Parenting Reading

Mornings, Parenting Book Club, & More

February 19, 2020

Maybe I should start writing posts like Trent Hamm’s mailbag editions. He certainly gets a lot of questions!

I did want to make an admission/declaration about our mornings. They are not amazing these days. Our nanny is now staying later, which helps in the early evening hours. Josh and I have been doing the school drop off most days, which is about a 50 minute process on a good day (leave house 7:20, park & scooter with A/C for drop off 7:40, walk back to car with G and drive to her school by 8:10, and then my workplace is about 20 minutes from her school).

It’s quite early and it’s fairly tight. Omitting the scooter isn’t any faster and leads to all 3 kids getting antsy in a very long carpool line, so we only do that when it’s raining (and the ONE day I deemed it too cold to walk — I think it was 40F and the kids do not own proper coats! #southfloridalife).

This all sounds fine BUT – it is such a struggle getting them out the door on time, and leaving late cascades into being late to drop off G –> more traffic –> me being late for work. On non-patient days it’s not terrible but if I have patients or an 8:30 meeting, itis untenable.

I wish I could say that we were all soft voices and calm smuggles in the morning. Instead it’s more of a drill sergeant-like situation! And mostly that role is mine. We wake the kids around 6:30 (which is often more like 6:40) and then they tend to dawdle through eating breakfast, getting dressed, brushing teeth and getting out the door, EVEN THOUGH everything is downstairs and very easily accessible to them. Sometimes G has a very poorly timed dirty diaper in there too (THE WORST).

I have started to take “breakfast orders” the night before because A & C will not answer me when I repeatedly ask them what they want in the mornings (not morning people, I guess). This sometimes helps but also sometimes backfires (“Ew I don’t want that, I changed my mind.”)

We usually make it out, and the walk outside is pleasant. But getting there is terrible! I am on a mission to improve things. Things we may try:

  • playlist to help cue them better (ie, XYZ song comes on = need to leave)
  • just going out the door without them (Josh’s suggestion) to see if they scramble & follow
  • letting them be late for school and suffer consequences (not great b/c then I am late for work)
  • we already give them a “score” for their morning behavior as part of our regular behavior chart, but in the moment they don’t really care enough
  • just generally trying so so so hard to be more patient and less reactive (VERY HARD for me when I am in a time crunch and I’m sure they pick up on that!)

BAH. I welcome suggestions. Anyone else struggle getting out the door in a calm and positive manner?

Question from Amanda:

“Have you talked more about your parenting book group here or on the podcast? I’ve been looking but may have missed it. I think its a wonderful idea and am curious about trying to start one!”

Yes! I started a parenting book club ~2 years ago or so. Mostly I just invited several couples that I like / am friends with, and it has been a mixed success. We have definitely had membership dwindle but are currently seeking some new ones, and there are 6 of us (3 couples) who are definitely into it. We’ve read books about parenting and tech, about division of labor in households (that one was a little juicy!), about different discipline tactics, etc. We rotate meeting at each other’s houses, and the host provides food (often takeout or a mix of homemade/takeout) and is in charge of choosing the book. It’s a lot of fun and, if nothing else, ensures we get to hang out with friends on a regular basis!


I’m loving my “plan my TBR list ahead of time” method. I find it motivating and really haven’t read a bad book yet in 2020! I have at least 3.5 books to finish before Q2 hits, which is either March 23 or March 30 (depending whether it starts before or after spring break!). I think I can do it, since this pile looks quite tempting and juicy! Worst comes to worst, I do have several flights coming up (some long) which should be great catchup reading time . . .

current TBR pile – love The Snow Child so far, about 70% through!


  • Reply Emily February 19, 2020 at 5:55 am

    Sarah, we only have two kiddos (almost 4 and 16 months) but getting out of the house to daycare drop off is brutal. It takes forever and I get on transit in a frustrated, sweaty mess. We have a part-time nanny who helps after daycare (laundry, tidying, daycare pickup, feeding dinner) as the solution to having more parent time in the morning but it’s not perfect. No answers, just commiseration (and looking for others’ magic bullets!!).

  • Reply Awayemily February 19, 2020 at 6:03 am

    This is probably not the solution you are looking for but…our kids’ (4 and 2) only weekday screen time is the morning. Basically, after breakfast they get 15 min of Daniel tiger and that’s the period for us getting them dressed/them getting themselves dressed. If any dawdling or resistance happens, TV goes off immediately. It is very effective (and critical for my sanity).

