Once you have kids, you’ll laugh that pre-children you never could figure out how to arrive places on time. Because back then, you weren’t dealing with a toddler you would dress and would then suddenly be naked again two minutes later for some inexplicable reason. Or a child who couldn’t possibly go to school because her ponytail just doesn’t look right. Or a teenager you swore was awake but is now apparently sleeping again.
Parents resort to all kinds of tactics to get their kids out of the house on time. One mom I know even uses a megaphone (you know, so she won’t have to yell). But after spending the past 13 years trying to get my five kids out of the house, I’ve come across a few hacks that actually really work — no megaphone required (unless you just like using it).
But I also wondered what other moms were doing to get out on time. So, I’ve rounded up these tips and more from moms across the country along with my own; of course, not every hack will be a game-changer with every kid, so try them out and see which ones make a difference for your family. And then, prepare for the stares of awe and the feeling of satisfaction when you find yourself at your intended destination, on time and stress-free.
Do everything the night before
And I mean everything. Look, I know how it goes: Who wants to make all those lunches when you’re so snuggly on the couch watching Game of Thrones?! But put the television on pause and make those lunches. Also make sure the coffee is ready to go, the backpacks and athletic equipment are by the door, the winter gear is lined up, permission slips are signed and clothes are picked out for the next day. In fact, some particularly morning-averse kids can even benefit from sleeping in their clothes. Look, I don’t want to sleep in daytime clothes myself — but if it works for them, go for it.
And remember: You’re not a personal assistant. So, as your kids get older, they should be doing a lot of these things themselves. Write up a checklist and make sure they take care of all this stuff before they get TV/YouTube/Xbox Live time at night.
Set your alarm 15 minutes earlier
You’re already getting up too early — so why not be less stressed while you do it? As one mom I spoke with, Alexandra, points out, “It really doesn’t make a difference physically because tired is tired whether at 6:15 or 6:30 a.m. But it makes a huge difference in ETA.”
Another mom I interviewed, Amanda, agrees that simply getting up earlier can make a difference in having a smoother, more efficient morning. She says, “I can gently tell the kids, ‘Hey, guys, good morning! I made cinnamon toast and it’s almost ready!’ Rather than just barging in with a grumpy, tired expression demanding they rise.” Who wouldn’t get up for delicious cinnamon toast?
Take breakfast with you
If the whole cinnamon toast scenario doesn’t work out, here’s another option: Have breakfast on the go. This works really well in my house and saves a tonof time. So what do you take? Breakfast bars, granola bars, yogurt drinks, cereal in a bag (no milk), whatever they want — as long as it’s not a box of Junior Mints. (Although, yum.)
Keep extra essentials near the kitchen
If you live in a house where the bedrooms are on a second floor, make sure to keep some morning necessities on the main level. There will always be a kid who forgot socks, and not having to run back up and downstairs saves precious minutes.
Along those lines, it’s a great idea to have children brush their teeth in the kitchen or a nearby bathroom. When kids head back upstairs for personal hygiene tasks, they have a mysterious way of completely disappearing for a long stretch of time — time that, in the morning, you don’t have to spare. My daughter recently got her ears pierced, for example, so we keep the cleaning solution and cotton balls right by the front door.
Motivate with tech if you must
Some children are highly motivated by television or their smartphone. So, consider telling your kids that they can watch a few minutes of TV or use their phone ifthey get everything done on time in the morning. But be warned: This can seriously backfire if your child throws a fit when you tell them it’s finally time to go.
Or here’s another idea: If you’re driving your kids to school, put their screens in the car while they get ready in the house. Let them know they can use the devices when they’re ready to go, with seatbelts on. And never be afraid to shut the Wi-Fi off in your home to get those dawdling teenagers out of the house faster. I mean, with no Wi-Fi, what’s even the point of trying to stay home, kids? (*Wink*)
Double the drive-time
Does the drive take 10 minutes? Schedule 20. Assume there will be traffic or meltdowns or missing items you need to turn back for. This way, when your kid suddenly knocks a dish to the floor, you’ve got built-in padding minutes to do a quick cleanup and stillarrive on time.
Put shoes on in the car
For some reason, it can take a kid an awfully long time to put on a pair of shoes. And toddlers tend to kick them off in the car anyway. So just throw their shoes on when you reach your destination. And let your older kids spend time lacing up sneakers while you’re sitting in traffic instead of when you’re trying to motivate them out the door.
After all that, if you’re still late once and awhile, go easy on yourself. Remember: You’ll get another chance when that alarm goes off at 6:30 a.m. tomorrow. Godspeed.