Have you ever wondered, "How can I get out the door without losing all the cool I have left?" Then this article is for you!
By WMM Contributor: Melissa Feldmeyer
“Don’t mess with me…. I made 2 people cry today before BREAKFAST!” I sound really tough right? You definitely should not mess with me. Um… those 2 people were my kids, but still counts right?
There are certain elements of motherhood that I expected would be difficult, that I was prepared for. The sleepless nights, diapers, boogers and tantrums.
And I know it’s a pretty common saying these days that “no one ever prepared me for xyz”. But really… no one EVER prepared me for how hard it would be to get everyone ready and where they need to be every morning.
It’s just getting ready. It’s not even a part of the day that most of us include in a recap of what we did that day because it’s such a basic fact. Obviously you woke up, brushed your teeth, got dressed and came to work.
So why have I felt at times like I’ve lived a full day already by the time I get to the office?
Why have I felt like I am a slightly less furry, slightly more frazzled version of the Alice in Wonderland rabbit, running around screaming “I’m late! I’m late!!!”?
Why have I left like such the mean mom that I should have flown into work on my broom wearing my pointy hat?
Why have I said the most random sentences that I never thought would come out of my mouth? (“No… you can’t feed the cat the fish food….. and why is there underwear on the kitchen counter?”)
I know all moms have it tough trying to get their kids ready and out of the door in the morning, but I do feel like us moms working outside the house might have it especially tough in this area because we also have to do this little thing called getting ourselves ready too.
I know we all have different levels of what “getting ready” for work means, but my line of work- I have to look semi-professional most days and full on professional some days. Not like 30 minutes prior I was literally wrestling with my child who did not want to put their shoes on. Not like I am running on 4 hours of sleep because my child had a nightmare and crawled into bed with me and kicked me in the back the rest of the night. Not like I fell asleep with wet hair watching “Classical Babies” with my 2 year old and woke up with, as my daughter called it, “monster hair”.
No… none of this will do.
And beyond presentation, on a mental level- it’s a lot harder to feel positive and centered and well prepared for your workday when you’re coming in after an emotional or draining morning rush.
It’s one area that’s difficultly level ebbs and flows as kids get older. It gets easier in some ways and more difficult in others. But I’ve found regardless of age, there are a few things I can do to make mornings run a little more smoothly. Because while I may not be in total control of what happens… there are some things I CAN (sorta, kinda) control.
Preplan your outfits. And your children’s.
For me this is the biggest game changer for our mornings. I usually do all the laundry on the weekends, so Sunday is the perfect time to take a peek at the weather forecast and create 5 complete outfits for me, my 5 year old, and my 2 year old. Underwear, socks, jewelry (only for me on that one, they do not accessorize… yet). I hang them up in our front hall closet and they are ready to go for the week.
I’ve found for my own personal fashion choices- I make much better ones when I put a couple minutes into it before the week starts instead of scrambling through a pile of clothes 5 minutes before I need to leave the house, trying to find things with the criteria that they basically match and aren’t too. Or even worse trying desperately to track down matching socks for your kid when you’re already running late. Because they universe doesn’t want you to find 2 tiny matching socks. Your weekday self will thank you for those few extra minutes you take on the weekend to prepare.
Get up before your kids
There was a thread on Working Moms of Milwaukee last week that talked about working out in the morning. I am impressed that some of you can get up at 4am to go workout, come home, and shower before your kids get up. I cannot do this. I mean, physically I maybe could…. But mentally… nope. I always like the idea but then the alarm goes off and sleep prevails. I am not a morning person and am in the acceptance phase of knowing that I will never be one.
But I do firmly believe that you should get up at least 30 minutes before your kids. This way you can start on your getting ready routine before they are awake to ensure you will actually be able to have the time to get yourself at least partially ready before motherhood calls. Personally I like to shower in the evenings after the kids are sleeping but I do style my hair in the morning, so I use this time to do my hair and makeup. For me- if I have my hair and makeup done- I feel like I have my act together. Whether or not that is actually reality is a different story, but in the words of fellow working mom Mindy Kaling “Sometimes you just have to put on lip gloss and pretend to be psyched.” Which I would modify to “Sometimes you just have to put on lip gloss and pretend to have your life together.”
Morning chore chart
Both of my daughters have chores that they have to do every morning before we leave. Most of them are very basic- get dressed, brush your teeth, put away your pajamas, breakfast dishes, etc. My 5 year old has some extras like feed the cat, feed the fish, fill up your water bottle, and put your lunch in your backpack.
They have these charts on the fridge at eye level, in both words AND pictures. If they start goofing around or pulling out toys I ask if everything on the chart is done. If it is not…. Better get to it. If it is…. good for you and enjoy your play time. It also has cut down on the “what do I do next?” questions as well. Check your chart.