    • Reply gwinne February 19, 2020 at 10:23 am

      Morning screen time also mostly has worked for my 8 year old. He wants to watch it and only can if he’s ready to go…

      • Reply SparklingGlitter February 21, 2020 at 11:32 am

        This is our solution for our 6 soon to be 7 year old. She still gives me much grief in the morning from time to time “ha ha”

    • Reply Jennifer T February 19, 2020 at 11:29 am

      Totally agree with the morning screen time. Once dressed, ate breakfast, etc can watch play ipad until it is time to go. The longer the getting ready the less or no screen time!

      • Reply Emma February 19, 2020 at 1:28 pm

        This is my solution too, works great on a similar timeline!

    • Reply Sara February 19, 2020 at 12:47 pm

      We actually found that the morning screen time was nice while it was happening and as a bit of a bribe to move quicker, but they had meltdowns when the screen had to be turned off. We stopped any morning screen time at the beginning of this school year and things are a little better.

      However, this post comes at a good time – we struggle with this so much and it causes a lot of tension between my husband and I in the mornings. I resolved this morning to continue to try harder! I like the idea of a planned menu for breakfast and a checklist. My 3 year old is very into glow sticks so he got one of those once he finished his tasks. Getting up earlier and building in extra time helps. Think about anything that will go wrong and eliminate optional things if you are crunched (breakfast on the go is a good suggestion). Get on the same page as your partner, too. Tell them how they can help you (with specifics). My husband is truly terrible at logistics and mornings in general, and I just have to guide him along.

    • Reply Marthe February 21, 2020 at 2:13 pm

      Yes morning screentime here too, serves as a playlist as well, when Shaun the sheep is finished, tv goes off and it’s time to leave. But waking kids at 6:30 sure is hard!

  • Reply sophia February 19, 2020 at 6:33 am

    Mornings can be difficult. Our routine is simpler and later. I’m wondering if putting them to bed earlier would help as mine are even more difficult in the morning when they haven’t slept enough.

    Right now my kids (ages 2, 4 and 8) go to bed at 730/8/830 and wake at 7ish.

  • Reply Janelle February 19, 2020 at 6:59 am

    I was having the same problem with my 4 year old- she is sooo slow in the morning! I started waking her up 15 minutes earlier just to ‘start stretching’ and usually by her old wake time she’s up on her own and getting dressed. No idea if this will work for you but it has really helped our mornings. I was not giving her enough time to wake up slowly. She still takes forever to eat breakfast but now she at least has a bit more time for that. I know your kids are already up early but 15 extra minutes may be worth it!

  • Reply Melanie February 19, 2020 at 6:59 am

    My kids are 6 and 3, and they also get screen time at the end of the morning routine if there’s time after they’ve completed everything they need to do. It started more for us, as a way to get them to hold still while we put sunscreen on them. And same as awayemily, if they are too late or not cooperating, no TV. We also have a cutoff time when breakfast has to be done. Doing as much as I can the night before helps, although I’m sure you’re already doing that! But none of it’s a magic bullet, mornings are still stressful most days.

  • Reply Kate Droll February 19, 2020 at 7:01 am

    We have five kids, ages 8 months to 7 1/2 (our oldest is Annabel’s age). Mornings are just not my favorite time, but routine, alarms/music, lists seem to help. We have a big list on the wall that the kids wrote/drew of everything they need to do to get ready for school. The visual helps them remember.

    We go through phases where some days seem “okay” and others are outright torture and I hate sending the kids off to school that way.

    Kids pick out clothes the night before – and they are downstairs. Everything is packed the night before. Breakfast for all is decided by me based on the a rough meal plan similar to dinner. I don’t make five different meals for dinner so why should I make five different breakfasts – no one wants to do that at 6 a.m.

    We were riding the bus in the morning but the stress/anxiety associated with missing the bus, not knowing if we missed the bus making everyone miserable. I drive the kids and drop them off right as car pool is opening. I usually park and walk them to the front door to say goodbye – I hate the carpool drive by trying to throw kids out the car and with a vehicle FULL of carseats its near impossible to get out quickly. I’m willing to drop them at school but it has to be early. I cannot drop them off as school is starting because traffic is worse, it takes 5 x as long and then I’m “late” to work.

