Ep 4. Conquering the Morning Madness

I'm Ashley!

My mission at The Purpose Gathering is to help driven momtogs like you level up, so you can build a sustainable business AND a fulfilling family life. I do that through authentic brand photography for mompreneurs and my signature program for mom photographers: Side Hustler to CEO.

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Do you ever wake up with anxiety and anticipation of the morning? Like feel like you’re already behind when your feet, before your feet even hit the floor? I mean, are you going crazy trying to get everyone ready? So tired of repeating yourself for the hundredth time and feeling flustered and annoyed that somebody is always looking for something? Oh girl, I can relate. In today’s episode, I want to help you get out the door without losing your mind.

Hey mama, you have no idea how excited I am to be with you right now. This topic means so much to me, but before we dive in, I want to share with you a couple of reviews of the show.
From Purposely You Blog

Calling all mompreneurs! Can I just say that it feels so good to be able to hear that other mamas have been through what I’ve been through. This podcast makes you feel like you’re chatting with your best friend. I listened to all three episodes and I can’t wait for more.
Thank you so much for that review that melts my heart and just makes me feel so good.

One more from Kayla Baker.
Inspiring. Your words are so motivating. Thank you for creating this and inspiring myself and many other mamas out there. Thank you for being relatable, personable, and always humble in what you do. It’s hard work trying to be a stay at home mom while also pursuing a lifelong dream of becoming a mompreneur. Thank you for your encouragement and knowing it’s possible and that it’s important to lean on one another for support. I am so excited about this podcast. I’ll for sure be listening.

Thank you so much, Kayla. I love that you are feeling inspired, that is the goal of this podcast. Now, if you guys haven’t already picked up on this, my episodes are jam packed, so I want you to think about when you listen to this podcast, what are you going to be doing? Think of these as mini workshops. This is for free, mama, take full advantage. I’m giving you all my secrets about how to live a purposeful life, so I suggest listening to these episodes when it’s easy for you to press pause and do some note-taking.

Dreading Mornings
Now, this topic is so important to me because I used to dread the mornings. I know that you guys can relate to this. I found myself yelling, feeling so angry and irritated that I couldn’t get ready without a million interruptions. My kids were either fighting and arguing and beating each other up, or I’d go upstairs when they were supposed to be getting ready and I would find them playing. Like, what are you guys doing? You’re supposed to be getting ready. They had no motivation, I was so frustrated. They should know what to do, right? It was never ending and I hated it. Some mornings I dropped my kids off in tears. They were crying, I was crying, It was not good. I would leave their schools so mad at myself, I was so mad and feeling guilty that I allowed things to get so bad.

One day I decided something had to change. I couldn’t live my life like this anymore. It wasn’t fair to me and it wasn’t fair to my kids. It’s been a long journey of trial and error, but I want to share with you today how we transformed our mornings from chaos to being filled with peace and laughter. I’m going to teach you how to create a game plan for your morning, how to get a head start, and some of my biggest mistakes that I’ve made and what to do when things don’t go according to plan. And if you stick with me until the very end, I’m going to share with you some bonus tips about how you can have fun along the way.

How to Create a Game Plan
All right, mama, so getting out the door with kids is something we all struggle with. Even if your kids are not in school yet. I can remember when I had young kids at home trying to remember all the things, get the diaper bag packed, not forget the pacifiers, the infinite number of clothing changes that you had. I mean, gosh, it never seemed like I had enough clothes. Then you had to perfectly time everything, make sure your kids had like a freshly changed diaper. I was breastfeeding, so I had to make sure that my kids were fed and not cranky in the car because I couldn’t stand the shrieking that my kids both made in the car.

So I can totally relate to whatever stage that you’re in right now. There is always some type of stress or anxiety trying to get out the door. Now, I want you to take a moment right now and imagine what your mornings look like on a daily basis. Do you feel like you’re always frantic, rushing your kids saying, hurry up, hurry up, where’s that shoe? Zip your coat up. Wipe your nose, clean your face. I mean I can’t tell you guys how many times I remind my kids, repeat myself or say something like, if I have to tell you one more time, Oh, like I just remember getting so frustrated and irritated with all of the reminding.

