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6 Ways to Make Mornings (With Kids) Suck Less

March 10, 2022

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I'm a healthcare momma who burned out, big time, and now I teach working moms to create the life of their dreams. I love leopard print, tequila, and my morning routine. My mission? To help moms stop feeling frazzled and start living a life of fulfillment, leaning into the joy of the journey, not just the destination!

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Ugh, mornings. More specifically, mornings with kids. Let me make this abundantly clear – I am 100% a morning person – the early bird who gets the worm? That’s me! I love time to myself, a good workout, a healthy-ish breakfast and time to shower and get ready before work.

Enter: my children. Mornings with kids can suck SO easily. There are so many things to do, so many socks and shoes, so many potentials for crying – things can get out of hand in the blink of an eye or the flop of a toddler on the floor. Emotions are high, we all know you are running behind, and it’s just a shitty way to start the day.

MORNINGS

If you’ve ever tried to get any number of tiny humans out the door to school or daycare by a certain time you know the plight of trying to juggle the coffee, the school project, the backpacks, the reheated waffle and your work bag and pump, while rushing out the door and herding kids into car seats.

Mornings can be a huge source of stress. We’ve been there. We used to be perpetually late and rushing out the door in the nick of time on repeat. When I was working in the OR I had surgeries that started at 7:30… which meant I had to be at the hospital by 7 to get changed and ready for the operation… which meant I had to be at daycare by 6:35 at the latest. Yes, down to the minute.

When our morning starts in a smoother way, without rushing, yelling and stress, it helps to set the tone for the entire day in a much better way.

Here are 6 ways to make your mornings with kids suck less. 

1 – Sunday Night Prep

Sunday Nights are often a missed opportunity to pave the way for a smooth week. Prepping your clothes, kids clothing and even things as simple as a little food prep can go a long way. Each of our little ones chooses 5 outfits for the week – underwear, socks, tops and bottoms, a sweatshirt, depending on the season – and piles them into 5 piles near their bed. 

Our kiddos eat greek yogurt each morning for breakfast at daycare. We buy these in a 4-pack that come in cardboard. I make a point to take them out of the cardboard so that they are in the fridge, organized, and that the kids can each grab their own when the time to pack breakfasts comes. 

On Sunday nights Dan and I also have our meeting – we call it our parental pow wow – it’s a recurring meeting that he and I hold in the fancy digs of our bedroom at 8pm each Sunday night. We review several things, but the most important one relative to mornings with kids is WHO is doing daycare drop off each day of the week. This helps us to plan the time we wake up, if we work out, and what time we need to be out the door to get to work on time that day. 

2 – Start the night before.

Anything that you can do the night before… particularly after the kids are in bed… is super helpful. 

There is something about filling up water bottles at 8pm that doesn’t stress me out – the kids aren’t running around like chickens with their heads cut off – when I fill them in the morning it pushes me over the edge.

Preparing as much as possible in the evening gives you a head start in the morning.

My best advice – do these things before your butt hits the couch and before you sink into your favorite chair – for me, all bets are off once my butt touches down. 

One other night-before item, something that really helps us with the kids – they don’t sleep in pajamas during the week. Pajamas, at our house, are a weekend only thing for little ones. 

They sleep in their clothes. At bedtime, instead of changing into pajamas, they change into the clean outfit they will wear tomorrow. This eliminates one outfit change, because in the morning they don’t change their clothes, and if they have changed their minds about what they want to wear from what they’ve laid out, we can discuss it in the calm of night instead of the frenzy of morning. 

3 – Get up a littttle bit earlier

Now, I don’t want you to stop listening right now. Hear me out. This one is one that you are NOT going to want to do but it’s SO important. 

I want you to get up just a little bit earlier than you have to in the morning.  

I’m not talking a 3am alarm or a massive shift of hours and hours. Start with 15-minute increments. Getting up even 30-45 minutes earlier can allow you to have some time to yourself before the human beings wake from their slumber.

It might allow you to get just a little work done, two more items prepared for the day, or your exercise, stretching and a shower before you have to start meeting the needs of all the humans. 

These all can help you to get in a great mindset before tackling the day! 