    Last year was worse (bus at 6:30 a.m., staggered school start times) and next year may be better (older kids and more independence, no baby = no pumping) or easier but then it will get harder – different schools or change in before school activities or work schedule – and then we change the routine again.

  • Reply Amy February 19, 2020 at 7:02 am

    My kids are 7 and 5 (similar to yours) and it’s taken a while to get to a point where I feel like our mornings are manageable. I don’t have a toddler in the mix, but — we do very little in the morning. My 7yo in particular is not a morning person. Do your kids have a morning snack at school? I pack a more substantial snack for them and then keep breakfast simple. I don’t ask them what they want because then that sets an expectation of me having to wait for their answer! I make hot cocoa (homemade mix with whole milk, so not as much of a sugar bomb as it could be) every morning and then sometimes a scrambled egg with it. They drink it while reading. I do have to stay on top of my 5yo while getting dressed and both of them are very distractible, but we usually manage to get out the door on time. I’m not a soft-voice mom either and have found a balance between always soft and calm (which is often not helpful or effective) and yelling at them, which I haven’t had to do in a while. But I’m very no-nonsense. Try limiting the number of decisions they make in the morning (breakfast, clothes, etc), giving your daughter more responsibility which would free you up to care for your toddler (can she get breakfast items on the table?) and keeping it streamlined. It’s okay if you’re a drill sergeant in the morning. Good luck!

  • Reply Ana F. February 19, 2020 at 7:09 am

    Mornings are tough! For a long time we had our kids sleep in their clothes for the following day… huge time saver! Also on mornings when we’re running behind schedule, we skip breakfast at home and do “road waffles” (toasted multigrain waffles) instead. Not perfect, but it gets the job done.

    • Reply Kate D February 19, 2020 at 11:19 am

      Lol. We call them “car waffles”.

  • Reply Sheryl February 19, 2020 at 7:17 am

    I dont have quite the morning rush you do, but I can relate to the “breakfast orders” thing! I feel like I ask my kids multiple times and just getting breakfast on the table takes way longer than it should. When I read what you wrote, I got a light bulb moment– why do I ask them what they want? I don’t ask them what they want for dinner, and they certainly don’t each get individual things. Maybe I should just start putting breakfast down in front of them (all things they like) and that’s it. Or maybe, if your kids respond well to plans/schedules, maybe plan a standard “breakfast menu” for the week– Mondays cereal, Tuesdays cereal, Wednesdays waffles, etc.? Just a thought!

  • Reply Sarah February 19, 2020 at 7:28 am

    We have 3 under 5 and my husband has to be at the hospital by 7:30. He is morning parent so it’s just him.
    -The single biggest thing we do is put the kids to bed in the clothes they need to be in in the morning. I think you might have uniforms? But you could probably do G in her tomorrow clothes. And maybe if it’s a jumper or something, A could wear the shirt, and throw on the jumper in the AM.
    -They have a wake-up clock, which isn’t that helpful on weekdays (it’s good on weekends when they naturally wake up and then they check the clock), but I was thinking that a sunrise alarm like they market for adults might be good. So it just turns the light up gradually. (When my husband is away and I have mornings, I often go in at 6 and just switch off the white noise and turn on the light, but don’t try to wake them or anything. But then it’s easier at 6:30 when I walk in again. When it’s me, I also hand them a cup of milk literally right as they wake up which seems to smooth the transition. Again, it’s not me very often, and it seems to be smoother without me there!)
    -In your case – and I know this isn’t so great dentally or environmentally, but it really wouldn’t bother me for a short season of life – I would skip breakfast at home and hand over scooter snacks. Multigrain waffle, applesauce pouch, and just call it.
    -I would have zero problem with, and I think this would be effective with my 2 and 4yo – screen time in the morning as motivation. I also would have no problem with a special treat at the scooter if they get there before a certain time, like having a cube of rice krispie treat or whatever, as long as they reached the scooters by 7:15.

    • Reply Natasha February 19, 2020 at 11:07 am

      I have done the road waffles idea too with success. Granola bars, string cheese with an apple or banana, yogurt pouches, been eaten as breakfast on the go for us.

  • Reply Laura Vanderkam February 19, 2020 at 7:55 am

    I like the “road waffles” idea. Taking breakfast orders the night before sounds like way too much work!

  • Reply Elisabeth February 19, 2020 at 8:13 am

    Definitely feel your pain, especially when my husband is travelling and I’m getting both kids out the door solo. I always feel like I’m rushing in the mornings, but I am NOT a morning person so the tradeoff of getting up earlier is just so tough for me to swallow.

