Fresh back into the working routine after a year of maternity leave, and I’m suddenly remembering just how difficult mornings are when you have little ones to wake, dress, feed and deliver to their childcare before heading into the office.Nights are another story all together (and probably another blog post, to be honest!) but there’s something about the start of the day that is especially tricky in our house. With our eldest daughter, it took about six months before we finally found a routine that worked for us. Hustling one little girl with a mind of her own out the door was hard; hustling two is already a lot harder. So here are some things we’re doing to try and make life a little easier.
Set a wake-up time, and stick to it
That extra twenty minutes in bed may feel good at the time, but every time we try to snag a bit of extra sleep, we pay for it dearly. A teeny, tiny lie-in almost guarantees that EVERYTHING will go wrong. Trust me; I’ve been a hot and sweaty mess running down the road with two babies and bags, attempting to catch a bus before it pulls away. It’s not worth hitting the snooze button.
Plan breakfast ahead of time
I’m still in the process of perfecting this, but I am trying out some new things over the next few weeks. If you’ve read my earlier post on parenting, you’ll know that I’m a feeder. Nothing makes me feel more guilty than sending my girls out of the house thinking they are hungry. They could be wearing totally mismatched outfits with ratty hair and runny noses, and it wouldn’t phase me (much). But empty tummies, and I will feel guilty for the rest of the day. Currently our go-to includes a selection of the following – fresh fruit, a handful of dried Cheerios, porridge, bagels, toast, Naked bars, yoghurt or fruit compote. I’m looking forward to trying these homemade blueberry and banana oat bars, porridge in the slow cooker, and overnight oats with coconut yoghurt (my youngest has a dairy allergy). The key is finding options that take two minutes or less to get on the table. If breakfast is easy to take along when you leave the house, even better. Especially if your kids are slow eaters, like mine.
Pack the night before
I used to laugh at my parents for doing this, but it honestly does make the mornings less stressful. We’ve even gone as far as putting bags, buggies and coats in the car before we go to bed. It’s the last thing I want to do after dinner, but I am shocked at how much it’s helped. I used to always feel I’d left something behind, but now am able to focus on just getting out the door.
Agree a morning chore list
The first time I went back to work after maternity leave, part of our stress came from not agreeing who was responsible for what before leaving the house. My husband and I were tripping over each other, replicating jobs, and leaving important stuff to last minute, assuming that the other person was about to do it. We now have a chore list for the house, and a morning routine list. Knowing exactly who is doing what has made things run a lot smoother. Of course, there’s flex. But we communicate every time we deviate from what we’ve agreed, and we both know that everything is covered, which helps loads.
Keep a change of clothes downstairs
I can’t count how many times I’ve had to take one of my girls back upstairs for a last minute change before leaving the house. Potty training accidents, breakfast,a short swim in the cat’s water bowl – they’ve all happened, and usually one minute before we need to leave the house. So now I’ve got an emergency kit for both girls stashed in one of our kitchen drawers, and another in the boot of the car.
Set a ‘leave’ time that leaves you room for error
During my maternity leave, we left the house every day by 830 to get my eldest daughter to nursery by 9. I knew that I could leave at 840 or even 845, but that extra ten minutes took away so much stress, and meant I could have a five minute conversation with my daughter on the way, instead of hurrying her along. I was happier. The girls were happier. It was a nicer start to the day for everyone.So now, instead of leaving everything to the wire, we are doing our best to get everyone out a bit before we actually need to be on our way.
Slow down to speed up
This is probably the hardest and most counter-intuitive, but is actually the one thing that has made the biggest difference. I find that when I’m barking orders or rushing, my little ones find it hard to keep up and are more likely to throw a tantrum. One morning, we were running late and I was trying to dress my eldest at record speed. She was resisting, and I was getting more and more short with her. A tantrum was brewing, which would have eaten up even more time, so I stopped, hugged her, apologised, changed my tone, took her clothes downstairs and let her get herself dressed while I pulled breakfast together. I often forget that things I take for granted - like buttoning a shirt or tying a shoe – those things are actually big challenges and accomplishments for the little ones. And taking those things away will only upset them. So if you really want to get out of the house quickly, sometimes slowing down is actually the best strategy.
What are your morning routines like? Any time-saving tricks you’d like to share? Anything that you know absolutely does not work? Drop your thoughts in the comments below!