It’s now officially fall. Yes, I know fall really doesn’t mean that much in San Antonio, unless you count sweating your way through one of the local pumpkin patches or trying to help your child pick out a Halloween costume he won’t absolutely roast in. Since we’re well into October, we’ve all (hopefully) settled into some kind of school day/weekday morning routine, even if that just means you’re getting sort of used to dealing with getting your grumpy kids out of bed and ready for school each day.
While I can’t type “six things that will make your mornings awesome” with a straight face, I can offer a few road-tested tidbits that will improve your mornings, i.e., help you get your kids out the door without making you wish Merlot was an acceptable breakfast beverage:
1. Give yourself a bedtime
I am a night owl. It’s like the race against the clock starts the second my kids go down and I feel compelled to do all the things I couldn’t do with them underfoot all evening. And, yeah, sometimes those things are Netflix, Pinterest, and wine, but evenings are my chill time. I often find myself staying up late just to have some quality time to do something I enjoy, or using the quiet hours to catch up on work, housework, or something else I didn’t get done during the day that I feel guilty for not getting done. I go to bed when I’m absolutely exhausted or when I remind myself how bad the next day is going to suck because I only got four hours of sleep.
Please tell me that’s not just me.
While I’ll never squelch my night-owlish tendencies, and I’ll always have stuff I want to or need to do after the kids go to bed, it helps to give myself a cutoff time. It’s not always the same time, and sometimes the lure of Netflix and Pinterest are too strong and it just doesn’t happen, but telling myself “I’m going to hit the hay by 10:30 P.M.” and sticking to it makes for a better morning. I know it’s so obviously simple, but making an effort to get some rest is self-care that pays dividends during the day. Life is better when you’re not a walking, coffee-guzzling zombie.
2. Meal plan for breakfast
Planning my dinner menus out in advance saves us time and money and helps us eat better. Yes, we still have those “whatever, order pizza” nights, but planning, shopping, and chopping in advance usually works well for us. This fall, I took things a step further and started planning our breakfasts out in advance.
If you’re imagining me serving up homemade waffles or a Wednesday morning omelet bar, I’m sorry to disappoint you. To each their own, but for us, breakfast meal planning involves asking the kids what they want for breakfast the night before or telling them what it’s going to be. Setting the cereal bowls and spoons on the counter might save only a tiny slice of time but everything helps on a busy morning. Besides, it saves time when you’re not arguing with your kids why they’re eating yogurt instead of toaster waffles at 7:00 A.M. No one likes that.
We do a hot breakfast about once a week during the weekdays, and it’s usually something simple like scrambled eggs or crockpot oats. My family looks forward to that and it’s much easier to find time to do it if I plan a little bit ahead of time.
3. Do stuff the night before
I know . . . this sounds so obvious, but packing the backpacks and making sure whatever your kids need for sports, clubs, or extracurricular activities is not in the bottom of the laundry hamper will greatly improve your morning. Lay out clothes. Sign permission slips. For us, every day is different, so taking a few minutes the night before has made mornings go much more smoothly. No one likes a temper tantrum because someone can’t find their shoes when you’re already late getting out the door.
4. Make lunches while you’re making dinner
If your kids pack their lunches, do it during dinner prep or even during dinner cleanup, if that works better for you. I can usually manage making sandwiches or putting together some sort of bento-ish thing in between whatever I’m doing to get dinner on the table. I don’t have to go back in my clean kitchen again that evening and we’re not scrambling in the morning.
5. Get up at least 30 minutes earlier than your kids
If I’m not trying to get ready while I’m trying to get my kids ready and doing other mom things, our mornings tend to run much more efficiently. And if not efficiently then at least peacefully.
6. Do fun things
Mornings don’t have to be a complete drag. Okay, they are kind of a drag, but look for things to make them suck a little bit less. We have a no-screens rule in effect on weekday mornings, but we do listen to music at breakfast. If my kids get up from the table and have an impromptu dance-off, it puts everyone in a good mood. Yes, sometimes I have to be the heavy and make them sit down and finish eating, and if things get out of control, I turn the music off. The music is a big incentive for them so they usually make an effort to behave reasonably well.
Morning dance-offs may not be your jam (see what I did there) but look for small things to inject some happy into your morning. Simple games or brainteasers set out at the breakfast table might work. Find kid-centric exercise videos on YouTube to get your young ones moving. Get creative and change it up. Use morning fun as a reward for getting up and getting dressed without giving you a hard time. One of my six-year-olds is a total grouch in the morning and flops on the floor in his underpants and cries that he doesn’t want to get dressed, but coaxing him into the day with the promise of some Uptown Funk with his Cheerios sometimes gets us where we need to be.
I wish alarm clocks weren’t a thing and that school started at 10 A.M., but my reality is that we have to get up and get going in the morning. These are little tricks that work to improve my family’s morning routine. But if I’m being completely honest, there are still days where I wish Merlot were an acceptable breakfast beverage.