    I agree 100% about not giving choices for breakfast. I have a rotation of 3 or 4 things that work for us and just stick to that. Baked oatmeal (basically oatmeal and eggs; I reduce the sugar to almost nil and my kids love it) can be made ahead and slathered with some PB and reheated beautifully. If we have time, we’ll have scrambled eggs, but toast, cereal, or microwaved oatmeal/cream of wheat with fresh of frozen fruit is it. I have a friend who rotates toast or healthy cereals for breakfast all week. That’s it. My mantra with any meal is “if you don’t like this one, maybe you’ll like the next one more;” if they’re hungry, they’ll eat. Setting a timeframe for breakfast helps too. Maybe your playlist could guide here; when X song comes on, that’s the signal that breakfast is over in 2 minutes. I also thing food in the car, maybe with water and toothbrushes coming along, might be a great solution as well, at least for days when things are going sideways?

    The natural consequences of letting them be late is such a tough one; in principal I agree, but if you’re the one being “punished” (by arriving late to work), that doesn’t work properly.

    An earlier wake-up time seems like another logical consideration? I hate waking my kids up because it’s so nice and quiet before they’re up and going and I can delude myself that I have peaceful mornings again…but Sarah, you are a morning person, so maybe could do a 15 minute earlier wake-up call, at least to help them ease in to the day.

    My daughter (9) has a to-do list in the morning: brush hair, get dressed, make bed, put on socks/deodorant. She usually wakes before 7:00 (when we say they can come of their rooms), and she’s supposed to do all these things BEFORE she starts playing etc. Doesn’t always work, but she generally does at least 75% of the to-do’s.

    No magic solution, but definitely empathize and appreciate you sharing the struggle!

  • Reply Marcia (OrganisingQueen) February 19, 2020 at 8:54 am

    We don’t give our twins breakfast at home! This has changed our mornings to relative calm.

    They leave with my husband at 7 am but school only starts at 7:45 so I pack them a muffin for breakfast every living day. No one cares except me. We do switch up the type of muffins every week – bran, banana, apple, etc. – so it’s a little different.

    When they get to school, they have their muffins. We are both happy because they have food inside them and I didn’t have to be a shouty mother in the morning.

  • Reply Teresa February 19, 2020 at 9:46 am

    Getting 3 kids out the door in the morning and on to work… the struggle is real. Thanks for the commiserating post. What we do: eliminate certain tasks, like a sit down breakfast. I believe my children would be starving if we didn’t eat in the car. That may be off limits for you but if not, prepacked cereal cups and a milk cup with a lid and straw have worked for us. Also boiled eggs, smoothies (in a similar spill proof container), cheese stick and organic granola bar, fruit cup and french toast sticks (made ahead from the freezer). Our kids are only allowed to eat at the table if they have done everything else and get started at a certain time. Good luck.

  • Reply Kate February 19, 2020 at 10:06 am

    Sounds like maybe an earlier wake-up time needs to start happening…. that’s not the easy answer, and it might affect your morning routine, but it should help and won’t be forever! Also, for breakfast I like the weekly menu. Or maybe they get a choice from just two things. If they say yuck, they just go hungry. One day won’t hurt and a nice reminder of the hunger pains might get them to agree the next morning!

    Or, for breakfast, whip up some healthy smoothies in mason jars with cuppow lids ( and they drink them in the car. We do that often. Smoothies with mixed berries, kale, banana maybe, almond milk and chia seeds. One hint – if you don’t have time to wash the blender, at least fill it to the top with water in the sink. Those chia seeds can dry on the side and be a real B to clean!

  • Reply Kate February 19, 2020 at 10:07 am

    Or, make these and have them eat them while scootering or driving: Or some variation of that… .

  • Reply Sara B. February 19, 2020 at 10:38 am

    We recently reworked our routine a little because of all the stalling and slowness. With littler kids, we needed to do breakfast first (2 year olds are starving when they wake up!) and then clothes, because I’d rather have PJs get messy and then go away. Now, the 5-year old gets dressed and ready first, and then gets breakfast. She manages to stay clean now. Get ready fast and eggs or oatmeal is an option. Get ready slow, and it’s a waffle day and you can finish in the car on the way to school. We did have an adjustment period, but it’s helped.

