The Best Morning Routine for a Single Mom

Share36Pin399Email435 SharesFinding a morning routine for a single mom comes with its unique challenges. If you’re a single working mom, who has to get a child (or more) out the door to school and your butt to work each morning, this one’s for you. Would you rather listen to this post? Click below for the…

Finding a morning routine for a single mom comes with its unique challenges. If you’re a single working mom, who has to get a child (or more) out the door to school and your butt to work each morning, this one’s for you.

Would you rather listen to this post? Click below for the podcast. For more episodes or to subscribe to Grace for Single Parents click here

My youngest walked out the front door crying. “Get on the bus, I’m late for work,” I yelled after him. And I shut the door.

I held back my tears until I got into the car to drive to work. Only then did I let go.

When I parked at work, I took a couple of deep breaths and checked my eyes in the rearview mirror to make sure they weren’t red-rimmed.

The next morning, my guilt transformed me into the most patient mom in the world, and we had a smooth morning. But after a day or two of the stresses of being a single parent to a strong-willed child, the cycle of stressful mornings leaving us both in tears would repeat.

By the time I got to work after a morning like that, I felt as if I had already worked a full day. I’d be ready for a break by the time I’d gotten to work. And some mornings, I would even find myself relieved to be at work.

morning routine for a single mom

This is the Typical Morning Advice, But…

When I first found myself alone with two kids, I struggled to find a morning routine as a single mom. I followed the basic advice you see on internet-land, and it worked as well as can be expected.

  • Get up before the kids and get ready before they wake up
  • No screen time or electronics in the morning
  • Pack lunches the night before
  • Have your kids do all their homework the night before
  • Layout clothes the night before
  • On Sunday nights, have your child pick out 5 outfits to wear for the week
  • Take baths the night before
  • Have pre-made breakfasts for the whole week

All good suggestions, but like most everything you find online, married moms or stay at home moms are the ones giving advice. Single parents feel isolated and alone and left to figure out how to make things work for themselves.

Related: What Your Kids Need From You After Divorce

That Advice Doesn’t Work for Single Parents

Single parents cannot do everything (sometimes we cannot do anything) on the standard lists we find on the internet and read in books. As we read this typical advice, we realize:

  • My kid isn’t home the night before to pick out his clothes for the next day. He’s at his dad’s.
  • I try to check their homework the night before, but they came home upset late last night from the other parent’s house.
  • After single-handedly running the household 24×7 I don’t have the energy to prepare one meal, much less pre-make breakfasts for a whole week.
  • My children aren’t with me on Sunday evenings to prepare for the week.
  • My child is dropped off at my house in their pajamas one hour before school.
  • I can’t handle the fight of a bath at bedtime when my child didn’t get home until 9 pm from their other parent’s home.

As I frantically tried to follow the advice from the well-intentioned stay at home moms, I was making my house more and more upset. We couldn’t live up to that ideal. Nor are we supposed to.

Related: How to Create a Morning Routine Before the Kids Wake Up

What is missing is the awareness we face in our unique struggles. As single parents, we must always adapt the ideas, rules, and suggestions. Usually, from trial and error.

Mother and child hugging morning
Take heart: finding a calm and happy routine with your child in the morning is possible as a single parent.

The Best Morning Routine for a Single Working Mom

Nearly every morning was a struggle in my house. Sometimes a fight. I would cry on the way to work as I saw my youngest get on the bus with tears.

In the end, I asked myself what I was willing to give up. Bottom line – I’m single. I have no help in the mornings (or nights beforehand) now or in the foreseeable future.

Our mornings are going to look messy, but they don’t have to produce tears.

Maybe instead of adding items to our morning routine like most “mom advice” we subtract.

Related: How to Resolve Separation Anxiety in Children of Divorced Parents

For you, the list may be different. But here’s what I decided to let go.

