I’m not good with mornings.
Not that I’m not a morning person. I can get up and be emotionally present and have deep thoughts before 9 am. Before 6 am, even. I like waking up and going out to run. I enjoy a good sunrise. I’m just not good at all the logistics of mornings with my kids and me together having to go places.
Full disclosure: I work from home now, so I’m now able to focus only on the kids until they’re off to school, and then deal with myself. But those years we all had to be totally equipped for the day before leaving the apartment for our 45-minute subway ride to the kids’ school followed by another 40 minutes to my office, well, I might still have some trauma from that.
However, I have learned a ton of tips and tricks that, on the 3-4 occasions I’ve done all of them together in the last five years, have gotten all of us where we need to be without leaving me feeling like I need to run away to join the circus. I’m passing them on to you in hopes that you might be smarter than I am and actually use these tips every day to make mornings easier for you and your kids.
1. Lay out all of your clothes the night before
For the kids. For you. Complete with socks, shoes, accessories. Put the kids’ clothes all together in a pile where they can get them and put them on themselves. Put yours all together on a hanger. For extra super-smart bonus points, pick out everyone’s clothes for the week on Sunday afternoon.
2. Since your clothes are already chosen, make a rule that no one gets to come out of their room in the morning until they’re dressed
If the kids are just in the habit of getting dressed first thing in the morning, you neatly sidestep the last-minute “where are my socks?” panic.
3. Make sure backpacks are packed the night before
Homework done, notes and permission slips signed, show and tell items ready, extra clothing packed, etc
4. Pack all lunched the night before
This one is a no-brainer. I resisted for a long time, though, until I had the epiphany that you can put things that don’t need to be cold in the refrigerator overnight and nothing bad will happen to them. Once I realized that I could put the entire lunchbox, including the crackers and packet of almonds, into the refrigerator so the yogurt would stay cool, I started actually doing it
5. Radical idea: Put the lunch boxes in the backpacks, and put the entire backpacks in the refrigerator
I know, I know: This is crazy talk. (If you don’t have room in the fridge for backpacks, then it is crazy talk.) But it will prevent you from forgetting the lunches in the refrigerator. Unless you forget the entire backpack.
6. Bonus idea: Consider scrapping packing lunches altogether in favor of buying school lunch
Obviously this requires having your kids in a situation in which lunch is available for purchase and nutritious enough for them to eat. But if it’s an option, think about it. It can take another task off your list.
7. Streamline breakfast as much as possible
Hot breakfasts are for weekends. Midweek breakfasts are granola bars, sandwiches made the night before, bananas or other fruits, liquids you put in the refrigerator the night before, and other nutritious things that can be eaten with hands. And taken along in the car or on public transportation, if necessary.
8. Here’s the money shot (and I made you wait until the end): Put your child in charge of their own morning schedule
If you have a kid who’s 5 or older, have them walk through and time how long it takes to do every step of the morning routine. Then have them work backwards from the time you need to leave the house and write down a schedule of when they should be doing which step. Once they have this written schedule (and access to a clock they can read, of course), they’re in charge of sticking to it. For some kids this can be an incredibly empowering motivator, and shift some of the emotional energy of the morning from you to the child.
Good luck, and may the force be with you.