I have a love-hate relationship with back-to-school season. I hate all the forms, pediatrician appointments, and busy sports schedules, but I love that moment of quiet when all four of my kids are gone for a few hours and I have that January “start new”energy that I still get even though I have been out of school for years. Don’t you get that feeling where you want to buy a new planner and write your meal planning down on a whiteboard, even if it’s fleeting? I sure do.
My husband, a retired Marine and retired teacher, has a Bootcamp-style strategy for how to get the kids up and ready and out the door. I am more of a life coach, “let’s do what feels easy breezy” style. We sat down and discussed some of what we think makes the mornings flow and wanted to share. I am not suggesting perfection when it comes to these tips, as we moms are all doing the best we can, and I have been trying to delight in imperfection ever since I wrote a thriller book with that exact theme. However, these tips are a good starting point if your mornings aren’t smooth.
Some days I have the bagels toasted, the backpacks by the door, and I am dressed and ready for work while leisurely sipping my coffee in the car. Other days, I am screaming, “Get in the car, you are going to make your sister late!” When thinking about our routine, I backtracked and thought about the difference between these two versions of our family. Below, I share what I find to be the key ingredients of the smoother mornings, but I’d love tips from other moms as well. It takes a village, right?
1. Lead by Example: As much as I don’t like picking up a book on how to combat kids’ anxiety and learning that they are feeding off of me, I have noticed a correlation between when I am productive, reading, and getting up early and how the kids are using their time and energy. The next time you notice one of your kids doing something that gets under your skin, try not to mention the behavior and instead model something you’d prefer to see.
2. Get Enough Sleep: I do SO much better as a mom when I am rested, don’t you? And my kids do, too. I try and do my rounds, encouraging the kids to hang up their phones and plug them far enough away so they have to get out of bed for the alarm. This also decreases their exposure to the blue light that negatively impacts sleep. For myself, I am doing my best to stop waking up to Wordle on my phone to foster an electronics-free morning routine and prioritize sleep.Additionally, getting up before the kids gives me a little sanity time before the morning rush.
3. Look the Part: I feel so much better when I lay out my work clothes the night before and pack gym clothes in a bag to boot. My kids don’t lay out their clothes, but I find that when I declutter their closets, they get ready faster. With less clothing, the laundry gets done more, and it’seasier to find what they need in a rush. So, think about little ways to lean into the indecision that leads to clutter and consider embracing more of a capsule wardrobe for the whole family. Go in your kid’s closets and rotate the clothing so they learn to switch it up. I often do this and donate that ill-fitting shirt they never wear.
4. Pack Healthy Snacks: My eating is so much better when I take 5 minutes to make a snack and lunch from home. I also spend less money and I find that it’s good to have a few snacks for the kids as well. They can pack their own,but having snack packs in the car for when you are running from activity to activity can tide them over until you have time to go home. This saves time, money, and mood for all involved.
5. Lay Out Your Stuff: I do so much better when I have a gym bag packed; I might actually squeeze in that workout during my lunch hour, and kids are the same. My kids do sports, so I have them write a checklist of what they need. Sometimes I think about stressful searches for sports gear that have happened in the past and I stock up (this ties into the next tip) and buy an extra pair of dance tights, an extra sports cup, etc. so that we have a backup when someone’s gear is missing in action. The good news is that as soon as you buy that extra baseball hat, they never lose the original again. Sometimes, that $20.00 becomes an amazing peace of mind.
6. Proactively Stock up: In addition to the stressful search, there are things your kids ask for last minute. In my house, it’s graph paper, a white shirt for a concert, or poster board for a project at 9 pm the night before it’s due. Every house is different, but think about buying a few extras of these types of items and storing them. For example, I bought an extra calculator. I also found that when we had a case of water in the back of the car, the kids drank water more often. When you are stocking up on detergent and paper towels, think about what else you can stock up on to make mom life easier. For example, I buy to-go coffee cups for me and my husband and do breakfast on small paper plates. Anything that makes the mornings easier.
7. Be Zen Mom: My father used to say “stay calm, cool, collected.” Whenever I feel myself getting worked up, Irepeat this phrase to myself. When my two younger kids are in the car and we are waiting for my oldest, I jokingly tell them I am going to be “Zen mom” versus losing my cool. I find that when I stay calm, I am able to problem-solve. For example, I decided that my oldest could walk home if he missed the “mom bus.” My staying relaxed seemed to help more than losing my cool. Even when we get enough sleep, pack healthy snacks, and lay out stuffahead of time, life happens. However, reminding ourselves to keep perspective, stay calm, and carry on helps us have more blissful mornings, blissful days, and in turn, a bliss-filled life.