Have “the gathering” be a part of the bed time routine
One of the harder elements of getting out the door is how much stuff you have to remember to bring with you! Especially during the dead of winter when kids have to have winter boots and snow pants and hats and gloves and basically have the luggage to suggest they are going on an artic expedition instead of school. So rather than scramble to get everything we need assembled as we’re running out the door and hoping we didn’t forget anything- we make this a part of bed time routine. After teeth brushing I tell my kids to put their shoes, hats, backpack and anything they need to bring with them tomorrow by the back door. I make sure my keys are in my purse before I go to sleep. It makes it easier to be able to grab and go rather than search and search and curse and search some more and THEN grab and go. The same goes for getting lunches or snacks together. Yes, I know these suggestions about pre-planning can sometimes seem unrealistic, as time is not usually our best friend. But think about it this way- you ARE still spending time on all of these things- the only major difference between doing it the night or weekend before rather than the morning of is your stress level when you’re doing them.
Build in a 15 minute “drama buffer”
We know even with the best of intentions, mornings can go array. Someone spills something, loses something, children have meltdowns because the cat looked at them. One of my daughters use to have a crying spell over something every single morning before we left the house. She wants a banana to bring in the car, but we’re out of bananas. She wanted to wear my high heels to school. She wants to buckle her stuffed bird into her sister’s car seat… that her sister is sitting in. I couldn’t really anticipate what she would get upset about because of the level of randomness, but I knew it would happen. I would get so impatient with her on a level I never would have if these same meltdowns happened after work or on a weekend, or anytime I didn’t mentally hear the clock clicking down to all of us being late for EVERYTHING! I’ve learned to just assume unexpected is going to happen every morning and I schedule for the unexpected with a 15 minutes “drama buffer”. Sort of like those of you in finance my do when making a budget where you have a contingency line? We can have up to 15 minutes of something going off the rails every morning before we’ll be late. This has been especially valuable time now that my youngest has been wanting to put all of her clothes on by herself. Which takes foooooeeeeeevvvvvveeerrr. The shirt goes on backwards, the pants are on inside out. And if I touch her to help, the world will end. But I don’t need to rush her, because we have the time for her to spend 5 minutes getting her socks on, and I get to enjoy how proud she looks when she finally gets it right! And on a good day where nothing goes wrong, we might actually leave (gasp!)…. early!
As a forever non-morning person, and as my children share 50% of my DNA, I can appreciate their sluggishness in the morning to a certain extent. It is hard for them, just like it is hard for me- and so I try to make it a better experience for them in hopes that in turn they make it easier for me.
If they do everything on their chart- they get to pick the song we listen to on the way to school. It can be ANY song. Even ones that they know I find irritating, which is why they love them (looking at you “What Does the Fox Say”). This morning it was Mariah Carey “All I Want for Christmas.” We usually have enough time for two songs between the two school drop offs, so if they both do everything- each can pick 1 song. If NO one does what they were supposed to- I get to pick all the songs! (Unlimited Power! Muahahaha).
If it’s a nice day out, I’ll offer for us to go on a walk to the park when we all get home if they get ready on their own without whining or me having to repeat myself 17 million times. Or maybe we can watch a special movie and make popcorn when I get home from work. I don’t think of it as bribing, more like acknowledging and appreciating good work. Who doesn’t feel better when that happens in life? The expectation is that they cooperate and listen, and if they don’t, there are consequences for that as well (no tablet, TV, dessert). But if I give them an extra reason to get excited about cooperating and getting ready for their day, plus having something to look forward to as they go about their day- it’s a win, win, win (for me, for them, for society).
I think the most important thing to keep in mind, especially on your most chaotic mornings when everything is going wrong, is that you’re still winning. Because even if you’re late and you made your kids cry and the house looks like a crime scene- you still did it! You still got everyone out of the door and to school and work. That is the goal! Don’t lose sight of the little victories. There were other options- you could have curled up in a ball and given up- but you didn’t. Or maybe you DID and then you got yourself up again and kept going. I have been a parent for 2,034 days (I Googled it) and one of the greatest and hardest lessons I have learned in parenting, which is translatable to other areas of my life, is that succeeding doesn’t mean you did something perfectly, or that it came naturally or was easy for you. Sometimes success is just getting through it. Riding it out. Trying really hard and messing it up, but being willing to try it again with what you’ve learned. We’ve made it through even the most challenging morning and we will survive the next tough morning!
Hopefully some of what I’ve learned and shared here through my own trial and many, many errors can be just the tiniest bit useful in helping your mornings feel a little less… apocalyptic (is that too dramatic? Maybe?). Are there tips and tricks you’ve learned along the way? Please share in the comments! For the good of mothers everywhere!