One may have heard stories of a mythical group of people who wake up in the morning and are not only capable of functioning like human beings. In some cases, these people may even enjoy being up that early!
If you are reading this, then I will assume you are not one of those people and that in the am, you are more like me, a shuffling, zombie-like creature from which strange garbled sounds emanate at odd intervals and who is avoided at all costs by those around her.
This is one of the many reasons I get up so early. By the time the rest of the family is required to roll from their duvet lined lairs, I have had the opportunity to wake-up and shake off the shackles of sleep, making it safe for them to say good morning and leave the connection between their head and the rest of their body intact.
If you would like to discover how to get from alarm to school drop-off without either losing your mind or the will to live, take a quick tiptoe through my personal hints and tips, with which I have managed to survive mornings with five kids and still come out the other side unscathed. Relatively.
20 Plan Ahead
As someone who sighs deeply and rolls their eyes into the back of their head more melodramatically than any teenager ever could when I hear the words “plan ahead” I know you probably don’t want to listen to this.
The best thing you can do to make mornings run more smoothly is to get your planning game together. Print out a sizeable one-month calendar page or four one week sheets. Write down anything your kids will be doing at school which will need non-regular items, such as sports gear, or music lessons. Check this info every evening to avoid last minute morning panics.
19 Weekend Warrior
Using this school calendar I have a routine where, on a Saturday, I make sure we have everything ready for the coming week.
So, for example, child one will get together their hockey gear and show me their bag, pre-packed with all of their equipment, then zip up the bag and place it in the designated spot. That way, when the lesson day comes, she can grab it and go.
We also add longer-term homework “due by” dates or projects because I’ve been told once too often “Oh, by the way, I need to take a tabletop size map of the Amazon tomorrow.”
18 Pack The Cupboards
It is not always easy to stock up the cupboards. Not only do you have to find the money but, if your littles are like mine and change their minds every two minutes, you have to lay bets on what they will and will not like this week.
If you can swing it, buy as much as you can in the way of non-perishable food-stuffs. When you have these to hand you can either clip together, or place in a Ziploc bag, varied bundles ready to drop straight into your kiddos lunches.
17 Freeze, Freeze, Freeze Everything
As well as packing the cupboards, make an effort to stock the freezer for breakfasts.
If you like to pack the kiddos bellies with a hot and hearty start to the day, the time taken to make, distribute, consume and clean-up after the first meal of the day can make the morning more difficult than it has to be.
You can batch cook and freeze; pancakes, waffles, muffins, egg, sausage, bacon, and all manner of combinations of these ingredients. Merely grab ‘em and microwave ‘em when you have a busy a.m. It’s an occasional quick alternative to cooking from scratch.
16 Smoothier Mornings
Not all families are fans of cooked breakfasts, and not all kids want to eat first thing in the morning either.
If you have a household of shuffling zombie food refusers in the morning, why not try smoothies, or juices to give your offspring a much-needed boost of fuel for the day, without the dreaded “You have to eat something” discussion.
We regularly make large batches of juices and smoothies and freeze them in single serve portions. The night before school the kids choose something and stick it in the fridge to defrost, ready for the next morning.
15 Chart A Course
This one is an oldie but a goldie and just because something has been around forever, doesn’t make it any less valuable or any less effective. So here we go…
The idea behind the chart is not to train your kiddo to stick to a regimented system, but to help them remember particular items, so make each child a personalized chart of the steps they must take to get ready for school each morning.
If your little one always forgets to make the bed, put that on their page. If you have a child, who remembers this step but never puts their laundry in the bin, just use that point.
14 Go Prospecting
Take the time each evening to ask if there are any letters from school: permission slips to sign, ridiculously last-minute requests for help in arranging a school event, or anything similar.
It is a scientific fact that, as far as children are concerned, paperwork from school ceases to exist as soon as it enters their bag or backpack.
Unless you go looking for them, these elusive sheets of parchment can only pop back into existence on a morning when you are already running late and herding kids out of the door.
The length and complexity of the school notice, and how much you need to do in order to deal with it are all inversely proportional to how little time you have.
13 Work The Evening
Good morning routines start the night before and it’s not just about packing the lunches and filling the water bottles -- although these are all important elements.
While you are busy lining up bags, shoes, and coats and setting out clothes, take the time to chat with your kids about the day they have had and the day they are expecting tomorrow.
These discussions can unearth all manner of issues and worries that could be bubbling under the surface, ready to explode at an inopportune moment. Being able to have a pep talk about an impending test and lend a hand studying, for example, can mean you do not have an anxious, fractious child ready to pop as you leave the house.
12 Don’t Do, Delegate
Many of us make the mistake of trying to do everything ourselves. This is, in part, because when we leave things up to anyone else they make a right pig's ear of it and we have to undo their terrible mess and re-do everything ourselves, which takes three times as long as doing it ourselves in the first place. It is also because people don’t follow instructions and because I am a control freak who has to have everything done, my way.
Dang. That got away from me a bit at the end there.
Delegate jobs like laying out the breakfast plates to the kids. It’s good for them; it’s good for you. No arguments.
11 Switch Off
Make first thing in the morning a no-electronics zone in your home. Although this will no doubt result in a series of mini-meltdowns during the first few days of the rule, stick with it because you’ll be creating a win-win-win situation.