  • Reply Natasha February 19, 2020 at 11:02 am

    I use the leave without them option. When it is 7:15 and time to be in the car for school/work commute I announce I am getting in the car and tht I will be waiting there. It usually makes them scramble. My kids are much older though- two teens (one drives herself) and a 9 year old. The 9 year old responds well to this approach, unless she is on the toilet which I guess is your equivalent of the diaper issue.

    I also don’t serve breakfast which isn’t an option for kids your age, but that aspect does get easier. I have several options prepared on Sundays- oats in a jar, yogurt with fruit, protein bars and they grab what they want. My 9 year old was doing the same things as yours- taking a long time to decide what she wanted, changing her mind, not eating the waffle if it was not cooked exactly to her liking etc so I put a stop to that.

  • Reply Megan February 19, 2020 at 11:12 am

    We had similar struggles and developed a BREAKFAST MENU together. Ie: Mondays= pancakes, Tuesdays=frozen bagels, Wednesdays=smoothies, etc. The kids got to help develop the menu, so they had choice. But each morning we simply make what the regular old menu says – every Monday is pancakes, etc. Also, we made Saturday and Sunday “kid choice” on the menu, which helps when they whine. (ie: “I can’t wait for Saturday- it’s your choice!”) It did wonders for us, hope it helps!!

    • Reply Kate D February 19, 2020 at 11:16 am

      Yes! This is what had worked best for us. We do the same sort of repeating rotation for dinners. They might not love that particular day but they know exactly what to expect. The less choice and surprise, the better the result.

      • Reply Rachel February 19, 2020 at 9:26 pm

        The comments are so interesting! I might be the only one that says my mornings aren’t stressful but I also only have two children, a 2.5 year old and 9month old. 2.5 year old wakes up at 615-630 and waits in bed many days till 645 (OK to wake). We have to brush teeth before breakfast, usually some meltdown involved here. Then breakfast of cereal or oatmeal. I pack her lunch while she eats breakfast and I drink my coffee. Then she plays and I play with them / make my lunch etc. At 8, I put baby down for nap and shower. I do her hair and get her dressed and she plays a educational game on my phone while I shower. It’s not quite as addicting as TV but she still likes it enough that most days it’s enough. Nanny arrives at 815 and We leave the house at 830 and it’s 10 mins to drop her off and 30 mins to my desk after that, so honestly I have no good tips other than two hours from wake up to leaving helps, which is not feasible in your case.

        I’m sure we’ll be in for a rough time as she gets older and school starts earlier too.

  • Reply Kipper February 19, 2020 at 11:24 am

    I think everyone struggles with morning drop offs! Mine are 8 and 6. I have started to explain to them how being late effects me (ex. being late for work, stresses me out, causing others to waste their time waiting for me if I have a meeting, if I have an appt and I’m late I still have to pay for it even though I missed it (i.e. dentist etc)). Additionally, I’ve explained how being late is telling the other person you feel your time is more important than theirs and showing up late can disrupt class and waste everyone’s time. I try to have a longer conversation about this at a random time when they are receptive and then little reminders(often many!) in the mornings. Also on the random days it does go smoothly and we’re not running late I try to make sure to point it out and tell them how I appreciate the calmer mornings. Our mornings are often made worse by later nights. We typically don’t get home until closer to 6:30-7 so getting to bed at a decent time is a constant struggle.

    I love the weekly menu breakfast idea from above! My kids are in charge of their breakfasts and lunches so I just have to hear them complain how they have to do everything…

    I love your blog and podcast and always look forward to new posts and episodes! You help keep me sane!

  • Reply Dominique February 19, 2020 at 11:30 am

    I second the “eat on the go” and lay out clothes the night before suggestions. That is what we do. Road waffles are great, and we also do cheese toast. I heard on the podcast you have a toaster oven so you just put shedded or sliced cheese on bread, toast for 5 minutes, and there is breakfast. I remove the crusts so they are not left in the car, but it is an easy on the go breakfast. If I run out of bread, we do cheese tortillas.

    We also do an “after action debrief” in the car on the way to school where we talk about what went well and what everyone can do better tomorrow, including me. The 7 and 4 year old love to give me suggestions, and sometimes they are pretty good. This is how I started addressing the “too tired to get out of bed” and “too cold to get dressed” reoccurring issues the 4 year old was having that were making me crazy. Having a conversation about what we need to be doing when it wasn’t happening gave us both easy reminders to fall back on. Such as, “it is okay to feel cold, but now is the time to get dressed and you will start warming up as soon as you have cloths on”. (Which I probably repeated 50X over the last couple weeks but now she gets dressed right away.)

