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.
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!).
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?