Problem Solving as a Mum

Our morning routine has become a crying relay between my three children. They pass the figurative baton between them, each take turns sobbing, screaming and whinging, usually set in motion by injustices such as being asked to get dressed.

The main problem is that we have a lot to do in a limited time period because we all have to get out the door to drop my daughter to preschool at 8:45. And it’s even more limited on Mondays when we have to drop my son to child care at 8:15.

Because of the time limit, I feel like I have to constantly hussle the older two to keep going with getting dressed, and it is literally like trying to herd a pack of cats in a straight line through a field of mice! This is all while I’m sitting down trying to feed the baby his breakfast, which takes about 30-45 minutes. And then I have to get the older kids their breakfast and then make sure we all go to the toilet/have nappies changed before we leave the house.

Sometimes I imagine how we would all look from the outside and I just laugh. Madness, sheer madness.

I’ve wondered at times why I just can’t get it together. Why can’t I just figure it out so that our mornings (or other problematic time of day) run smoothly. “Get in a groove”, if you like.

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But here’s the thing about grooves. They are worn in over time, as you take the same path, again and again.

We actually are in a morning groove, a pattern of doing things worn in over time, it’s just not the one I want to be in.

And the more we wear in this particular groove, the harder it will be to get out of it.

I can remember other moments of parenting where things have reached a crisis point, where I know things can’t keep going the way they are. They say for change to occur, the pain of staying the same has to be greater than the pain of changing (and as someone who hates change, that means things often get quite bad for me first!).

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So it helps me, as I face this morning time meltdown problem, to remember previous times I’ve made changes in my mothering, and how I went about it.

Here’s what I’ve done previously to get out of a bad groove and into a good one :

  • Zoom out and reassess. What is not working here? What do I want this to look like instead? When my middle child got to just over a year old, I realised that his solid food intake was still relying heavily on purees. I wanted him to be eating more family foods instead.
  • Ask God.The Bible says that if anyone lacks wisdom, they should ask God and He will freely give it. Often when it comes to issues in our mothering, particularly issues we may be encountering for the first time as our children reach new stages, we really don’t have the wisdom we need on our own to solve the problem. Also, praying about it will help us to leave our anxieties in God’s hands and trust that He will guide us as we go about changing things.
  • Get input. What do others see that you might not? Are you blowing things out of proportion? I usually ask my husband what he thinks when I feel like something is not working well with the kids. He will either say, “Yeah, I think that’s an issue too” or “I think you just need to accept that’s the way things are for now”. He also has good ideas about new things I could try or strategies to implement that I hadn’t thought of on my own.
  • Set a goal. Think of a time frame in which you want to implement the changes, and decide what you want to achieve in that time frame. Back to my son’s food intake, I think I decided that I would phase out purees completely from his diet over a period of three weeks or so.
  • Make a plan. Think about the practical steps it will take to achieve that goal. What will make it possible? Reducing my son’s puree intake meant that I had to increase his intake of family foods at the same time, at first providing more of the things I knew he would eat (roasted sweet potatoes, sandwiches, risotto, etc.). If I had just reduced the purees without providing more of the food he would eat, he would have just been hungry and we probably would have gone back to purees again.
  • Make it stick. It takes time to change a habit and get into a new groove, so commit to the new plan for at least a week. And if change is hard for us as adults, it is even harder for kids, who find great comfort in familiar routines. But they rely on us as Mums to set the direction and guide them in the way they should go, so as we show them the new way things are going to be, and stick with it, they will get the hang of it.

 

Once I decided to phase out the purees I was feeding my son, and focus more on getting him eating the same foods as the rest of the family, I was surprised how quickly he took to it. I remember thinking, “That was easy!”.

Often I hesitate to make changes because I worry about making things worse or I don’t really know how to get from “here” to “there”. But once I have a proper think about it, and make a plan, the changes often follow quite naturally.

 

As I think about the steps listed above, which have worked for me before, it gives me more clarity regarding my morning situation.

I can see that my anxiety in the mornings probably comes out in my tone of voice and body language, making the whole experience pretty unpleasant for the kids.

And there are things I’ve changed already. I’ve made a habit of ironing my husbands shirts for the week on Sunday so I don’t have to do it in the mornings. I try to get up at 6:15 to spend time with God and have a coffee, rather than 7ish, when the baby and kids wake up. (But if I’ve had a particularly rough night, I’ll turn off the alarm.) I pack lunch boxes the night before.

But still, we have chaos on most school mornings.

So now over to you guys – does anyone have any suggestions for how we can break out of our morning rut? How do you handle mornings in your family?