  • Reply Diane C. February 19, 2020 at 1:24 pm

    I have 3 kids (8, 3 and 5 months) and I do mornings alone. The only way I get through it is I make the 8 year old responsible for herself so I can concentrate on the younger two (or really, the three year old. The baby gets a clean diaper and maybe gets nursed if she wakes up in time, but that is it). The eight year old has four tasks in the morning and 10-15 mins to do each of them: make and eat breakfast, pack her lunch, get dressed, and practice piano. The piano is last and if she does that she gets to listen to an audiobook on the way to school, which is a great motivator. I stopped micromanaging what the eight year old wears or eats- as long as she changes her underwear and eats something, those boxes are checked, and I don’t nag or worry about it. She has even started sleeping in her clothes for the next day because she figured out that it buys her time in the morning. There have been a couple days where she said she didn’t pack enough for lunch, and I say, “Ok, remember that for next time.”. I am also of the “just walk out the door without them” school. We have a “school bus alarm”- when the alarm goes off, I will take the other two kids and go sit in the car and wait for her. It works surprisingly well. Sometimes she even beats us out to the car.

  • Reply Ali February 19, 2020 at 1:33 pm

    I haven’t read all the other comments, so may have missed a reply above dealing with this. Is the bus an option for your older 2? The school drop off/pickup lines here are INSANE,and the schools really encourage families to be bus riders. My oldest rides the bus daily and LOVES it. (It is nuts…the bus makes it back to our house in the afternoon before I would even be through the pickup line, let alone back home…so for us, it is also far more efficient.)

    This may not be an option, but would you consider moving G to a more convenient school in the future? Maybe it is convenient now, but that seems like a lot of car time in the morning. I am spoiled because my younger 2 go to preschool 3/4 mile (5 yo) and 1.5 miles (1 yo) from our house, so our routine is very quick.

    Other morning hacks I follow are having lunches/snacks mostly packed the night before and laying out my kids’ clothing the night before. My older 2 can get out their breakfast (yogurt, cereal bars, etc.) and feed themselves and fully dress themselves each morning, which is a huge help (and since I laid out their clothes the night before, they aren’t dressed too crazy…except for the times my 5 yo swaps what i picked out).

  • Reply Anne February 19, 2020 at 1:53 pm

    I hear ya about mornings! Have you read Duct Tape Parenting by Vicki Hoefle? Thought it was one of your parenting book club reads? It had been a game changer for us for a lot of reasons but especially for our morning routine. The basic idea is that we do too much for our kiddos and need to prepare them to be more responsible and resourceful. Getting to work & school on time is everyone’s responsibility! We have made big strides to work together and make it seem less stressful.

    • Reply Kaye February 20, 2020 at 9:04 am

      I totally agree. My kids were leaning on me WAY too much, because I was always “there”. They acted helpless because I was allowing it, basically. This school year we have switched to me waking them up and then I get in the shower, leaving them on their own to get ready now (i.e. make own breakfast, get stuff together, etc) 2-3 days per week. I assumed it would be a disaster, but to my surprise, once I was out of the picture, they actually stepped up and seem to make it happen! The other 1-2 days per week I time it so I can be more present during their breakfast, make them something more elaborate to eat, chat about their days, etc. They also like it because on their solo days I let them watch cartoons while they eat breakfast (but it’s not every day). Granted my kids are later elementary aged now- that younger age is just tough.

  • Reply Amanda February 19, 2020 at 2:35 pm

    Thank you for all the details about the book club! I am a new (ish?) mom to a 9 month old and my husband and I were part of a cohort parenting group organized by our hospital for months 3-8. Now that the program has finished some of us were looking for a way to keep getting together (other than just, you know, hanging out) and I am going to suggest this! On a side note, I’ve been following you forever, (before A!) and have loved seeing how your life has evolved. I find I appreciate it even more now that I’m a working mom as well.

