How your morning quiet time is sabotaging your day

It was dark and rainy outside. I slowly peeled back the covers and eased away from the warm little body bedside me and into the cold. If I woke him, all bets were off.

I fumbled around in the dark for my glasses and slippers as I eased quietly from the room to make a cup of coffee. I was lucky. I had groggily slapped the alarm right as it began to beep and my early-morning visitor snoozed on unaware today.

In the kitchen the soft blue glow of the coffeemaker seemed like a spotlight across the dark kitchen as I tried not to alert the dogs to my presence (of course they knew I was there, they were just astonished at my earliness). I was determined I was going to get in a few minutes of quiet time before my day began.

Listen or read more

As I settled into my chair Bible in hand, I opened to the Psalms and began to read. Within a few minutes I was nodding  — unfocused and barely able to keep my eyes open — until ten minutes a light popped on down the hall as my six-year-old noisily made his way to the bathroom.  I scowled (Incidentally that is the first image this child would have of me that morning) and slammed the Bible closed.

Another morning quiet time foiled. Why did I even bother anyway?

Most morning improvement courses and challenges (especially those for moms) insist that you get up early enough to have a good stretch of time spent reading and in prayer each morning.

It’s a nice thought. In fact, it is also how I prefer to spend my mornings.

But for the longest time my quest for this elusive morning perfection of quiet prayer and reading time was actually doing way more harm than good to my day. I know there are those who will never be able to agree with that statement. I also know it is truth. Here’s why.

I really needed the sleep more

As a mom of three very young children, what my body needed more than an early morning waking to be alone with God or anyone was sleep. God gave us prayer for the hard times but He also gave us common sense — it’s a gift from Him, really.

Common sense tells us that if our sleep is interrupted through the night by babies and toddlers that sacrificing what little sleep we are getting to wake up early to read and pray might not be the best course of action. The sleep might actually be more of what we need.

But we feel guilty. We see photos on Instagram of open Bibles, sunrises, and half-consumed creamy coffees and feel like we are falling short in our walk as Christian women if we don’t get that hour in each day.

I’m here to tell you that God is bigger than that. Where we would see failure, He gives grace — really.

It was making me grumpy

With the kids. With the baby. With my husband. Even with the UPS guy — and what homeschool mom doesn’t like the bearer of boxes?

My kids’ first glimpse of me almost daily was a scowl, a heavy sigh, a clear indication that they were interrupting something “better” that I needed to be doing. There was a disconnect in Christian charity here.

And the grumpiness often continued throughout the day. I was groggy, couldn’t focus on homeschooling, made mistakes and forgot things, and arrived at the end of the day ready to bite my husband’s head off than meet him with a smile at the door.

It was making me feel entitled

For the longest time I felt like I deserved to have a few minutes to myself each morning. How dare these kids (and sometimes even my husband!) invade my space! I would wake earlier and earlier to sneak away by myself, but they seemed to have some inner alarm that alerted them to my awakeness.

When they started joining me at [4:30], and it was a fight to get them back into bed (after all they needed sleep too), something had to give.

Because I had the biggest wad of resentment balled up in my chest and I realized that was not how I was supposed to feel as a mom.

It had become me versus them. I was losing, and I was not being a gracious loser. Even when I bit my tongue, my heart (and thoughts) were still black with sin, and it was eating me from the inside out.

What’s a mom to do?

I gave up. Not on prayer or Bible reading (though I will admit that for a season in my life those things did suffer).

I gave up on the myth of the perfect morning quiet time, and I just slept. The kids slept too. We all woke later feeling more rested, and I smiled more.

But most of all, my heart stopped being black and my wad of resentment disappeared.

Now that six-year-old is eleven. He came in at [6:03] as I was writing this morning, and I greeted him with a smile and a hug.

And my heart felt light.

Now I am off for a bit of quiet time.

What’s a girl to do? If we aren’t waking up early for prayer and scripture, how can we fit it in our day? This video has some ideas:


Up next: How your perfectionism is the enemy of your best morning. To be notified when we publish a new morning blog post, sign up to download our free Morning Habit Tracker. You won’t miss a post.

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  • BecTasmanian says:

    Pam, thank you. Permission to give ourselves grace has been received. Love the photos.

  • Holly says:

    Yes, yes, yes to this! Thank you!

