The morning rush is a thing for many people; it isn’t solely the preserve of parents getting the kids to school, kindy or daycare, although undoubtedly parents are only too aware of how it goes!!
So picture the scene; it’s 5 minutes before you need to leave home and;
The kids haven’t finished getting dressed, still have to clean their teeth, put their socks and shoes on, and do sunscreen
Your partner is wandering around with a half eaten slice of toast, wondering aloud where their keys/bag/laptop could have got to this time
You’re ironing the only clean workwear you can find, while trying to check your calendar and the train timetable at the same time!
If this sounds all too familiar, read on! Alternatively if this sounds nothing like mornings at your place, please comment with your tips and tricks.
Breathe! Don’t yell (you’ll thank me, I promise)
This includes trying not to get cranky with yourself. Mornings are a time when most of us are task rich and time poor, and it’s easy to get anxious, stressed or angry when it’s not all going smoothly. When we get stressed, or anxious, it triggers our sympathetic nervous system, and the fight or flight response, where our body releases adrenaline in response to the perceived threat, getting us ready to fight or run away. It’s an evolutionary response that may still be useful in some situations, but not so functional when you’re tempted to flee from the half prepared lunches or fight with the not yet dressed kids. In this moment, there’s a fair chance you’ll say or do something that you’ll later feel bad about, and which likely won’t help the situation anyway. (Yelling does not seem to get a kid to put their socks on faster - maybe not scientific research but I have tested this!)
So what to do instead? Stop, and notice how you’re feeling; increased heart rate, more rapid breathing, racing thoughts and tense muscles are due to adrenaline and our sympathetic nervous system, and can be countered by deep breathing, engaging our parasympathetic nervous system.
Belly big - breathe in - belly small - breathe out
Take a slow breath in through your nose for a count of 4, breathing into your lower belly so it inflates
Hold it for a second or two
Breath out slowly through your mouth for the count of 5, and feel your belly deflate
Wait a few seconds then take another deep breath, and find a breath pattern that suits you.
Kids can also learn to do deep breathing to calm down; one tip that worked for us was getting the kids to lie down with a favourite toy on their belly (eg soft toy, action figure) and try to make that toy fall off!
Practice for both grown ups and kids is best done when calm, although the giggles from trying to make Spiderman fly off a small tummy have been known to banish the cranky pants!
2. Organise what you can - don’t feel guilty for what you can’t
If you are a parent, it’s likely that you’ve seen dozens of backpack walls, command centres, and beautifully balanced and presented lunches. I’m happy to share that we do not rock all of these areas! But the things we have organised work well for all of us, not just the kids stuff.
So pick the things that work for your family, and do them in a way that suits you. The photos are of our two main ‘organising areas’. I originally tried to hide it all away under the stairs, which works great for the grown ups of the family, but not so much for the kids (as out of sight really is out of mind for them!). So now the cupboard is for the adults bags, bits and bobs, plus the noticeboard of what day equals library books, swim stuff, tennis racquet etc.
The kids school bags have a separate rack, in an open area where they can see and reach them, making it easy for them to pack in what they need for the day.
Lunches - I don’t imagine I will ever put of photo of our lunches on Facebook; they’re just not that inspiring! Simple things work for us, like having all lunch bags and food containers in drawers directly under the lunch prep area. We do some cooking/baking and freezing, but not a massive amount, and we have a small number of tried and tested things that we rotate through.
It’s not glamorous, but everyone gets fed reasonably nutritious food every day; this is where I advocate not feeling guilty! Rather, if putting together lunches is a stressor in the mornings, think about how you can simplify it, whether it’s a divide a conquer job, or a prep at the weekend/night before job, or simply having a meal planner for the week so you don’t have to think about it in the morning. Find and do what works for you.
3. Reward a job well done
Recognition and reward is important for everyone, and that includes recognising what you’ve done well. Tell your kids how proud you are that they can do their own shoelaces / buttons / bag packing etc. Tell your partner you appreciated that they made takeaway coffees. Tell yourself your new morning checklist is killing it! Whatever has worked, recognise it and acknowledge how it helped everyone get out the door.
Enjoy your day!