again. That's Speaking of mornings, that's what we're talking about this week. I know that mornings can be a tumultuous time in many homes in our home, we operate kind of on a, a 70, 30, maybe on an 80 20 ratio where 70 to 80% of the time we have pretty peaceful, smooth running mornings and 20 to 30% of the time, it feels kind of like a hot mess. And I encourage you to strive for somewhat of a similar ratio. Maybe you're only striving for 60, 40, or 50 50 start, right where you're at, but recognize mornings are going to be messy life with kids. Just life in general is going to be messy. Unplanned. Things are going to come up. Moods are going to vary based on what happened the night before and the quality of sleep things can be unpredictable in the mornings.

So for me, I put that into my head, into my self-talk. Not every morning is going to run smoothly. There's going to be some grumpy, irritable moods, maybe mine, but if I can set some baseline loose structure to the morning and 70 to 80% of the time, things can go pretty smoothly. I feel pretty good about it. Never striving for a hundred percent of the time. Never striving for perfection, allowing for some variability because we're humans. And we all have variability when it comes to our energy, our moods and our bandwidth. So if you have some messy chaotic mornings, don't feel like you're failing. Sure. Maybe can bring in a little bit more structure. Maybe you can use some of the tips that we're talking about today. But my tip number one is to embrace the messiness, take a deep breath and recognize you're not doing anything wrong.

It's not a reflection of your success as a parent. If your mornings, aren't always serene. I'm going to say some things that might seem a little bit obvious, but sometimes it's helpful to have reminder. If your morning feels really rushed, you might need to start earlier. And I don't know why this took me so long to figure out, but for years I strive to get up before my kids. And it took me years to figure out that if I wanted to get up earlier, I also needed to go to bed earlier. I don't know why, but it took me a long time to wrap my head around that. And I do go to bed earlier. Now I find that I'm much more productive in the mornings than I am in the evening hours. So I'd rather get up a little bit earlier and get things done in the morning.

Then try to run around and check off boxes in the evening. Finding and respecting our own rhythms is important because if you are not a morning person at all, then you might need to knock some of that stuff out in the evenings. You should never feel guilty for not wanting to get up before your kids that may or may not be your thing. It is my thing, but that does not mean it is your thing. So know your own rhythms, but also know your people. I have one kid who does not like to get up. And when that kid does get up, that kid, doesn't really like it. If you talk to her, certainly doesn't like it. If you hug her, she needs a little bit of breathing room and space when she wakes up. And if you try to bombard her with too much all at once, it backfires.

I have another kid who bounces happily out of bed and usually starts the day with the words, okay, now what it's just ready to go. So knowing yourself and knowing your people also helps you to understand the dynamic between you and those people. Because if you are one of those people that is slow to wake up and slow to get going in the morning, and you have a kid that bounces out of bed with a smile on their, that might get under your skin, that might set your fuse burning from the beginning of the day. So think about the morning moods of the people in your home and try to respect those as much as possible, but also setting expectations because like it or not, there's stuff that we have to do every day. I find that it's helpful to get up earlier and have more time.

But I also feel like when we have too much time, things can really drag out. If I have an hour and a half for my kids to get ready for school, it's too long because they know there's no urgency and they take like 30 minutes to get their clothes on. And then I spend 30 minutes following them around, asking them to get their clothes on. So I've found for us and the things that we need to get done each morning about an hour works, but it's different for every family for us an hour. That gives us a little bit of wiggle room, but not so much that we can get off track and doddle. Now, if you have a kid that gets up really early and you just have a lot of extra time because you can't control what time they wake up, figuring out how to schedule and plan for that time can also bring you some peace.

We can't forget ourselves in this. How do you fit into this puzzle? Because if you aren't taking care of yourself in the morning, you're going to be more irritable. If you don't get time for a shower or get time to brush your hair, it's probably going to show in your mood. It's going to pop up in your interactions with your partner, with your kids, or maybe that's just me. I know for sure when I don't get time to get myself ready, I start to feel resentful and annoyed. And it comes out in my interactions with the people around me. So I've had to make time to do those things for myself. So I do get up before my kids and I shower and I get dressed and then I help them through their routine. And once they are done with their morning routine and they've checked off all the boxes, then they get to watch an episode of something they like on TV.

And I use that 20 minutes to finish getting myself ready. So I kind of break it up into two different parts for myself. I have some start the day forms, which I will share with you. We've been using these for over a year with my kids and they work so well. If you go to, you can print those out. There's also a link there with a video that shows exactly how we implement them in the home. They are visual charts to show my kids the things that they need to get done. I like to use real life pictures. You'll see on ours. I actually have pictures of myself and my kids and our car. I like keeping real pictures on there because it feels very applicable and very relevant to them. Now I pull out these charts, which are laminated and give my kids a dry erase marker.