  • Lauren says:

    I completely agree!! Early, early morning is not my thing. I take my prayer time and spiritual reading time when the kids go down for their afternoon nap. Sometimes my 4 year old comes out and wants to pray with me (which is slightly distracting, but I’m okay with it since he’s praying too!) and I will give him a post-it to draw pictures for Jesus.

  • Cathlyn says:

    This is exactly what I am experiencing now! I have attempted to get up before all my littles and am grouchy when they appear before I am ready. Thank you for writing this. I am going to sleep in tomorrow….what is even worse is we aren’t even doing school during December and I am still on this early morning schedule. Sleep is in the forecast.

  • Jessica says:

    YES, Yes, and yes!!! I had 8 children in 14 years and I knew I wanted to be a mom for the long haul and that my body desperately needed sleep. Choosing a literature rich curriculum that had Bible and History intertwined that I could share with my children was a lifesaver. It sprinkled the Bible all throughout our day and our conversations. I still miss the deep study of my previous childless era and look forward to it again as my children grow older eventually. That doesn’t mean I don’t study the Bible or pray, it’s just that it happens in smaller more frequent chunks.

  • Dana says:

    Thank you for being brave enough to say this out loud!!!!!
    Letting go of the guilt and moving on. Too many times I’ve heard that our morning time prayer and Bible reading doesn’t count for my spiritual growth. So glad to hear your grace-filled perspective. On the mornings I could make the quiet time work, I just didn’t want to disengage and move on with homeschool or household tasks. It made me resentful and grumpy that my quiet time looks different now than it did as a single woman where I could leisurely sit at the feet of Jesus. Thank you, Pam!!

  • Amy says:

    Your little ones are precious!

    Thank you for this, Pam! I remember these days well and I use to beat myself up all the time when my son was little and I couldn’t rise early to get that proverbial homeschool mom quiet time. Now that he is a teenager, there are mornings I have to WAKE him up! 😀 These days we have our morning devotion and prayer together, but something I’ve been doing for a while and find that it really gives me a charge in the morning, is worship! My alarm is set to a Christian music station in the morning and I enjoy the few minutes while I’m getting dressed and ready in the morning singing and praising God on my own with the music. It may not be the same as God revealing a passage of scripture to me, but often he will use a song to touch my heart and speak to me. Sometimes, I think we have to think outside that box and learn to just be in the moment…but just wanted to share what works for me. Thanks again for sharing!

  • Mama Rachael says:

    I needed to hear this today. Mr Wigglesworth, age 2, has been climbing into bed with us every night for the past 2 weeks. And its starting to really get to me with feeling tired all day… and since noone is napping any more, it means no nap for Mom. I keep reminding myself that the 7 year old stopped climbing into bed with us … it just takes time.

  • Buffy says:

    I LOVE how you said, “God is bigger than that.” And, “Where we would see failure, he gives grace…” I need to tape that to my soul!
    Thank you

  • Sarah says:

    Thank you Pam! I needed that this morning….so many times I am the angry sigh, Bible slamming mom because even if I lock my bedroom door, they still interrupt! Both of my youngest (8 and 4) also are big morning snugglers, so having my own space in the morning is really hard, but we all do better if I spend that time with them feeding their need for connection. I love the suggestions for getting fed throughout the day too! Thank you so much!

  • Leila says:

    Great post, Pam. I so agree. Our rule of life has to fit our circumstances and needs to include the basic things we need to function!

  • Sarah says:

    desiringGod.org is fantastic! Right now they have a podcast that we are doing for advent.

  • Abby says:

    Yes, yes, a thousand yeses to this! Once upon a time I tried the whole “get up early for prayer time” thing. And this exact same thing happened. I would become so resentful and grumpy when I was (invariably) interrupted, and be in so much worse a mood than if I had just stayed in bed till my kids woke up. I eventually learned to ignore the morning time advice and find my prayer and me time at the other end of the day when the kids were much less likely to interrupt. Thanks for speaking this message for those of us mommies who morning time has failed 🙂

  • Tarynkay says:

    The truth of this dawned on me when a preacher was exhorting our congregation to “give God the best part of our day.” He was encouraging early morning quiet time, but I thought- wait a minute, now. 4:30 am is NOT the best part of my day. In fact, it is pretty much the worst part. If I am awake, I am barely conscious. The best part of my day is 7:30pm, which is after the kids are in bed. Sorry, but it is true. I love them and enjoy them so much, but I also love when they are asleep. So that is when I do my quiet time. It leaves me plenty of time to spend time with my husband afterwards and still get to bed at a reasonable hour. That might not work for everybody, and I’m sure it will change for me as they get older.

