Real Life Stories of a Disabled Mom: Making Mornings Work Smarter

Posted by Kieran O'Brien Kern in Life After Paralysis on November 01, 2022 # Lifestyle

kieran and familyA month into the school year, my family is starting to feel our morning rhythm. Routine when it works is fantastic, but for us it takes a while to find one that works. The fall weather means beautiful colored leaves and inconsistent functionality for me. Some days are fantastic, and I’m moving around like a champ and maximizing those precious hours when both girls are in school. But there is just as much (if not more) chance that I’ll be slowed down and using most of my energy to accomplish tasks that can be nerfed to the kids’ level. The following are what we do to minimize the physical and maternal load.

To make our mornings go more smoothly, we started by making their choices easier. If at all possible, showers and hair brushing happen at night. Hanging up their clothes as outfits make getting dressed a grab-and-go moment without needing support to pick out the clothes at the moment and supporting their autonomy. While we’re doing laundry, the additional effort is worth it when the morning goes much smoother. With the outfits made ahead of time, there is little to no discourse about what to wear that day. Shoes are all kept under a table by the door to eliminate morning footwear hunts. I eliminated the complicated, effortful, attention-getting lunches that took forever to make.

When I had time to make Pinterest-worthy meals in the morning, they rarely were eaten. The one to two hours I would spend orchestrating breakfast and lunch would leave me sore from maneuvering around the kitchen, and based on the day, I would either crumble into a chair for two hours or scoot my little to preschool, hoping that my muscles didn’t lock up. More often than not, we ended up having my older daughter buy lunch, save my effort and probably spend enough on the cafeteria to pay for a family vacation.

My solution this year was to get easy-to-prep foods that the kids could make themselves with minimal mess. My go-to is macaroni and cheese in a cup, chicken nuggets or anything that can be easily popped in a microwave and poured into a thermos. Fruit, granola, and savory snacks are all grab-and-go for easy acquisition and depositing into lunch boxes. My little one can put all the room temperature items in her box and my oldest handles microwave duty. My role is depositing hot or warm food into thermoses and spoons into lunch boxes. My husband fills the water bottles and makes the grown-up lunches. We all take turns making breakfast. If we’ve had a big breakfast on the weekend, I’ll make extra, so whether it’s quiche or pancakes, there is something easy, grabbable, and nutritious in the fridge. Otherwise, cereal, yogurt, are do it yourself for the kids or I use my favorite hack of putting frozen waffles in the oven to get everyone eating at the same time.

Hair and teeth are brushed after breakfast. My husband drops our oldest daughter first and weather permitting, I scoot to preschool with our youngest 20 minutes later. There will always be situations arising that throw a wrench in the plans. That’s where flexibility comes in. Motherhood doesn’t mean perfection or taking it all upon myself. Alarms don’t go off, outfits get mixed and matched, and lunches are forgotten. It’s all about choosing what. Sharing responsibility in the morning has a lot of my stress and effort, but it also empowered my family to own their parts in getting out the door in the morning.

I’m Kieran Bridget O’Brien Kern. Power is literally my middle name. When my husband and I became engaged, we agreed that parenthood was a two-person job. I am the primary caregiver to our children, but we all work as a team. From infancy onward, we have adapted and grown together. Every day there is a new challenge. Every new challenge is an opportunity to learn more about them and myself.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.