 

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11 thoughts on “Problem Solving as a Mum

  1. Choose clothes the night before. Lay them out where you children know to get them and put them on independently (if they are able).
    Perhaps use a rewards system to get this going first?

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  2. Thanks Kate! I have their clothes laid out about half the time, and it does help some, in that I’m not also frantically running around trying to find clean things.
    And they do know how to get dressed independently, but the problem seems to be that they don’t want to – they either want me to help them with each item of clothing or they just want to play with their toys.

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  3. first – you are so beautiful!
    second – your children are adorable!

    then … i hate to say it, but crying is normal, especially for girls. they will outgrow it, but that will be awhile, so don’t hold your breath; just know it’s on the horizon, out there, somewhere πŸ™‚

    we cry for all sorts of reasons … but probably can categorized them into:
    (1) expressing emotion (2) release and reset (3) manipulate/control.

    are they overwhelmed? trying to be manipulative? idk. sometimes it’s hard to figure out. once my girls started school, they would get in the car and cry every.single.day for years b/c they’d held it in together day long and had to release it when they were safe to do so (they would have done well in homeschooling then, but we were not allowed at the time).

    there are some very strong willed kids who, if something worked even one time to get their way, they will do it over and over and over ad nauseam – my bff’s son did this. i had one who was so emotionally sensitive to her environment that she picked up and wore all the emotions of those in her world.

    for children, they also use crying to try to communicate with you b/c they do not yet have the brain development and vocabulary to express themselves. it helps sometimes if you can give words to their emotions so they can categorize them.

    anyway … just some ideas.

    above all … remember this is a season.

    my next door neighbors have two little boys, and i hear them playing outside a lot. when they’re happy and cheerful i think, “Ahhh! Those were such sweet days!” … then when they start crying and getting whiny i think, “Nope, don’t miss that!” and i go into my house and close the door so i don’t have to hear it πŸ™‚ … (if she needed help, though, i would give it to her; she already has a lot of family around).

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  4. Thanks Ame,
    Those are some helpful thoughts. Often I don’t really think about how they are feeling, just that their crying is stopping the entire progress of the morning! I think it’s a combination between expressing their feelings and trying to manipulate the situation. They would love for me to manually dress them both, but they are big enough to do it on their own and I don’t have the time to do it for them with all the stuff I have to do for the baby. I mean, sometimes I think, maybe things would go faster if I just dress them myself. And they might for a while, but I think that would do them a disservice in the long run, since getting dressed is a basic life skill.
    I shall persevere!
    I think a big part of it is being consistent.

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  5. somewhere in there i got to where i dressed the kids for bed in what they would have to wear the next day if they had to get up and go. one of my kids continued that practically her whole public school career as she realized how many more minutes she could sleep in if she didn’t have to change out of her jammies into day clothes πŸ˜‰

    the other? OH.MY.WORD. what she wore at any given moment was THE biggest decision of her day and i have no doubt caused me to pull a ton of hair out πŸ˜‰

    of course … there’s always the peer pressure thing … their friends finding out Mummy still dressed them while their friends dress themselves. sometimes peer pressure is a good thing πŸ™‚

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  6. as i’ve thought more, i have another thought, idea.

    sometimes our kids just need one-on-one time with us, even if it’s just five minutes. perhaps their desire for you to get them dressed is to have that one-on-one time with their Mummy, where you’re touching them, helping just them, loving on them.

    i know that even now, my girls NEED one-on-one time with me … they call it their Mommy Time (yes, they still call me Mommy sometimes, and i love it!). it’s amazing how calm and responsive they are even after just an hour one-on-one.

    yes, dressing themselves is a basic life skill. it doesn’t sound like they have any special needs, so they will get it. if you can make the time to help them get dressed right now, perhaps that’s not such a bad thing to do.

    i had a friend who had four kids … she said after the 4th that she no longer had any advice … and that she didn’t care when the baby potty trained b/c she was quite certain he wouldn’t still be wearing diapers at his wedding someday πŸ˜‰

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  7. Are ur kids old enuf to read/ interact with a chart of velcroed pics of their to do list, as they do the list they can remove the picture (wake up, toilet, get changed, eat breaky, brush teeth, wash face, comb hair, put on shoes, pack bag). Then stick them up again the night before in the right order. Mornings can be craaaaayzeeeeee!

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  8. Thanks Jen!
    I’ve tried a morning chart before, but I think it just wasn’t exciting enough. I’ve seen some great ideas online, so maybe I will put one together for them with bits to move or flaps to lift. I think they would love that! πŸ™‚

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