Now, imagine what your ideal morning would look like. Imagine what it would sound like. What if your kids woke up every morning excited to see you? What if you had five minutes to connect with them and they felt empowered to be responsible to get ready for themselves? What would it look like if you and your kids sat down at the table together and enjoyed a hot breakfast? How would it feel not to be rushing out the door every single day? This can be your reality, it’s going to be hard work. It’s going to take training, but you owe it to you and your kids to at least strive for something better. It may not feel completely peaceful every morning. I know mine don’t, but if you shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land in the stars.

That has always been my philosophy; Aim big, aim better. I always want to be striving for better. So what is your ideal situation look like? And most importantly, actually believe that it can happen. I bet you’re thinking, okay, Ash, this sounds great and all, but how do I really do this? Well, I’m so glad you asked, let’s work on that game plan I talked about. This step is so crucial, If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. The most important part of changing anything in your life starts with a plan. I want you to think back to that ideal morning you just envisioned. What did it look like? What did it sound like? I want you to think of two to three words that would describe this ideal. Now think of two to three questions that you can ask yourself daily to reflect on how the morning went. I will give you an example of what I use to reflect on every day.

The two words that I think about are connection and laughter, and the questions I ask myself are, did I connect with my kids this morning? Did my house feel peaceful and filled with love and laughter? Did I yell or use my mom voice or say things like, hurry up, we’re going to be late! These questions help me evaluate how the day went and every time I get in the car with my kids, I say things like, Hey, there was no yelling today or great job team Freehan, that’s what we call ourselves. And I really make it about encouraging and empowering my kids to be a part of our family routine.
So it’s not just me who makes or breaks the morning, it’s us collectively as a team. My number one goal every morning is to get out the door without yelling. I would honestly rather be late, yes, even to school then yell at or rush my kids. Of course, my ideal every day is to be out the door on time, a little early, even without yelling, but I choose not to compromise my relationship with my kids just to be on time. Plus for the record, I can’t even name one time it has ever been worth it to yell or rush my kids, send them out the door in tears and then celebrate an on time arrival, absolutely never. I feel horrible, they feel horrible and it’s not worth it.

Establishing Routines
So now that you’ve decided on some specific goals for what you want your morning to look like, some words that you’re going to focus on and questions you’re going to ask to reflect on how the morning went. It’s time to establish some routines. I want you to make a list of everything that you need to do to get yourself out the door. Put every little thing on that list, even if it doesn’t necessarily happen every single morning or maybe it’s something that you want to work into your morning routine, but it hasn’t happened yet. Add all of those things to that list.

Next, make a list of everything your kids need to accomplish and be realistic and be practical. Mornings are really difficult, so if you can keep their to do list kind of paired down, that’s the best. Let me give you some examples of what my kiddos need to do every morning. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably heard me talk about this checklist a lot. I use it every single day and it really empowers my kids to know what’s next.
So I have their morning routine right in front of me and I’m just going to read it to you. Make bed, get dressed, brush teeth, use bathroom, brush hair, socks and shoes, pack up your lunchbox. Their lunches are already made the night before, but they actually have to put them into their lunch box, eat breakfast, and read a book. So both of my kids have the exact same morning routine, for the exception of my daughter, she has an extra step to put on her watch, so that’s the only thing that’s different there.

So while you’re making your own list, you can add pictures to it, add little checkboxes, print it out, and then I would recommend putting each of their checklists into a sheet protector. That way they can check it off every morning with a whiteboard marker. Try this out for a few weeks and see what needs to be added or changed. And once you feel like you have a really good system and routine in place, get these laminated.

I recommend posting one into their room and also near the kitchen so that they can refer to it at two different locations and they’re not always having to carry it with them because that becomes kind of an issue when they can’t find it. So post it somewhere where they can always see it and not use that as an excuse. If you don’t have time to make something, I’ve got you covered. I have a free template that you can customize for each of your kiddos. To grab this template head to the
When it comes to using this checklist, the only rule that I have is that they have to do everything on their checklist before they can eat breakfast. So they get to choose the order in which they do it, but if they want to eat breakfast, their checklist has to be done. If your child is not motivated by food and they don’t care about eating breakfast, this can definitely be a tricky scenario to handle. I suggest finding something else that they feel motivated by and putting that as the last thing.

