Your husband hits the snooze button for the third time, you haven’t even thought about what to pack in your kids’ lunches, they’re still sleeping and need baths, and everyone has to be out the door in fifteen minutes. Sound like mornings at your house? It doesn’t have to. With these time-saving tips, you can reduce the stress of your family’s rushed mornings.
Get a head start the night before. Anything you can do ahead of time will help in the AM when time is tight. Start right after school by making sure all homework papers go right back in each child’s backpack after assignments are finished. Each evening, make sure your kids have put their backpacks in a designated morning spot, taken baths or showers, and laid out their next day’s clothes. Then, all they have to do when they wake up is get dressed, eat breakfast, and stop by their morning spot for everything they need to take to school.
Say no to Mr. Snooze Button. If you’re not a morning person, consider going to bed at a decent hour so you’ll be less tempted to sleep in (and in and in). Tracy Webb, a self-described night owl and mother of two, enjoys staying up late but admits that her family’s mornings run a lot smoother if she goes to bed by 10:30 PM and gets up as soon as her alarm goes off. When you get a full night’s sleep, you wake up refreshed and ready to face whatever your day holds.
Teach your older children to get ready on their own. Taking charge of a morning routine is an important step in your children’s growing independence. Train your kids to pick out school clothes, fix an easy breakfast, brush their teeth and their hair, and get shoes and coats on – all by themselves. This way, you can focus on finishing any last-minute morning tasks or helping younger children get ready.
Divide and conquer. If your children are too young to get ready on their own, split morning responsibilities with your spouse like Leia Rayman does. While Leia showers, her husband, Cory, feeds breakfast to their infant daughter, Janelle, lays her back down for a short nap, packs her bag for the sitter, and leaves for work. Leia is then free to finish getting ready before waking Janelle up, dressing her, and dropping her off with the sitter on her way to work. If you have multiple young children, try playing man-to-man: each of you take one child to feed, dress, and get to daycare or school.
Make mass batches of your family’s go-to sandwiches. Some sandwiches freeze great in individual sandwich bags, especially if you hold the mayo (try a little butter for moisture instead). Thirty minutes is all it takes to fill your freezer with a big batch of sandwiches that will last a couple of weeks. The frozen sandwich acts as an ice pack for the rest of the lunch but thaws by lunchtime. Add in a prepackaged yogurt, a piece of fruit, and a juice box, and you have a healthy lunch that’s easy to grab and pack in a hurry.
Institute a “No breakfast until shoes are tied” rule. In Carolyn Brednich’s house of four boys, breakfast used to be the time-zapper of their morning. As the boys laughed and dawdled at the breakfast table, the minutes ticked by, leaving them in a rush to get dressed and gather backpacks. Now, the kids have to be completely dressed with shoes on before they can sit down to eat. Since implementing this rule, Carolyn’s sons stay focused on getting ready quickly. “Boys are always hungry, so breakfast is a good motivator to hurry up!” she says. You can implement the same type of rule with technology. If your kids waste time texting or watching TV in the morning, allow them electronics privileges only after they are completely ready for the day.
Expect the unexpected. Whether your kindergartener spills milk at breakfast or your teen forgets his backpack at home, the unexpected happens, even with the perfect routine in place. Emily Hanauer, a mother of four, says, “Don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go perfectly. Sometimes my kids have to buy lunch because I didn’t realize we were out of bread, or my four-year-old wears his favorite shirt three days in a row because I don’t want to fight him over it. Some things just aren’t a big deal in the long run.” Try setting your departure time ten minutes earlier than needed to account for the occasional flat tire or that forgotten backpack.
Use these tips to make your mornings less stressful, but remember what’s most important – that your mood, as the parent, sets the tone for the day. Take a tip from Emily: “No matter how crazy it is or how late we are running, I always pray for the kids and give them each a giant hug before we get in the car. I want their day to start on a good note, knowing that I love them.”
Now that sounds like something worth waking up for.
By Sandi Haustein, a freelance writer and mom to three boys. She prides herself on getting her kids to the bus stop on time.