And they check off the boxes when they eat breakfast, when they get dressed, when they brush their teeth, each step of the way. And what this is doing is it's taking from a physical form where they're looking at the pictures and making it mental, this rhythm, this structure, this routine will eventually be something that they can execute in their head, but it could take years. So be prepared for that. Don't think you're going to bring out this chart and they're going to see exactly what they need to do for a couple of weeks. And then they're just going to be able to remember it all. Maybe some kids, but a lot of kids need that repetition. And they need that accountability to keep coming back to it. And if you are trying to implement a visual chart like this for starting the day, I just want to remind you that it's not a hundred percent.

Like I said, we use one and I would say 70 to 80% of the time we stay on task, get our stuff done, check off all our boxes. And we're on our way. The other 20 to 30% of the time, it feels kind of like a hot mess. And there are lots of moods, mostly irritable, putting it on paper. Having this visual chart helps in a lot of different ways. Our kids, executive functioning, their ability to sequence tasks and initiate tasks. That's still under development. So seeing it in a certain order allows them to repeatedly sequence those activities every day, putting it on paper also takes it out of your mouth. So it's not you nagging them saying, you've got to do this. You need to do this. It's actually coming from the paper. These are just the things you got to get done. It's not me bossing you around.

It's just me directing you to the paper, the list of things that you have to do, and sometimes taking some of that ownership off of your shoulders, allows your kids to feel like you're bossing them around a little bit less and more like these are just tasks that need to get done. It's not mom nagging me or dad nagging me. So I encourage you try a visual chart like this. You can make your own or find mine at But recognize it's going to take a lot of consistency. You're going to have to keep coming back to it time and time again. And it's not going to work a hundred percent of the time. Nothing works a hundred percent of the time. And I think whenever we try to set up systems and structure and they don't work a hundred percent of the time, sometimes we can lead to believe that it's not working or nothing's working or nothing is going to help.

Whenever we're aiming for perfection, we're always, it's going to fall short. So know that no matter what you do in the mornings, there's always going to be some messiness, always going to be some variability, take it and stride. You're not doing anything wrong. Don't see this as a sign of failure. I also think it's important to really separate and delegate tasks between partners. Maybe you drive the kids to school on one day and your partner drives them on another day. Can you put it on a calendar? So you each know what the expectations are. Can you put it in writing and in pictures? So the kids know what to expect too. Anytime we can put it in writing, we can prevent miscommunication, which lead to our fuses burning from the very beginning of the day and may prevent possible explosions early in the morning, which nobody likes to start the day like that.

Aside from the start, the day charts, thinking about the bigger picture of what the whole day looks like. I think when we can inform our kids about what is to come for the day, it can ease their minds a lot too. I know I have a kid that asks a lot of logistical questions. He wants to know where we're going. When we're going, who's going to be there. Who's driving. He wants to know the play by play of our days. I have a family bullet journal that I will do if we have a lot of unstructured time, or if we have a week where there's a lot of unexpected things coming up and in that bullet journal, I make it visual for him. I do pictures. Hand-eye right in the things that we're doing. And in fact, we have a vacation coming up and I've already done the bullet journal for our days, because I know those days are going to look very unusual for us.

And he's going to be asking me all day long, what are we doing next? What are we doing next? So making it visual and accessible to him really empowers him to know what's to come each day. And as the adults were kind of the keepers of the information. So how can we make that information in our schedule and our calendars more accessible to kids, especially if you have a kid like this that likes to know what's going on and what's to come, there's this Skylight Calendar that's been coming up a lot in my Facebook and Instagram ads. And it basically is kind of like a digital photo frame that shows the calendar that is linked directly to your phone. And I'm thinking about trying something like this, because I think that would be great. It would make my life easier. So I don't have to draw out the calendar for him each day and I don't do it each day, but I do strive to do it.

Like I said on weeks where our calendar is more regular or we're on vacation or something like that. Um, if you want a copy of my written bullet journal, you can go to, all one word. But like I said, I'd be really interested if you have any reviews of this Skylight Calendar or have another type of digital calendar where they can see it visibly without getting on your phone or on an iPad or something like that, they can just see it and you can post it up digitally, somewhere in your house linked right to your phone. I think that would be awesome. Thanks so much for tuning in today. I hope this has been helpful. If you want to try out my start the day forums, go to All one word. When you do that, you'll also get on the email list. And every Friday you'll get my list of my five favorite simple things for that week. Thanks again for tuning in, leave a rating or review. When you get a moment, I appreciate you have a good one.

Denaye Barahona

Denaye Barahona is a loving wife and mama of two. She's a therapist for moms, an author, and the host of the top-ranked Simple Families Podcast. Denaye holds a Ph.D. in Child Development and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has been featured on the likes of The Today Show, Netflix, The Wall Street Journal, Real Simple, Forbes, and numerous other media outlets.