Simplify Your Morning Routine by Sharon Chinn-Heritch

By Sharon Chinn-Heritch

How can I make my mornings flow more smoothly? This is one of life's perennial questions. In order to help my fellow moms, I'm sharing some of the tips that have helped me make mornings work better for my family. Credit also goes to the Flylady Marla Cilley, and Deneice Shofield.

Tip #1. A good morning starts the afternoon before. By this I mean get your child (or children) started down that road toward bedtime early enough so that you are not caught by surprise when it's past time for them to be in bed, and that snowballs into you getting to bed late, and waking up already behind. With enough sleep you can do more than you thought possible. But only with adequate rest can you do your personal best.

Tip #2. Take responsibility for getting yourself to bed on time. Yes, yes, I know all that needs to be done, and how the buck stops at your door. Babies don't watch clocks, and toddlers don't ask permission to get stomach viruses. Take care of them, of course. But we do have our own little vices that keep us away from our beds. Sometimes it's over-cleaning, believe it or not. Mine are Law & Order, Queer Eye, and CSI, not to mention computer time and reading. Sometimes my husband even makes the list of distractions! OK, that one's worth it. But seriously, choices have to be made. Do you even remember the plot of the TV show you sacrificed to stay up and watch last week? Enough said.

Tip #3. Have a before-bed routine that includes checking your schedule for the next day, checking the weather forecast, and choosing your clothes for the next day. There's nothing to throw a monkey wrench in your day like waking up at your normal time to find you were expected at the dentist half an hour earlier.

Tip #4. Get up before your little ones and get dressed all the way to your shoes. Easier to do as the babies get older, but the advantages are that you are ready for anything, and as you know, moms have to be ready for anything because . . . things happen. Put on your sunscreen/moisturizer and whatever makeup you like to wear, because it's unlikely you'll have a chance to go back and do it later in the day.

Tip #5. Get your morning medicines lined up in the order you need to take them by putting them in pill-a-day pillboxes. Keep it up high so it's out of range of little hands but where you'll see it every morning. Mine goes in the cupboard that I open every morning to make breakfast. Some physicians recommend that healthy people take "daily" vitamins only every other day - that's what mine told me to do. But I was always forgetting whether today was a vitamin day or not. The problem was solved by taking my vitamin on even numbered days. A slight adjustment is needed at the start of the month, and my brain is free from one more burden.

Tip #6. Begin to train your children to dress themselves from a very young age. Slow but steady, that's the ticket. If you take over and do it for them, compliant children can become convinced that they're incompetent and give up trying, while others are more (ahem) . . . persistent, insisting on doing it themselves and will create huge power struggles over buttoning buttons and pulling on shirts. It's an investment of time that pays off big dividends when they can dress themselves in the morning while you're showering and (gasp!) Fixing Your Hair. Well, maybe they'll need some supervision and some help putting the extra clothes back in the drawer after they've finished getting dressed, but it's still a big help.

Tip #7. Plastic dishes & cups (at least for the children) on a low shelf where children can reach them make getting breakfast easier. My son's earliest set of "dishes" were Tupperware lids. We had a lot of them, they were free, unbreakable, and did the job well. So while you make the toast and get the orange juice from the refrigerator, you can ask your child to bring you his plate and cup to fill. It really saves time.

Lots of breakfast foods are child-friendly. You may have a special drawer in the refrigerator and shelf in the pantry for foods that your children are permitted to prepare for themselves, e.g. dry cereal if they can't pour milk yet, string cheese or cheese cubes, bread, hard boiled eggs, sliced meats, washed fruits.

Tip #8. If a child is old enough to carry a plate, he or she is old enough to carry it to the sink when the meal is over. Make this a habit, and your life will be much simpler. Use phrases like "Let's make the table clean and clear!" to explain your goal. Using simple directions is, of course, necessary at first. But let your child understand that the job isn't finished until the table is completely cleared off - not just when his or her part is done.

Well, that's enough to chew on for quite a while. None of these tips are meant to be set in stone. Everything has to adjust to the needs and constraints of particular families. Use them as a starting point to get your mental engine revving and you'll probably come up with lots of ideas that you can share with our group too.

I look forward to reading your ideas!

Sharon Chinn-Heritch (42) has two sons, William (7) and Stephen (5), who came into her life to challenge her ideas of parenting after a career in law and real estate. She and her husband Andrew homeschool the boys and ferry them to practice for whatever sport they're doing at the moment. She listens to college lectures on tape, especially in history and philosophy, because she couldn't afford to stay in school forever, and Andrew cheerfully subsidizes her mania for buying good books for the children. She also enjoys scrapbooking and baking.

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