So for instance, maybe they really enjoy coloring or drawing or stickers, so your verbiage might sound something like this. When your morning checklist is done, then you can get the coloring books or the paper to draw on the stickers to create, give them something to look forward to so they have to do all of the kind of mundane tasks before they get to do the fun stuff. You might also be thinking, what if my kids take too much time on the other tasks and don’t have time for breakfast? I can’t find them sending my kid to school hungry.

Trust me, I get it. I didn’t want to do that either. But if your children are motivated by food, it will only take one time of missing breakfast, maybe two before they understand that you mean business. This is definitely something I would say is reserved for older children. If your children are younger, they are going to need a little more hand holding and a little more guidance from you and that’s okay, we’re going to get to that soon.

A little disclaimer for you. Your kids might love this checklist at first and totally surprise you with their a massive productivity skills my kids did. I was so proud patting myself on the back. Oh my gosh, I felt amazing and then reality sunk in. The novelty wore off and they went back to just being so slow in the morning. I don’t know what it is, but they run at like half speed when I need them, but every other time they’re at like 10,000 speed so I don’t get it, but just because they dig their heels in, sometimes I do not back down. This is teaching them life skills that they will need for the rest of their lives. Included in that checklist that I mentioned to you is a after-school and evening routine. This leads me right into my next point about getting a head start.

A peaceful morning begins within established, afternoon and evening routine. Do you have one in place? Kids crave structure and rules even if they don’t admit it. If kids do not have clear expectations, how can we expect them to actually do what we want them to do? I guarantee you’ve heard this next tip, but how many of us are not doing it? Do as many of the morning routine tasks as you can the night before. So if you find yourself in the morning, flustered rushing to make lunches, your kids are whining about picking out their clothes, all the things that happened in the morning that slow you down, you, your kids can’t find their shoes, their jacket is dirty. For me, it’s my son, his shoes are usually outside and wet. How does that even happen? But it’s things like this that you should be catching the night before. So if you’re not already doing this, make sure that you are leaving time in your schedule after school and in the evening to prepare for the morning. This will be a game changer, I promise.

Here are the things that are on my kids’ afterschool checklist. Hang backpack, unpack your lunch, eat snack, pack your lunch for tomorrow. Tidy your room. We’re actually going to change this to family contributions and give them a little bit of time after school to do things like folding their laundry if we didn’t get to it on the weekend or tidying up the playroom things like that. Also on this checklist, homework, special time, an activity. The homework time, super self-explanatory. They have to get their homework done. I don’t, I don’t um, specifically tell them when they have to do their homework, they just have to complete it by Friday, which is when it’s due.

So I let them kind of be responsible for that special time. That is, if you’ve been following me on Instagram, I talk about special time a lot. That is 10 to 15 minutes of undivided attention that I give my children each and every day. It’s non negotiable. If my kids don’t want it, I still tell them it’s so crucial to our relationship to have it.

And sometimes if I don’t prioritize this, I can absolutely tell in their behavior and it’s just not worth it to miss it. And then the activity is something that we decide on together. So it could be going to the park, playing outside playing games. We also include like sibling time in this. My kids have very strict screen time rules but they can also have screen time a couple times a week. So that might include a Nintendo switch or learning activities on the computer. And then also I let them watch shows that are on Right Now Media, which is an amazing app if you guys have not heard of it, it’s on your TV and it’s Christian, like really wholesome good stuff. It’s not Netflix or Hulu, which I used to let my kids watch totally unregulated, which I stopped doing because I saw a huge behavior issues when they were watching those types of shows, so now it’s more wholesome TV. I’m also looking into PureFlix, if you guys have not heard of that, it’s like Netflix, but it’s super locked down to only good wholesome TV, because I can’t tell you guys how frustrating it is to not have wholesome TV anymore.
The last part of their checklist includes the evening routine, take a bath, put on PJ’s, eat dinner, read and snuggle. And then bedtime. Bedtime’s not on there, but you get the idea. So this evening routine is absolutely important to the success of your morning routine. Our kids have always had really strict bedtimes. I feel like it’s so important that children get enough sleep and sometimes I hear people saying that their kids have a really hard time waking up in the morning and this could be the reason why.

They need to have a clear, established bedtime, there needs to be a good bedtime routine in place and you need to be making sure that your children are getting enough sleep at night. Now, a peaceful morning begins with the night before, but it also begins with you. I mentioned this in episode three all about work life boundaries, but it’s important to mention again, if you want to be able to handle whatever comes your way in the morning, you have to wake up with intention. This means waking up before your kids.

