I think all moms can agree that mornings can truly make of break your entire day. The flow of the early hours sets the stage for the rest of the day. We will forever be chasing after all the minutes we overslept and the mood of our kids’ paint every hour thereafter. Sprinkle in a little bit of separation anxiety and you have a recipe for disaster and intense mommy guilt! It’s time for you to find the best morning routine and have MELTDOWN-FREE Mornings! It IS possible – taking it from a working mother of four!
(This post was originally published in October 2014. At the time the article was written, I worked full-time in an office with four kids, two of them school-aged. The post was updated in March 2021. While I no longer work outside of the home, I completely stand by this advice, more so now than ever before.)
I work at an office during the week, we have two school-aged kids, two babies who stay home with a nanny, and one husband who manages to escape all the morning fun. My husband claims that he MUST leave for the office at 6:30 am – GENIUS move on his part! SOMEHOW I managed to get myself and ALL four kids dressed and fed in the mornings! There are mornings with tears and some with smiles. There are days where I leave feeling accomplished and others when I feel like a complete failure!
The good mornings all share several common denominators, which I will tell you about – in hopes that you have more smile-filled happy mornings than the ones that send you longing for a do-over.
- The two keywords for smooth mornings are PLANNING AND ROUTINE! (Repeat after me: “PLANNING AND ROUTINE!”) Mornings are NOT the right time to practice your improvisation skills or to fly by the seat of your pants; remember that kids thrive on routine (and as it turns out – moms do better with a little predictability too!)
- Get yourself showered, dressed, and all fancied up for the day as early as possible – preferably while the kids are still sleeping – or as I lovingly refer to “before-the-shit-hits-the-fan o’clock!”
- Spend half an hour the night before preparing for the next day. It is time well spent after the kids are in bed.
- Put the kids’ clothes out, coordinate uniforms, and find enough random socks to make a couple of pairs. Leave the little piles of clothes in the same spot every day, so you avoid the 8-year-old trying to squeeze in his younger brother’s clothes (it happens… often!)
- I MAY or may not have gotten a certain toddler dressed the night before if he had to leave the house with me in the morning. It is a rare occasion, but it is a huge time and sanity-saving move.
- Pack lunches and fill water bottles. For some reason, this one is hard for me to remember, but it is well worth the effort at the end of the day.
- Make sure all the backpacks are filled with the right kid’s agenda and homework. Homework should NOT be left for the mornings, nor should sifting through reams of papers brought home from school.
- Routine is also important when you are dealing with separation anxiety. If the babies know what to expect next from you, and your mood is happy and relaxed, chances are that they will be calmer too. (You may still very likely see tears as you walk out the door – but that’s simply because you are SUCH an awesome mommy!)
- Spend a little time one-on-one with each child in the morning. I make sure all the kids (even the babies) are awake at least 30 minutes before I have to leave for work/ school. I spend quiet time with each of them, either helping them get dressed or talking about the day ahead.
- Do the same things in the same order each and every morning. Eventually, all your kids (regardless of age) will know what comes next, so they can play an active role in helping to keep things moving smoothly. In our house, it is: get dressed, eat, brush teeth, put on shoes and out the door! Using a visual reminder of what needs to get done has saved our sanity more times than I can count!
- Once you leave your baby and/ or toddler (separation anxiety-prone ages) make sure to make your exit swiftly. I have a routine with our toddler – he needs two kisses and two high fives. Some mornings he stalls me by asking me to turn the TV on and a cup of milk. My initial reaction may be slight irritation because I need to get the bigger kids to school. But I stop myself mid-sigh and put on a smile as I comply with his wishes – and then we repeat our kisses and high-fives and all is well in his world.
- In the car on your way to school, try not to jam out to your favorite radio station, but take advantage of the captive audience in your backseat. We practice sight words on flashcards, review spelling words and math problems, play I Spy, and talk about the day ahead. “Unfortunately” we now live only five minutes from our school, because driving to school is my favorite part of the morning.
- After successful departures and drop-offs, don’t forget to reward yourself with an over-priced, “low” calorie, and absolutely delicious coffee beverage! – Or that’s at least what I do… some mornings it is a celebratory drink for a “job well done” and other mornings it is a “tomorrow’s another day” drink!
If you find yourself rushing in the mornings, try to get up a little earlier and get your routine started sooner. It is always easier to “rush” yourself than all your kids! – But I am SURE you already knew that!
Tell me about your morning routine? Chaos or serenity?