  • Katie says:

    This feels like it has been my season of life for years. It is so easy to feel guilty about sleeping in, even though I need it with five babies nine and under that still wake me during the night. Thank you for the gentle reminder that this season of mine may last longer than other’s, but it is okay to keep listening to what my body needs.

  • Anita Wester says:

    This is absolutely fantastic…so spot on for moms of littles!! I loved the Christmas card idea- I’m gonna have to do that this year! I also love the quick little prayers- our church calls them “breath prayers”. That is something I do frequently! I have also been so guilty of disregarding the time I spend in Scripture with my daughter just because it’s at her level…that needs to stop! Thank you for all of these reminders. Blessings!

  • Kristin says:

    I’m trying to clarify. Are you advocating giving up Bible study if your heart’s not in the right place? Or are you just pointing out there’s grace and not the perfect Bible study because honestly there’s not the perfect life? So, Bible study can be done whenever and doesn’t have to be this huge thing with this grand perfect image in mind.

    The interruptions in our life God ordained to sanctify us. The dealing with our hearts is an important work of God: the learning to glorify Him through our life and love Him first. 30 years with kids and a 10 year still old at home, I have not always done this well. Oh but His grace is sufficient and His sanctifying work perfect and it can happen at three in the morning or two in the afternoon. His work will always draw us back to sit in His presence and learn who He is.

    At some point in the day, you have to find the time spend some time with God. Not out of legalism, But because you truly believe that He is the daily manna, bread of life, and He is living water and without Him you cannot be sustained.

    • Pam Barnhill says:

      I very clearly state towards the end of the post that I was not talking about giving up on Bible study. Just on the idea that it MUST be done in the morning.

      • Kristin says:

        Thank you for taking the time to re-clarify that for me.

  • Lacy Young says:

    Yes, yes, a million times yes! I have never, ever been a morning person. I am also most productive in the evenings (as is my husband). And I am also a person who needs 10-12 hours of sleep to function well and not be a bitter meanie. 🙂

    12+ years of co-sleeping with six children (our youngest is one month old!), has left me convinced that the best way for me to stay balanced is to sleep as long as possible every day. I have been blessed with children who conform their sleep pattern to mine, and so we are a family whose house is quiet until at least 9:00 am.

    I get in my bible study throughout the day, and I find my daily quiet time in the bathtub.

    I have had no end of frustration and “bad” days when I try to turn over a new leaf that consists of going against what just happens to be my most productive sleep/wake times!

  • Tamara Moore says:

    Love your tone and wisdom around this topic. The Lord is always calling us in ways that we can see and hear in our lives…As we are!!! Thanks for reminding us.

  • Terra says:

    I cannot see the video.

    • Pam says:

      I’m not sure why. It is there. Maybe try another browser?

  • Merissa says:

    Thank you for this! I’ve definitely been viewing the morning quiet time as almost a Christian necessity — something I should reach for in spite of all else. I’ve been struggling with the same blackness of thoughts and heart.

    I completely agree that God gave us the good sense to keep sleeping when we need it. Thank you for saying so!

  • April says:

    So true Pam! Now that my kids are 12 and 13 they sleep later and if I want them up in the morning I have to wake them or have them set an alarm! I can do now what I could not when my kiddos were small. I too need lots of sleep. I hope the other moms give themselves grace as they persevere through parenting young children!

  • Dena says:

    I am not a morning person. Never have been. However, I have chosen to wake up 30 minutes earlier anyway. I know that I am missing out on sleep. I find that I am a better mom when I get to sit down and have a cup of coffee in quiet solitude before greeting the day.

  • Jessica says:

    I am exactly the same way. I need my sleep and no matter how early I get up, my youngest has radar. Now my kids are getting a little less dependent on me so I am able to read at least a chapter of the Bible while having coffee, but we start our school time with family devotions and I find myself growing with them. I then have my personal time later in the day when it’s nap/rest time. Thank you for the encouragement!

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