Waking Up Early
Now I want to tell you guys how hard it has been for me to start waking up early. I heard this tip about eight times from people I trusted, people I loved, books that I read, experts. I knew that I needed to start waking up earlier: I just told myself lies like I’m not a morning person. I snoozed my alarm all as many times as I could until it turned off. It wasn’t until I heard this next tip that changed everything for me and that is to charge your phone in your bathroom. The reason why this works is because you actually have to get out of bed to turn off your alarm. This has been such a huge change in my whole morning routine because when I wake up and then my feet hit the floor, I turn on my lamp to tell my brain to wake up. I walk into my bathroom, I turn on the light. It’s telling my brain, it’s time to wake up. Now, this took a little bit of a process because I used to wake up, turn my phone off, like literally dismiss the alarm and go back to bed.

But when I started implementing this routine of waking up early, I began to crave it, I began to crave the quiet. I began to enjoy doing something for myself before I was needed. This time in the morning gave me freedom. It gave me peace, it gave me joy. On the mornings where I would snooze my alarm or I would completely turn it off and I would be woken up by my kids. Everything was frazzled, everything was frantic. The mornings that I don’t get time to myself are awful. That’s when I noticed this piece, this game changing piece of waking up before my kids. It is become ingrained in my brain.

It is a priority every morning to have this time to myself. I owe it to my children to be the best mom that I can be and this is how I got there. So just to give you a little taste about what my morning routine looks like, when my alarm goes off at 5:30 in the morning, I turn on all the lights, I turn off my alarm, I use the bathroom, brush my teeth, wash my face. I actually do my makeup first thing in the morning. I will go make a cup of coffee, I will make my bed because I feel super accomplished, my room looks amazing when I make my bed. I sit down in my bed and I start reading my Bible, I sit down and I study, I journal, and then after I’ve had some quiet time and reflection, personal development time, I can choose what I want to do next.

Maybe I want to jump right into work and get some stuff done before my kids wake up. Maybe I want to read a book that I have been putting off whatever I want to do and that time that’s for me and I get to choose. And if you listen to episode three about work life boundaries, I talked about this boundary that my children have to stay in their rooms and kind of play and hang out by themselves until 7:00 AM. And so I know from 5:30 until 7:00 AM, that is my time.

During at least this first hour of my morning routine. I try to make sure that I am not on social media. It’s so tempting for me to check my notifications and respond to DMs and emails and things like that. But it was actually stealing my joy in the morning, feeling flustered and kind of tied to that. So I’ve been spending my first morning social media free, trying not to respond to any correspondence and just savoring that time for me. I also make sure that if I have anywhere to be after dropping off my kids at school that I’m 100% completely ready by 7:00 AM. So my hair is done, my clothes are on. The only thing I don’t do is eat breakfast because I eat breakfast with them. So once seven o’clock rolls around, I know that it is full mom mode. It is my job to create that peaceful environment filled with love, laughter and connection.

So the first thing that I do is I go upstairs and I greet each of my children. I give them a good morning hug and a kiss and we spend time connecting for about two to three minutes. And that is my favorite part of the morning. Once I know that both of my children are feeling loved and connected, I will encourage them to get started on their morning routine. For some children, you’re going to need a little more hands on practical hand-holding, reminding them what’s next on your checklist? What are you working on this time? You know, kind of guiding them through the checklist and letting them choose which step they want to accomplish next. There are going to be times when your kids are amazing and they’re very motivated and they want to get their stuff done. Other days they’re going to be less motivated, be sure to leave margin in your schedule in the mornings. If you need to be out the door at 7:45, plan to be in the car by 7:30; This gives you time in case things go wrong. Maybe that missing shoe should have been found yesterday, but what do you do in the morning when the shoe is still missing? Then you’ll be so glad that you left margin in your schedule for little things like this.