  • Homemade lunches. Let them eat school lunch.
  • Are they old enough to pour their own milk? Good – they can have cereal for breakfast. Or breakfast bars. Whatever they can make (or find), they can eat.
  • My child’s hair is not brushed when he leaves the house. {gasp} It’ll calm down after a while and look brushed. It’s not worth a morning fight for me. Maybe peer pressure will win this one over time.
  • Pre-packaged snacks. I aim for less stress and to feed them healthy the majority of the time. This is how I keep my stress level down. The pre-packaged snacks can always be yogurt or dried fruit or cheese sticks.
  • Let them wear what they want.
  • Forget making beds.
  • When they were old enough, I quit standing at the bus stop. Even though all of the neighborhood moms do it, this one, I ain’t got time for it. I spend the extra 5 minutes inside getting ready.
  • My kids would love it if I’d drive them to school like some of their friends. Again, ain’t happening.
  • Give up nagging. This is what I was doing by telling my child what to do every step of the way. Instead, I made him a simple checklist (see below) and set a timer he could watch. He likes control. Once I learned to give up my control where it didn’t matter, we found our sweet spot.

First ask yourself: What are you willing to give up? 

Here’s What You Need to Ask Next

Once you’ve eliminated what you can let go, it’s time to ask yourself what needs to happen in the morning to get everyone out the door.

What’s most important to get accomplished in the morning? What does your child have to get done?

Here is all I care about in the morning:

  • Get dressed including shoes & socks & clean underwear (yes, I have to spell this out for one my kiddos)
  • Let the dog out (um, and back in)
  • Eat breakfast
  • Brush teeth
  • Pack backpack – does the backpack contain – Snack? Instrument? Homework?

I recommend not having more than 5 items. Your goal is to get yourself and your child(ren) ready in the morning with no to low stress. Even better, you and your kids leave with no tears or yelling. Best yet, you leave without forgetting anything.

Your goal isn’t to leave the house and also fit in some chores. When you try to do it all, you’re asking for something to go wrong.

You’re already doing amazing things – you’re a working, single parent.

The Single Mom Toolbox for Your success

You can get this printable to list out 5 things that are important to you each day from the Single Mom Toolbox.

Each page is perfect for 2 kids. If you have only one child, you can cut off the bottom portion or use it for the next week.

Or, you could get this laminated so your child can check off the days over and over. The “To-Do” column is blank for you to personalize the chart.

Figure out what is essential for you and your family. What 5 things must get done each morning?

Morning routine available here for download in the Single Mom Toolbox

The Bottom Line

As single parents, this is the key: we must adapt, we have to give up some things to get other things. I decided to give up doing 500 things in the morning for peace with my kids.

These days, the crying and yelling have significantly dropped in the mornings around my house.

Now, my mornings consist of watching my youngest play basketball outside for 5 minutes before the bus arrives. When it’s time to go, he throws me the basketball and yells, “I love you, mom” every morning.

What a difference.

This post was part of a 7-month series “Secrets of a Successful Life by Single Mom Bloggers.”  A group of single mom bloggers take a different topic each month and join forces. Check out the full series over at Empowered Single Moms.

The Best Morning Routine for a Single Mom


  1. I totally agree surviving as a single mom is all about efficiency, being clear on priorities and letting go of things that are not a top priority.

  2. I too agree! I am so glad I ran into this blog. It is very helpful to me. I will do this step by step. My only problem is that I don’t have a support system nor do I have a mentor. I am doing this all alone. So any advice or blogs that can be directed my way will be extremely helpful to my life situation. I don’t have a career and I work with a temp agency, which isn’t bringing in much income nor do I get child support, so this is very difficult for me. Thanks for this information your doing amazing keep it up because us single women need all the advice we can get.

    1. Frances, So sorry to hear you’re doing it without a support system, that is very difficult. There are a lot of moms in your situation and we are all here for each other. Do check out the other bloggers in the series and see if you find inspiration & practical tips from them too. Don’t lose heart!

  3. I am also a single mom with no support system I would love to connect 🙂

    1. Monica, there are a couple good Facebook groups I can send you specifically for single moms that are encouraging and not drama-filled. It’s a good way to connect with other single moms that are not in your area.

  4. Krishna Janosky says:

    Please send me the single mom groups on Facebook. I’m also a single mom with no support system no child support and I’m a first time mom living in a new state really need some kind of support!

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