When I was a single woman living in New York City, I would wake up to my alarm clock, throw on an all-black outfit, curl or straighten my hair, apply makeup, and head out the door. The whole process could take 15-20 minutes if I hustled – I was super efficient. I walked 3 kilometers to work every day and would grab a coffee and a snack from a coffeeshop and take a leisurely walk through a couple of Manhattan´s beautiful flowery parks on the way.
Fast-forward five years. I am now a mom to four kids, ages 1, 7, 9, and 11. (My husband had three kids from his previous marriage and is a widower, so we have all the kids full-time.) Between changing diapers, preparing and cleaning up breakfast, brushing kids´ teeth (“Are you sure you used mouthwash, Martin? Let me smell your breath!”) and making sure the kids are dressed for the Norwegian weather (“klær etter vær,” as the Norwegians say), the morning has not always been a relaxing time of the day.
On top of that, I am a perfectionist who hates the house being disorganized or arriving anywhere late. In the past, I wondered, Am I doomed to a life of late child drop-offs? Why do we have 23 single gloves and each pair has lost its partner? Will I ever have time to change out of my pajamas before throwing on a coat and driving our baby at the daycare?
Parents, does any of this sound familiar? (Can I get a “Heck yeah!?”) If so, over the years, I´ve developed several tips and tricks I will share with you to help make the mornings less chaotic and less stressful. Here are a few of them!
Establish a get-home routine with the kids. When our kids walk in the door after school, they hang up their jackets and gear and take out their lunchboxes and put them in the dishwasher. This is an important time to make sure their shoes and gloves are dry and stay together.
Make the kids´ lunches the night before, rather than in the morning. This one tip has created so much more space in our mornings – my husband thinks it´s been life-changing for us. The kids often eat sandwiches for lunch, but if we have leftovers like pasta from the night before, sometimes I include this instead (depending on the meal, sometimes the kids can heat up their food at school). It´s easier to make healthy food for the next day when it´s not so urgent and I have time to slice apples, pears, cucumbers, carrots, etc.
Better yet, get the kids to make their own lunches! This isn´t possible with the smallest kids, but most school-aged kids can make their own lunches or at least help. If they make their own lunches, they are more likely to eat everything because they have picked out exactly what they enjoy.
Lay out as much as possible the night before. The less thinking you or the kids need to do in the morning, the better! This could include:
The kids´outfits for the next day. In Norway in the wintertime, that often includes several layers of wool thermals, sweaters, and thick socks.
The kids´ “outside clothes.” For us, that includes their snow or rain jacket, pants, or winter suit; a beanie or warm winter hat; a scarf or neck warmer; dry gloves and shoes or boots. I lay these down on the floor in the kitchen in little piles, each pile for a different child.
Homework, schoolbooks, school iPads all charged up, instruments, diapers (for our little one in daycare) – anything that might be needed for the next school day.
Keep breakfast simple. If possible, I recommend having a no-mobile-phone policy at the table to focus more on family time and minimize distractions. Set a good example with the kids with healthy breakfast options. Sometimes I even set the table and grind our coffee beans at night, so they are ready to go in the morning.
Establish an out-the-door routine with the kids. Before leaving the house, I check that the kids have done 3 key things: “potty, teeth, and hair.” (“potty” = use the toilet) I learned this from my mom, who was the oldest of 11 children, had 4 children herself, and was an elementary school teacher. (In other words, she knows a lot about getting small kids out the door!) “Potty, teeth, and hair” is super easy for the kids to remember themselves. This helps make sure the kids are fresh and put together and your smallest kids don´t have any accidents after leaving the house, which would surely add time to the morning routine.
Look, we don´t accomplish all these activities every single day, but they are goals. I also try not to be too hard on myself or the kids when someone forgets an iPad or doesn´t take a lunchbox out of his or her backpack when arriving home. However, implementing any of these tips and tricks is better than nothing and helps make the morning run just a bit more smoothly. Some days, I can even sit down and enjoy drinking an entire cup of coffee while knowing all the pre-work has paid off. ☺
One last tip: Hedgehog Dryer, especially the Wall version, is very family-friendly and is both a drying and organizing tool (never lose a glove again!). Everyone in our family uses the dryer for our shoes and gloves, in both snowy and rainy weather. With super-speedy drying capabilities, it also helps make the morning more efficient.
What tips and tricks do you have to help make the mornings go smoothly?