Biggest Fails
Now I want to share with you some of the biggest fails I have experienced with this morning routine. Number one was neglecting the importance of the after-school evening routine and failing to enforce it. I think that you guys have been catching on to the idea of why it’s so important for that routine, but when I was neglecting the importance to enforce it, things were chaotic in the morning. I was frustrated at them for not having their lunches prepared. I was irritated at them that they didn’t have clean clothes when they should have done their laundry when I asked.
But it’s all these things that come back to am I expecting too much of my child? That goes in, that leads me into my next fail, expecting that my kids are 100% self-sufficient or that they should be. At least it took me months to realize that I was expecting my children to do everything on their checklist with little or no involvement from me. And of course that’s the end goal, but that’s not always the case. So when I notice that my children are not doing the things that they should be doing, I need to be present, put my body in the same room as them, help them remember why the checklist is there and why it’s important to get it done.

Another mistake was letting my kids sleep in, because they were up late the night before and I didn’t want them to be super cranky. But honestly, every day that I’ve let my kids sleep in, it’s become one of the hardest mornings because now we’re in a rush because we really are pressed for time, there’s no margin in the schedule. I’m anxiety ridden because they weren’t awake on time. So now if it’s seven o’clock and my kids are not awake, I will go in, turn the lights on and wake them up. I know that it’s not ideal to have to wake up your child, but sometimes it happens that way. If you’re waking up your child every single morning, try pushing their bedtime a little bit earlier, maybe they’re not getting enough sleep, and that’s an indication that they need more.

And my biggest fail of all was believing the lie that there’s no time for fun or connection in the morning. There’s actually no time to not connect in the morning. Connection is everything, so remember that morning checklist I was talking about and how read a book was the last thing on the list? I started moving that to the first thing on the list. As soon as I see my kids in the morning, I read them a book. It’s been so fulfilling to see their eyes light up in the morning when they know that I am going to connect with them and that I enjoy them and I’m excited to see them. I will say to my kids every morning, how’d you sleep? I missed you while you were sleeping. Where’s my good morning hug? And that connection is so special to me.

When Things Don’t Go According to Plan
So let’s talk about when things don’t go according to plan. Let me ask you a question real quick. Do you ever wake up on the wrong side of the bed, feeling unmotivated, irritated, lazy, frustrated? You just want to like ditch all of your responsibilities, any expectations that people have of you that morning and you just want to like close the blinds and cover your face with the sheets? Guess what, so do your kids. There are some days that your kids are going to wake up and just not be feeling it.

They’re going to push your buttons about everything. It’s almost like someone whispered into their ear, Hey, I’ll give you a whole bag of candy, all you have to do is push every single one of mom’s buttons twice. It’s like their mission to make you crazy. Can you picture these moments? Oh, maybe I just described what goes on in your house every morning. I’m going to be the bearer of bad news for a minute, you could be part of the problem, take that in for a minute. I’m giving you a virtual hug, I’m right here by your side, I’m you.

Some days are going to be hard. Some days my kids wake up and it’s like we are in a battle. Let me paint you a little picture. Two days ago, my son, Jaden woke up and he was digging his heels in. He was not going to do anything I said, nothing on his checklist was going to be done. He didn’t want to do anything all the tricks up my sleeve were not working. He was not having it. I had to walk away. I had to scream under my breath. I had maybe said a few swear words under my breath by myself in my room. I was angry and I needed to get out my anger. Not at him, not in his presence, but I had to just walk away and deal with my feelings. I was mad! Why was he digging in? Why was he not listening? Why was nothing working?

I wanted to compromise all of my parenting. I wanted to scream at him. I wanted to threaten him. I wanted to spank him. And you guys, if you know me at all, this is totally opposite of everything that I know to be effective and helpful, but I know from experience that staying to fight in the battle is not helpful. It’s like pouring gas on a fire; The words that were about to come out of my mouth, the actions I wanted to take, they were not going to help the situation. They were not going to help our relationship in any way. It was actually going to just make things worse.

So instead of fighting back and playing my because I said so card and launching World War Three, I came to recognize this as a warning sign, that my son needed connection and control. So let me shed some light really quickly about what it feels like to be a kid. From the day they’re born, they’re constantly being told what to do, what not to do, how to talk, what to say, what not to say, how to walk, where not to walk, what time to go to bed, when to wash their hands. And it has to be done right now as soon as I say so. Can you imagine if you had someone micromanaging you all day? You would probably want to punch them in the face am I right? And although our kids do need guidance and direction, there comes a point when we have to stop micromanaging their every move. We’re not raising tiny robots, we have to let them be their own person.

