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Living Simply by Rising Early

Living Simply by Rising Early 2

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There is one time of the day when the phone never rings, the world keeps getting brighter, and you have the whole day ahead: early morning.

Did that sentence just set your teeth on edge? You very likely had an instinctive reaction to the phrase “early morning.” You said to yourself, “I am not a morning person.”

The Yankee Way to Simplify Your Life

One of the hardest parts of adjusting to motherhood has been the total lack of control I have felt over my sleeping and rising schedule. Caroline did not sleep through the night until she was five months old which meant we were up at least two or three times a night. She also teeths badly, moaning and waking up often which of course wakes me up without fail. When she is teething, she has a very hard time going back to sleep. So for the last twenty months I have felt very much at the mercy of her sleeping patterns.

At times I have decided to stay up late just to get things done. I could always count on four or five hours of quiet once Caroline went down.  Invariably, whenever I had planned to get up early, Caroline also woke up early so I gave up on rising early because I was never certain of those hours being available to me. But in staying up late, I have usually paid the price of not getting enough sleep and have ended up sick. This has only frustrated me more in my feeling like I was living in a no-win situation over which I had no real control.

And, honestly, it was a no-win situation for this time in my life. The only thing I could do was muddle through, do what I needed to do for Caroline, and remind myself constantly that it would not always be like this.

Going through this has only reinforced my conviction that one of the keys to living simply is rising early. However, I will add this caveat. One of the keys to living simply is rising early and also getting enough sleep. There is nothing simple about rising early if you are trying to make it on only three or four hours of broken sleep. But for most people who want to rise early and struggle with it, the problem isn’t in the morning. The problem originates the night before with staying up too late. I know of which I speak because that is my struggle – forcing myself to stop at night and go to bed so I can get up early.

My ideal day would resemble Daniel Webster’s in a small way:

At his beloved Massachusetts farm, Marshfield, rose at three or four in the morning. Fed his cattle and then went to his library, worked until nine. Breakfast at ten. Afterward liked to say, “I have finished my day’s work, written all my letters, and now I have nothing to do but enjoy myself.”

My preference is to rise at five, read my Bible and pray, work for a couple of hours while Caroline is still sleeping, breakfast when she gets up, use my morning very productively, and have lunch. I would prefer to eat our big meals at breakfast and lunch so that when the lunch dishes are cleaned up, the bulk of my day’s responsibilities are over. Have I fully arrived at that yet? No, but I am encouraged that I finally have the opportunity to begin moving in that direction and have been making small steps in the direction of reclaiming my early rising pattern of living.

Some people certainly get up early more easily than others. But if you feel groggy first thing in the morning, that does not mean you are biologically incapable of getting up. In the days when most Americans farmed, everybody was a morning person. A dairy farmer would not roll over in bed at 4:00 a.m. and mutter to his wife, “I’m sorry, dear, but I can’t milk the cows right now. I’m not a morning person.” We all wage a continuing struggle against biology. Who is genetically suited to sitting at a desk all day or driving a cab for hours? A woman who’s thinking of taking up jogging doesn’t determine whether her oxygen uptake and slow-twitch musculature make her a jogging person. Yet we’re perfectly willing to categorize ourselves as biologically unfit for dawn just because we’re not one of those (extremely rare) people who bound out of bed, beam at their suffering spouses, and shout, “Good morning! What are your plans for the day?”

I am not naturally wired to be a morning person. I just know how much better life is when I get up early. I truly believe the day is won or lost by 10:00 a.m. There are intangibles available in the quiet of the early hours that aren’t available any other time of day. Perhaps most important is the ability to be alone with my thoughts and start my day quietly before tackling the responsibility of a lively toddler. For me, it is a key component of living simply.

The Yankee Way to Simplify Your Life: Old-Fashioned Wisdom For A New-fangled WorldThe Yankee Way to Simplify Your Life: Old-Fashioned Wisdom For A New-fangled World

Living Simply by Rising Early


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  • Interesting post, Sallie. While I have never been an “early riser”, one of the things I’ve been wanting to do this summer is take morning walks. My husband works from home and typically starts his business day at 8:30am; the kids get up at 7:30am. I figure that would give us all at least 45 minutes of fresh air and exercise.

    The trouble is, we haven’t been exactly motived to get dressed and out the door before noon! This post certainly gives me something to think about.

  • I’m not naturally an early riser, but I’m married to one. we’ve discovered over the years that its more about how long it takes one to shake off sleep than about time of day. No matter when I wake up, it takes 15-30 min to feel like I’m functioning. Unless I happen to wake at a certain point in my sleep cycle. or something (a noise, or a big event) jumpstarts my adrenaline. As soon as Mr N sits up, he is functioning, even if its 2am.
    I completely agree that the day is set in it’s direction by 10:00 which reminds me I need to wake my boys and get them started or it could be yet another day of dawdling through.

    Mrs N

  • My situation is a little different because we cosleep and still nurse at night. I usually go to bed with the baby around 9 pm or so. Once she’s deep in sleep I can usually get up again for an hour or two, but by then I’m too tired to do much. In the morning, I wait for her last night feeding around 6:30 or 7 am, and then try to slip away while she sleeps in. The past few weeks, though, she’s been waking up before I get away nearly every morning. I am a bear if I don’t get time alone in the morning to boot up my brain and plan what I’m going to do that day. It took me a while to notice that I wasn’t getting less time alone, it was just happening at night instead of in the morning. Maybe she will start sleeping in again when these two new teeth finish coming in. (In the thick of teething, she will nurse more or less hourly all night long, but only for a night or two per tooth.) I also take an afternoon nap right along with her.

  • I truly believe the day is won or lost by 10:00 a.m.

    I am a morning person and always have been. Sallie, I totally agree with this statement. I like to get as much done as I can before noon to free up the afternoon for things I want to do as opposed to have to/need to do.

  • Mrs. N. – I understand. When I was younger, I could hop out of bed and be instantly on go. But as I’ve gotten older, it has taken me longer to be ready to get out of bed and be fully functional. 🙂

    Peggy said, “I am a bear if I don’t get time alone in the morning to boot up my brain and plan what I’m going to do that day.” Oh yes! I completely understand! If I don’t get some time to myself in the morning before Caroline gets up, it really does make me peevish.

  • This is a lesson that I learned while in college and I’ve taken it to heart ever since. With the exception of times when I’ve been up in the night feeding a baby, I adore rising early, waking up as the world around me wakes up. I love the quietness and freshness of the morning. To have some solitude, time with my thoughts and with God and my tea, unclutters my mind and prepares me for what lies ahead.

  • Sallie,

    I am disgustingly cheerful at 4:30 am and love that time of day! I love sipping coffee in the deck and listening to my birds, enjoying the stillness before I have to enjoy the pandemonium!

    Here is a word of encouragement for you regarding a toddler’s sleep and the lack thereof….one of these days she will be a teenager and will NEVER want to get OUT of bed!

  • Ah, early mornings. I am an early morning person, as is my DH. I don’t know what I would have done had God given me a husband who wasn’t! 🙂 And I LOVE thatmom’s remark , every teenager I know sleeps until noon! So, yall with young ones remember, just a few more years and you’ll have teenagers who sleep all day, and leave you all alone!


Sallie-Schaaf-Borrink-060313-B-250x250I'm Sallie, teacher by training and now homeschooling mom of Caroline. My passion is to provide products, encouragement, and information that helps others discover and do what works with their children. I also write about living a cozy life as a highly introverted person. Welcome! ♥

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