4 – Enlist help

Whether that is from the kids themselves (they are infinitely more capable than we give them credit for) or from your partner. Ask… specifically for help. Be clear on what you need and the fact that you want your partner to take over the task all together vs. just helping during this busy season. 

Yes, I know you cut the sandwiches just so and I know that you know what snacks each kid likes but guess what… they kids can pack their own snacks and your partner is capable of learning those patterns of their likes and dislikes right alongside you! 

Letting go of the outcome being just the way you’d do it is so freeing. If you can hand off a task and let it go, then your mind will be free to focus on other things or even to invest some time in yourself! 

5 – Checklists! 

We have a laminated checklist that we use in the morning and in the afternoon when we get home from daycare. Each of the kiddos has a checklist with tasks like brush teeth, brush hair, pack backpack, put on shoes, and seasonally it has a sweatshirt, swim clothes or winter clothing for playing outside. 

It has the words for the readers in our crew and it has a photo for those that aren’t there yet. And a checkbox. These are sheets that I made up specifically for each kiddo – Colby is in elementary school, so his checklist has items for packing his computer and homework – it’s his job to make sure that those are in his backpack. 

Instead of feeling like I’m herding cats in the morning, I refer them to their checklists when they are walking around with no shoes on and no backpack packed and saying that they are ready to go.

At our house, the rule is that you can play puzzles or trucks quietly before we get in the car to head to daycare if and only if your checklist is done. No, checking all the boxes doesn’t count. You have to do each item before checking it off.

There is still a fair amount of reminding and ultimately with my 3-year-old I do a lot of the work to make sure she has her karate uniform or her swimsuit, but our boys who are 5 and 7, they are responsible for the items on their checklist & they know this.

Colby understands that if he doesn’t pack his homework or his folder, he will be without it for the day. If he doesn’t pack his breakfast, he may feel hungry. If his karate uniform doesn’t go in his bag, he won’t be able to participate in karate that day. This helps to transfer the responsibility in an age-appropriate way to the kids. 

It gives our kids an opportunity to have ownership and also to live with the small and relatively safe consequences that come from these actions. If you don’t prioritize your list, it could result in a consequence that you’d rather avoid. This is really great training for adulthood! 

6 – Stay Calm

This, for me, is the hardest one. I do NOT like being late. I get very short with the kids and I have a low threshold for yelling when I feel the pressure of that clock on the microwave glaring at me. 

One thing that has helped me to stay calm is getting up earlier in the morning. Those extra minutes of margin make a difference for me. I don’t feel like we are in a pressure cooker. 

Another thing is giving myself a buffer. If the absolute latest time that we are rolling down the driveway is 6:30, I will aim for 6:15. In my mind the goal time is 6:15, that way if I look at the clock and it is 6:10 and no one has their shoes on and I KNOW we aren’t going to make it by 6:15, I have a 15-minute buffer. We can get everything done and still be on time, no yelling needed.

The third and final thing that helps me to stay calm in the frenzy and the shuffle that is the daycare drop off and madness of mornings with kids: my mindset. When I am in the shower, which is something I do every morning, I take a few seconds to visualize the way that I want things to go today. I set  my intention for the energy that I want to bring to the day. 

There was a season of life when this mindset piece just wasn’t a reality. I’d be getting out of the shower and hear RaeAnne crying or yelling from her crib. I’d immediately be set into a tailspin of how I now didn’t have time to get ready or do my makeup and I’d be on the defensive, or worse, angry, for the duration of the morning.

As working moms we have precious few moments with our kids on workdays, or at least this is how it feels. Making the most of these moments, even the moments in the rush of the morning, starts with your mindset. I want my kids to be dropped off at daycare knowing that they are loved and feeling that they’ve been treated with kindness and getting my mind right helps me to be calmer and more caring in the morning.

There are still days that we rush. There are times that I lose my cool and yell. There are days when things get forgotten and the kids are learning to deal with the consequences of those actions and navigate emotions of disappointment.

These steps don’t guarantee a smooth morning, they simply stack the deck in your favor and remove some of that friction, decrease the obstacles and increase the chances you’ll get all the butts in carseats and out the freaking door on time! 

Until next time, momma, keep on taking steps towards being fulfilled as a mom. You’ve got this! 

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