“Mom Café” Shuts Down at the Same Time Every Night — And It’s My Gift to My Morning Self

published May 15, 2023
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Closed sign hanging in business window
Credit: Thana Prasongsin/Getty Images

By the time I make it to the gym for my 7:30 a.m. class, I feel like I’ve already lived a full day. By this time, we’ve already sent our five children to school, meaning five breakfasts and five lunches have been prepared. My elementary school-aged kids have to be at the bus stop at 6:50 a.m. (!!!), which means they have to be ushered through their morning routine before my coffee hits. (I’d love to be a wake-up-at-5 mom, but it hasn’t happened yet.)

All this morning activity in the kitchen means we can’t afford any extra hassles. I, for one, can’t deal with a stomach in knots from trying not to be late on top of all the things that need to get done while — did I mention? — not being a morning person. If I want an efficiently functioning kitchen, I want to avoid rushing at all costs.

There’s one thing I do that feels, to me, like a non-negotiable when it comes to a smooth morning: reset to a clean kitchen. This clean kitchen is last night’s loving gift to my bleary-eyed, slow-footed morning self who has to do all the things very quickly. 

My secret to getting a clean kitchen in the morning? I shut it down every night. This nightly cleaning routine, which includes clearing and wiping down the table, washing all the dishes, starting the dishwasher, scrubbing the sink, and sweeping the floors, is a must-do in our house. My husband learned within days of living in our first apartment that an uncleared kitchen at night makes me twitch. I’m pretty sure my kids think it’s illegal to not clean the kitchen at night. (Side note: My two oldest children know the shut-down routine and alternate weeks of cleaning up the kitchen at night. It’s a glorious thing.) 

Sounds straightforward enough, right? But there’s one sneaky little thing that can thwart all these best-laid and executed plans: someone coming and eating in the kitchen after clean-up is done. Crumbs on the counter, dirty dishes in the sink, or a mess on the stovetop ruin that first-thing-in-the-morning pristine kitchen feeling. To make sure this doesn’t happen, I have to stave off the kids who wander into the kitchen for a bedtime snack. “No, you can’t have cereal. No, you can’t make a quesadilla. No, you can’t have a second dessert. Mom Café is closed!” 

Lest you think I’m an ogre who sends her children to bed hungry, if their need for a snack is legitimate rather than a procrastination ploy, I’ll let them have a piece of fruit or a super contained, easy-cleanup snack like Greek yogurt and, of course, I’ll make sure it gets cleaned up. 

Running a tight ship like this might seem extreme, but starting off the morning on the right foot by walking into a kitchen that’s ready to serve our family impacts my entire day. A shut-down kitchen at night keeps my tenuous morning mood from turning grouchy; my day doesn’t start out with tackling dirty dishes or avoiding spills on the counters as we make breakfast and lunch. The gift of a clean morning kitchen has been worth the extra work at night every single time.