So in my example, when Jaden wakes up wanting to completely defy me and he wants to go to battle, that’s a huge red flag that he doesn’t feel connected enough to want to respect what I’m asking. He’s feeling neglected, but he doesn’t know how to tell me that, so he shows me with his actions. So when I walked away from the situation and I came back, talk to Jaden, I asked him, do you want to play chase? Do you want to wrestle? Do you need a hug? And as soon as I said those words, his eyes lit up and he said, I want to play chase. Did we have time to play chase? Not really, but we also didn’t have time not to play chase. Because in my experience, if you go down the road of the power struggle and the fighting and the World War Three, it takes longer than if you were to just stop and connect with your child for two minutes and then they will get back on track. The other thing I really want to stress to you guys is it’s okay sometimes to change the script, flip the script, make things fun.

Make it Fun
That leads me into my next and final piece here, make it fun. The more lighthearted you can be, the better, think about that. Those words that you came up with, Fun, connected, laughter, those were my words. If those things are not happening, my day is not going well. Here are a few bonus tips to make it more fun. Try beat the clock, set a timer and ask your kiddo, do you think you can beat the clock? How long do you think it’s going to take you to get dressed? Do you think you can do it in one minute? How about two minutes? Okay, set the timer for me. Let’s see if you can beat the clock. Are you ready? Okay, go!

They’re so much more willing to participate if you make it fun. I have another good one for my son, he has a really hard time with getting dressed. So I’ll say to him, I think I know what you’re going to wear. And he’s like, what? And I’m like, I think I know. And he goes, Oh no you don’t. And I said, I don’t know. Let’s see. And he’ll run and get dressed and I’ll come back and I’ll be like, what do you think I’m wearing? And I’ll tell him. Now we’ve been doing it for so long. I say, babe, I think I know what you’re going to wear, and he goes, what do you think? Tell me what you think and I’ll go wear it. So it’s super fun, like I’m just making it fun and it’s not so mundane and boring anymore.

This morning I woke up, I woke him up from sleep and he was really sad and sluggish and he wasn’t really feeling it. And I said, Hey, do you want me to read my book while you get dressed? And he loved that, so make it fun. Another thing that we do is I say, do you think you can beat me? Can you get dressed and brush your teeth before I do? He thinks it’s so fun, but never make it a competition between your children, there’s so much competition out there. We have a motto in our house, there’s enough competition in the world, we don’t need it in our house.

Some other things that we like to do is turn on music. We’ll take dance breaks, we like to play chase; for boys, their biggest thing is they need a physical outlet. Wrestling, kicking a ball, running laps around the house, do 10 jumping jacks. Literally, I’ve had to come up with so many different things. My son is very physical and if he’ll, he’ll like walk by and hit his sister and I’m like, what are you doing? So I’ve given her the words to say when he is rough, then she can say to him, do you need to go wrestle with mom or do you want to play with me? Like boys are different in how they express themselves. Sometimes I give my son a cardboard box to kick around the house; He needs a physical outlet and if I give it to him, he will be less likely to take it out on us.

I hope that you found value in these tips and I’ve discovered a few if not a lot of new strategies that you would like to implement into your morning routine. Remember, this is a process, it’s going to take time. It’s going to be hard, it’s not going to look perfect, but it’s important to remember why this matters. Creating a peaceful, calm environment is an important part of thriving with purpose.

In school, while I was studying elementary education, I was required to take an entire semester learning about classroom environment and how important it is for kids to feel safe. They need to know it’s okay for them to mess up, what to do when they’re angry, an environment where they can learn and grow.

So if it’s important in the classroom, think about how much more important it is in your home. Your kids will not remember all the things you said and did for them, but they will remember how you made them feel. Let’s continue to create a better environment for our children to grow up in. Let’s give them the best childhood we can. And that begins with a peaceful morning.

As always, mama, I’m here for you and you’re not alone on this journey.


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My mission is to help fellow momtogs (mama photographers!) experience success in business and in motherhood. As an Arizona brand photographer for mompreneurs, I’m passionate about capturing authentic images that show off my clients’ unique personalities so they can connect with their ideal clients. And as an online business coach for momtogs, I LIVE for helping mamas experience incredible transformations that help them build a business they love, without sacrificing their precious time with their littles.

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