Any parent knows getting kids up and out the door for school in the morning can be one of the most stressful times of the day. From packing snacks and school lunches to making it to the school bus stop on time, the morning can easily become a comedy of errors. In many households, the a.m. routine is a joint effort by both mom and dad. For the single mom doing it on her own, she must be even more organized if she is to start her family’s day off right. Here a few time-saving tips for a more organized, and peaceful, morning.
1. Pack snacks and school lunches at night. Preparing snacks and school lunches can be a time-consuming endeavor, especially when dealing with children who are picky eaters. Individual preferences and mild food allergies dictate preparing different snacks and school lunches for each of my three children. Because I am not a candidate for making an assembly line of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I began making snacks and school lunches at night. And what a time saver that was! An even better time saver was when I passed the responsibility on to my children as they became old enough to do it themselves. With my oversight, my middle school girls prepare themselves nightly a healthy, well-balanced lunch they will actually want to eat, and they feel independent in the process. My third-grader, who does not yet make his own lunch, does pack his own snack and is happy to do so. It’s a win-win situation for all.
2. Pick out tomorrow’s outfit in advance. We have all had those mornings where our child, rummaging through a closet filled with clothes and countless pairs of shoes, complains that there is absolutely nothing to wear. I know when I am rushed I have more difficulty putting together an outfit I am satisfied with and comfortable wearing. The same holds true for kids. Also, we do not want to find ourselves searching at the last minute for the one orange shirt our child needs to wear for “Spirit Day,” which is now lying stained and smelly at the bottom of the dirty clothes hamper. Assembling outfits daily, or even by the week, avoids these common pitfalls and definitely makes for a much quieter morning!
3. Pack school bags at night. This is definitely a must in our house. I have received way too many phone calls about a textbook that was inadvertently left behind, a homework assignment that was never printed, forgotten library books, or a misplaced flash drive. Dropping everything to run to school is okay once in a while (everyone is entitled to a mistake now and then), but when these last minute calls become habitual, that is where I draw the line. Packing up for school is a task that builds responsibility and a skill your child is sure to take along when he or she enters the workplace in the future.
4. Take a shower before bed. Nothing is worse than leaving the house on a cold morning with a wet head. Nor is nagging a groggy kid to get out of a hot shower when he or she is still half asleep. Making sure my children bathe at night is another big time saver in anticipation of our morning rush. Besides, I always find bathing at night helps me fall asleep easier. If you have a child who insists on showering in the morning, make sure that there is a specific amount of time allotted to do so, and that the child stays on task for getting out the door on time.
5. Allow extra time in the morning. Regardless of how much we prepare in advance, the unexpected is still bound to happen. Allowing a few extra minutes in the morning can make all the difference. Also, setting aside time for your children to sit down and calmly eat a healthy breakfast is likewise important. Studies have shown that a child who eats before school is better able to concentrate in class and performs better in school overall than the child who skips breakfast in the morning. Breakfast need not be time-consuming or very involved. I always make sure to have bananas on hand and I cut fresh fruit at night so the children can quickly grab it from the fridge.
6. Get a good night’s sleep. Being rested is truly the key to a calm morning (for both mom and kids), no matter how much planning we do in advance. We have all dealt with the cranky child (and adult!) we are unable to console. The world is a much brighter place when we have slept well. We are happier, more productive, and actually pleasant to be around. But perhaps the most important thing to remember is that the child who went to school tired will only come home feeling even more exhausted. And nobody wants an encore performance of a difficult morning, especially a busy single mom.