Sep. 1, 2014 at 10:37 AM ET
“Would you hurry up already?”
Yes, that’s been me more times than I’d like to admit. The hollering usually starts about five minutes before my kids have to leave for the bus, when one of them is still walking around looking for his math homework. Wearing one sock.
Still, an occasional bit of nagging is better than the full-on mom meltdowns I used to have every morning. I’d beg, cajole and occasionally threaten my kids out the door, and even then, half the time they still left without their backpacks.
But finally, after years of making slapdash lunches and watching them sprint to the bus stop, I figured out that feeling stressed on school mornings is normal but easily avoidable. Here’s how I’ve learned how to stay (mostly) calm, collected and in control.
Stick to a routine. Fuzzy-brained kids (and moms) are not great at improvising. Take the guesswork out of your mornings by creating an a.m. routine so everyone knows what’s expected of them. In our house, that means the kids get dressed — all the way to shoes — before eating breakfast, so afterward they can just brush their teeth and go.
Play to your strengths. You know how some people work best under the pressure of a looming deadline, while others need lots of time to plan and think? Same goes for the morning rush. I fall into the first camp, so contrary to popular advice, I don’t get my kids up super-early to let them ease into the day. Instead, I plan down to the minute how long they’ll need to get dressed, eat, brush teeth, get on their gear and get out the door. To help keep things moving, I stay on my feet and direct, which is what I do best. But maybe you’re the opposite and need lots of time in the morning to function well. Try experimenting with a few different routines to see which works best for you and your family.
Breathe and look for perspective. Sometimes, when mornings get crazy, I get kind of crazy, too. My heart races, my blood pressure rises, and I start blowing that forgotten lunch box or missed reading log signature way out of proportion. Sound familiar? I’ve found that the quickest way to calm is to take a few deep breaths and ask myself, “What’s the worst that could happen if….?” Nine times out of 10, that helps me keep things in perspective.
Reward yourself. I used to try to eat my breakfast and drink my morning tea alongside my kids. But I realized I was rushing my meal — and not even enjoying it. Now I sit and chat with the kids while they eat, manage the rest of the send-off, and then enjoy my tea and toast solo. This built-in “me time” is something I can look forward to in the chaos of getting them out the door — plus, everything tastes better when enjoyed in a totally quiet house.
Meagan Francis is a mom of five, blogger, and author. She writes about the art of sane & satisfying family life The Happiest Home.