The first mommy "win" you'll get for yourself is that you'll be eliminating a significant distraction. Without a cell phone or tablet splitting your child's concentration, they may be more likely to get from the beginning to the end of a task without interruption.
Win number two is that you won’t have to be continually carping on at them to put the tablet down and get on with task X and, finally win number three, you might actually get a few words out of your mini-mes in the morning.
10 Hit The Right Note
When ditching the electronics, avoid picking up the control for the TV while you are about it. Play some music instead.
You can sit down with the kiddos and put together some playlists together. This minimizes the complaints about who gets to play what and when, as well as being a great way to hang out with the littles for an hour on two one afternoon.
On a side note: in our home, there is an added benefit to music in the mornings. Our kids are rarely impressed with their mom singing loudly and channeling her inner Freddy Mercury and, as a consequence, usually can't wait to get out of the house in the morning.
9 Be First
If your kids are grouchy first thing in the morning and they inherited this aspect of their character from you, the a.m. can be a doom and gloom filled struggle.
To remove one element of the desolate carnival of misery that is school day mornings, get up an hour or two before the rest of the family.
Yes, this sucks and is, in some ways, unfair, but by giving yourself a chance to wake-up, you are removing one unit of misery from the equation and replacing it with a semi-functioning human being.
8 Bathroom Bookings
It doesn’t matter how many children you have, or what age they are, on school mornings there will always be somebody standing outside the bathroom, banging on the door, demanding that the occupier hurry up.
To minimize these dramas, we have put in place a bathroom schedule where each person has their timeslot, and only emergency calls of nature are considered an appropriate excuse to interrupt.
The first twenty minutes after everyone gets up are open so all the littles can go pee, after that, wait your turn.
7 Warning Bell
Transitions between one activity and another can be difficult to manage and can often turn into blow-ups. For example, if your child is getting dressed really slowly and you call out that breakfast is ready now, they can either go to breakfast half dressed or keep you waiting. Both options are likely to cause tension.
I use a “five-minute warning” system and let the kids know their butts have to be on stools, at the counter, in five. They know to hurry up, and I don’t get stressed waiting. We also use this for “leaving the house in five.”
6 Take Away Morning Choices
It is easy to get into the position where you end up discussing what your child would or would not like to wear in the morning.
This can be frustrating and exasperating to say the least, especially when you have to explain for the thirtieth time why you can’t wear a tutu to school in the snow, without other clothes on under it.
Lay out clothes the night before and get those discussions out of the way and if you’re unsure how the weather’s going to be next morning, lay out an alternative.
Stick with the “lay it out the night before” routine with older kids to avoid the “my life is over if I do not wear the sweater with the rainbow T-Rex today and I can’t find it” dramas.
You probably already know not to trust your child to bounce out of bed the moment the alarm goes off and are no doubt you are accustomed to checking they have actually released themselves from the warm clutches of the bed covers.
However, it is important to keep regular check-ins throughout the morning. This isn’t the same as having to chase them up on every point to ensure things are getting done. I’m not talking about having to constantly nag your teen to hurry up.
Instead, it is more about checking-in and asking your little one if they need a hand with their shoelaces instead of waiting until you are walking out of the door before noticing they are struggling.
4 Line It Up
When you have structure, it is easy to see when something is out of wack and a case in point is bags, coats, and shoes in our house.
Once homework is complete, school bags, coats, shoes and everything else are all lined up at the door, in the same child order every day. A single glance is enough to know if the kiddos are sorted for the morning, something you can’t do if all of the items concerned live in various places around the house.
If I notice child #4’s bag is missing, we’ll deal with it there and then and don’t discover at 8:00 the next morning that he left it at a friends house.
3 Build In Some Time
When we are all constantly stressed and exhausted it is easy to try and maximize the amount of time we spend getting some rest.
This is, of course, why the idea of getting up way before the children is such a difficult one for many of us. If that is you, you’re not going to like this one either, sorry!
If getting the family ready and out of the door takes 45 minutes, get everyone up an hour before you leave. Even with the best plans and organization hiccups occur. When you have no spare time, it’s a disaster of epic proportions.
Having an extra 15 mins can make a world of a difference even if that means a little less sleep for mommy.
2 Set An Example
If you want your kids to be organized, responsible individuals who can get themselves together in the morning sans drama, be a good role model.
Don’t complain your children never get themselves ready on time while you’re turning the house upside down trying to find your keys. Turn your laptop off and stop getting a jump start on work emails before you tell the kids to put down their phones and concentrate on getting ready.
You may not be that mom who has it all together and under control but you can try to fake it ‘till you make it, especially in front of the kids.
1 Let It Gooo
When all else fails, give in to the chaos and just let the sh*tstorm rage. Sometimes it is the only way for the kiddos to learn to pull their finger out and get it together in the mornings.
Your teen might believe they will die of embarrassment if they do not have the “right” clothes for school today but you can safely point out that actual deaths reported as a result of wearing a purple tee instead of a green one are zero and that if they want a particular item of clothing, they need to plan ahead.
In the short term you’ll be the evilest mom in history, but in the long term, your kids will learn to get a little more organized.
Reference: This mom of five's personal experience.