Want to know how to master the morning routine with kids?
Get up at 4am.
Just kidding. Well, kind of! Getting my crew dressed, fed, packed and out the door in the morning is no mean feat. And when both parents are working full time, getting your mornings running smoothly ALL comes down to timing.
There is no room for error.
It’s taken me five years and 3 kids to perfect the art of the “morning”, and so now I want to share some tricks I’ve learnt over the past million days of doing it, which I hope will make morning life way easier for you…
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Tip 1: Get up early
I was almost kidding about the 4am part. My best advice is to get up well before the kids. I know that means you’re missing out on some much needed sleep, but believe me, it’s soooooooo much easier to have some quiet time to yourself as you potter around (with a huge cup of coffee) getting things done. I've actually come to really look forward to my morning alone time – it’s often the only time of the day I am actually completely alone.
How early you need to get up really just depends on how long it takes you to get ready for the day, what time you need to be out the door and also what time your kids usually wake. My kids are in a good sleeping pattern (thanks to our Sleep Programs!), so they will predictably wake at 7am every day. We need to leave at 8 am.
I like to wear makeup so I factor in 15 minutes for that, plus 10 minutes for a shower, 5 to get dressed and 5 for hair (let’s face it, these days a ponytail is ALL I’m going to manage!). Throw in some chilling time, catching up on social media, and working backwards, my wake time needs to be around 6:15am.
And I’m ok with that. It gives me a nice easing-into-the-day feel and when the kids come charging (and it literally IS charging!) out of their rooms at 7am, I am already good to go! This means the next hour is devoted to getting everyone else ready too.
Which brings me to my next key morning lifesaver...
Tip 2: Make lists
Lists, lists and more LISTS.
If you’ve read my Going Away With Kids blog, you’ll know I’m a sucker for lists. I never used to be – I actually used to be quite good at retaining information once upon a time. One child in though and my memory was ruined!.
After 3 kids, there’s just no point even trying to get my brain to function at full capacity. So I resort to, hell, let’s face it, I DEPEND ON lists. I have a list titled “THE MORNING” stuck on my kitchen wall. True story. It’s even colour coded!
There are ten zillion things to remember to do in the morning. And once you’ve got school aged kids, it goes up to twenty zillion. Without my morning list, how would I ever remember that today is a swimming day at school? Or that the rubbish needs to go out that day? Or to pack spare daycare clothes for the 3 year old?
I'm not trying to brag here, but my on-the-wall-list is in four categories, with sub-lists in each category:
- Lunches (it reminds me what I need to pack in their lunchboxes!)
- Bags (reminding me of things that need to go in their bags that day - notices, books etc)
- Kids (covers things like getting them dressed, brushing teeth and hair…)
- Household (laundry, rubbish out, dishwasher on etc.)
If I go through each item on the list, in sequence, ritualistically, methodically, surgically, things will go great. If I don’t, well, the consequences border on apocalyptic!
A good idea is to put your lists somewhere really obvious. And you could even have another list of individual chores to do in the morning too - especially once your kids are old enough to chip in.
This takes me to my last tip for “The Morning”...
Tip 3: Share the load
If there are two parents in the house, or older kids, share the load. Have a routine. Have a plan. Write it down if it helps! My hubby and I have a morning job share that looks something like this:
I have my morning “me-time” and he gets up before the kids too to have his shower, unpack the dishwasher and read the sports news.
We usually meet in the kitchen right before the onslaught, which is enough time for a quick “how did you sleep?” “Ok, you?” “Not too bad, apart from Max at 3am needing water and the baby waking at 5am chatting to herself”. Once the kids roll down the stairs, hubby has got their cereal ready and all laid out, while I’ve moved onto their lunches.
Hubby then makes his breakfast, usually while doing the reading homework with Miss 5, while I CONTINUE to make lunches (I’m a lunchbox geek, so I spend ages making their lunches as nutritious and delicious as I can!). To save even more time, you could always make lunches the night before and keep them in the fridge. If I had less time in the morning I definitely would. But it works out ok at the moment!
After the kids eat, hubby finds their clothes and dresses them, while I feed the baby and tidy the kitchen. There is usually a bit of TV, while the last rushing around is done. At some point, the baby gets changed and dressed and fed her morning solids – usually her big sister helps out here.
Miraculously, we all end up in the car at the exact time I planned. Everyone is fed, clothed and happy. Well, unless Mr 3 has suddenly decided that he REALLY NEEDS to wear his dinosaur slippers to daycare, which are too small for him anyway, and proceeds to have a dino-sized meltdown. (Not kidding, this happened the other day!).
The morning definitely feels chaotic when you’re in it. But, incredibly, having the lists, sharing the jobs and knowing the routine, really makes all the difference. I never feel like I’m going to run out of time. I never forget anything or find myself running late. And there is something very empowering about starting your day, having already achieved so much.
Especially if you managed to find matching socks!