The Every Morning Shuffle
Mornings at our house are really something else. I’m trying to think of the best way to describe them; words like whirlwind, chaos, disaster and exhausting come to mind. Yet, somehow, we manage to get through it every day relatively unharmed. My husband leaves for work very early, which leaves me solely responsible, alone and completely outnumbered, to get the kids out the door to school and daycare on time. One against four….the odds are definitely NOT in my favour. Let’s just say that I am very lucky to have a flexible employer who understands that my arrival time can vary significantly from one day to another.
The morning routine takes me about two to two and a half hours from beginning to end. I wake up at 6am and we don’t leave the house until about 8:15 (give or take)….and it’s a total sprint to the finish line the entire time. If there is ONE thing that doesn’t go according to plan it can potentially throw our whole morning off base.
[See appendix at the end of this post for the actual timeline]
Successful mornings can be attributed to two things; 1) establish a strict routine and do not waiver, 2) make sure that everything that can be done the night before is done the night before.
The routine is the most important thing. If everyone knows what to expect, then everyone can be prepared to do what needs to be done. I’m talking everything from the order in which I get children dressed, to the way the beds are made, to what is served for breakfast, to who brushes their teeth and when. Every little detail needs to be as close to the same from day to day as possible. Obviously you need to make exceptions to this rule from time to time and the key to success is to remain as flexible as possible within the realm of what’s considered acceptable. For example, if child B happens to finish her breakfast before child A, then child B goes to start brushing her teeth first and will most likely be the first to get their hair done as well. Also, the baby and toddler tend to be more of a variable factor and our routine can change slightly depending on what time the baby wakes up and what kind of mood the toddler is in, but you must approach these variables with a great degree of caution, because these variables have the potential to completely destroy any given morning. Examples of a change in routine that would be considered outside of the realm of what’s acceptable are things like turning the TV on or allowing someone to play on an iPad.
It can be tempting to allow the toddler to watch the TV as a means to distract her while you finish cleaning up the dishes from breakfast, but DO NOT BE FOOLED, this is a terrible idea and you will live to regret this. Not only do you end up with a tantrum from toddler when you have to turn the TV off and get them ready to go outside, but you also end up with child A and B being very distracted and then realize, often when it’s too late, that the brushing of the teeth or some other vital factor of success has been missed, and again your morning is completely destroyed.
Make sure that you have done everything possible to prepare the night before, the fewer variables left to be dealt with in the morning the better. Once the kids are in bed at night the first thing that I want to do is flop down on the couch and turn my brain and body off, but it is imperative that I ensure the clothes are laid out, the lunches are made, the school bags are packed, the permission slips are signed, and the kitchen is clean and tidy before I allow myself to shut off. Completing a five minute task at night can save me twice that much time the next morning. There is nothing worse than coming down in the morning with four hungry kids and having to clean the kitchen prior to starting breakfast. This is exactly the kind of obstacle that has devastating consequences as it can lead to the break down of the routine and allows for any one of the aforementioned distractions to enter the equation. At this point you’re in a survival mode situation and the implications of this can have a catastrophic effect on the rest of your day.
Timeline for the ideal morning
6:00 – Michelle wakes up (if I’ve showered the night before then I can afford myself an extra 15 minutes of sleep)
6:00-6:45 – Michelle gets ready i.e. showered, dressed, hair and makeup done
6:45-7:00 – Michelle’s buffer time. If the baby is not up by this time, it can be used to do various things such as make my bed, put on a load of laundry, get breakfast started, make a coffee, take a minute to sit in peace and quiet and mentally prepare for the chaos that is about to ensue, etc. On the very odd occasion it can be used as additional time to get ready if I’ve slept in a little or am having a bad hair day
7:00-7:30 – Get all the little people dressed and their beds made
7:30-7:50 – Make and eat breakfast (options are limited to cereal, yogurt w/fruit, toast/bagel or porridge). The most choices I would ever give at any one breakfast is two, but most times their breakfast is the same and is dictated by me. They are to eat what I have given them. Otherwise, trying to accommodate four little people’s request will eat up way too much time (along with my sanity) and our morning will go to shit. If their breakfast is not complete by 7:50 too bad so sad! They will have to wait until snack time at school/daycare because this train ain’t stoppin’ for nothin’
7:50-8:05 – This is where the assembly line of teeth brushing and hair styling comes in (Luckily number 4 is a boy so his hair does not require styling in the morning. Trust me, I’ll take any wins I can get). As a method of utilizing time as effectively as possible, as well as an attempt to reduce the amount of child-to-child contact that occurs, Child A will be brushing her teeth while Child B is getting her hair done, and then they switch. I also try my hardest to keep toddler and baby occupied in their high chairs during this time, not only is this for their own safety, but also to reduce the amount of collateral damage that occurs to my home. It is always a good idea to try to style toddler’s hair while she is strapped in as well otherwise the hair either gets done as I chase her around the house or it doesn’t get done at all
8:05-8:15 – Breakfast dishes tidied, cleaned, put away. Snowsuits, hats, mitts and boots on, lunches in backpacks, everyone out the door
Note: On the very rare occasion you may find yourself ahead of schedule, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT allow yourself to fall into the false sense of security and ease back on adhering to the routine. I speak from experience, do yourself a favour and trust me on this one.