My daughter’s private school switched buildings this past summer, turning what used to be a trip around the corner into a 20-minute drive. This also meant that my husband could no longer do the morning drop-off, which meant that I, a work-at-home mom, would now have to— Gasp! —get dressed in the morning and venture out in public before 8 a.m.
For those of you who have always had the responsibility of early morning drop-off, I know you have no sympathy for me. But I didn’t know how good I had it until it was my job to get these kids in the car with enough time to make the 20 minute drive without feeling like I have to run every yellow light.
The first month sucked. I felt like we always woke up 15 minutes too late and we were always scrambling for socks. (There are never enough socks for everyone, it seems.)
By the time I got the kids off to school, I’d have a headache and be ready to dive back under the covers. So I knew some changes had to be made and I wouldn’t be the only one involved in making our mornings easier.
My kids are 6 and 4, so I knew they could handle some extra responsibility in the mornings.
“We’re a team, right?” I said, as I say to my kids whenever I need them to do something. “And teammates help each other, right?”
“Right!” they replied.
My first goal was to make our evenings more productive. While we all used to just kind of veg out after dinner, I regretted it every morning when my daughter would inevitably remind me some project was due and I had to run to the store for glitter sticks. So every evening we do the following 30-minute routine that has improved our mornings ten-fold. I am no longer barking at the kids to “hurry up!”
Complete all homework at night. Simple enough. But we also make sure everything they need for school the next day is in their book bags before they head upstairs to bed. All assignments, snacks, and library books are packed and sitting by the door. I tend to double-check their bags, but for the most part, they handle it themselves. I’m all for teaching responsibility, and this is one small way to accomplish that.
Each child picks out his or her own clothes for the next day and brings them to me so their dad can iron them. I joke with him that he must have some type of vendetta against wrinkles because it takes him at least 10 minutes to iron a shirt. There must be NO WRINKLES LEFT. ALL WRINKLES MUST DIE. I guess that’s the point of ironing, but it’s comical to see him take it so seriously. Our kids will never be teased for wrinkly clothes.
I pack all the lunches at night. I also write the kids “love notes” and since I’m a writer by trade, I try to make them meaningful, even though my four-year-old can’t read yet. Since my daughter has a number of food allergies, if we run out of something, there is no easy substitution, and we have to make a trip to the store. I try to keep the fridge well stocked, but you know kids will eat all your food if it’s not nailed down.
After dinner, we clear all plates off the table and set out breakfast bowls, spoons and cups. Occasionally I’ll even pour the cereal. Does it really save us time? I doubt it, but there’s something about coming downstairs and breakfast is halfway taken care of. It’s like I forgot I did it and in the morning there’s a breakfast fairy there to help us out.
All of this generally takes about 30 minutes and it helps that we do all of this as a family. My kids head off to school in an atmosphere of calm, and I no longer feel like having a nice stiff drink at 9:30 a.m. Life is good.
This post is part of BlogHer’s Rush Hour Tips editorial series, made possible by Got Milk.