  • Reply Ann February 19, 2020 at 3:21 pm

    I only have a first-grader so do not have to deal with multiple kids! With that said, this is what has worked for us (and most have been mentioned in other comments): earlier wake up (6:15am at the latest for my kiddo) which means, yes, earlier to bed (~730pm). Alarm clock that lights up. He dresses and brushes his teeth before coming downstairs. Breakfast is whatever I give him, and many times, he’s now just getting it himself (usually fruit and cold cereal, oatmeal, or waffles for the car). We make sure his backpack is ready to go the night before but I make lunch/snack in the morning (we let him buy his lunch 2 days a week which is helpful for the mornings!). The morning routine is usually me or my husband but not both. We leave the house 645-7am and he has to be driven because no buses here. But I drop him off at the school’s before care program so happily I get to avoid all the drop-off madness 🙂 If there is an extra 10 minutes, we’ll let him watch something short on the TV which is great incentive. And also allows for sunscreen application. But no tablets (to be fair, we don’t use a tablet unless traveling).

    My mornings are not entirely kid-focused as I’m usually up to run for 60-90 mins before he wakes up. Crazy, yes. But it works for us. I will also say what has helped us the most is having the same bed time and wake up time regardless of weekend/weekday/holiday. All kids are different of course but that consistency makes school mornings run smoothly for us.

  • Reply Kaethe February 19, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Such great comments here! We have six kids and a few of our rules that help our mornings go smoothly are 1) no breakfast until you are dressed with shoes on and 2) if you are not ready by a certain time, then you eat in the car. We have granola bars, waffles, etc for this. I load the van with the little kids’ backpacks and snow clothes the night before. We don’t allow screens in the mornings because it would only cause meltdowns when they need to turn them off. At one season of life, we did manage to get everyone earlier and have time for about five minutes of read-aloud time and that was a really lovely things to put in early in the day.

    • Reply Natka February 19, 2020 at 4:30 pm

      No breakfast until dressed – love that!!!
      Do the kids prefer to eat in the car or do they like it better to have their breakfast at home?

  • Reply Natasha February 19, 2020 at 4:10 pm

    Love all the advice in the comments – will have to implement some with our 3 kids! Auido-book idea is fantastic!!!

    Sarah – it is hard with young kids, especially when you have to get going so early and have a tight schedule. Being responsible for dropping off 3 kids is hard and it sounds like you are doing a really good job thinking things through – built-in time for walking and scooters is great!!! Sometimes, there is only so much “improving” and “life-hacking” that’s possible and then you just have to deal with certain situations (like 3 little kids in the morning) the best you can! Hang in there, it will get less crazy. Only suggestion – sometimes (boring) routines help, like doing exactly the same thing every morning, in exactly the same order, so everyone knows what comes next (and maybe even if mommy has to do an unscheduled last-moment diaper change, the older 2 kiddos can get themselves onto the next steps without reminders).

    Our kids are 11, 9, and 6. Some mornings are great, some mornings are terrible. The # 1 dawdler in the household is me (at least in the mornings) – and I am grouchy, too. So, for better or for worse, the main problem in the mornings is grumpy-mommy – I’ve been trying to work on it (limited success here). I am NOT a morning person, but my husband is. On the weekdays, he is the first one up and he usually makes breakfast (I take over with kids mid-breakfast and he leaves for work).

    What works:
    1. Letting kids practice independence. We don’t ask kids what they want for breakfast, it’s more like “here is what daddy cooked – if you don’t want it, make yourself something else”.
    2.I help the 6-year old with her hair a bit and I pack her lunch (prepared by husband the night before) and snack, but other than that, all 3 are responsible for getting themselves ready. If they forget their homework, or snack, or gloves… not the end of the world, they know how to deal with all that.
    3. All 3 kids take school bus and I walk them to the bus stop every morning (2-minute walk, plus usually at least 5-10 minutes waiting time; I really love this time to talk about random things, play tag, talk about what’s coming up later that day).
    4. Long time ago, I said that if they ever missed the bus, I will charge $20 fine to drive them to school, per kid (unless it is not their fault, like if power went out and we slept late because alarms did not go off). So far – no one has had to pay the fine 🙂
    5. Giving 10 and 5 minute warnings before it is actually time to go out. This is mainly to keep myself on track, but also to remind kids to brush teeth and grab their shoes and jackets.
    6. Self-imposed ban on reading books or checking my e-mail! Because I loose track of time very easily.

    • Reply Kate D February 19, 2020 at 4:18 pm

      Love that last one. Now I have my phone on automatic do-not-disturb until 7:30 am. So often my phone would chime and I’d be reading emails, trying to respond or manage something at the office that could very well wait, but instead would lose track of time and then feel rushed (and cranky).

  • Reply omdg February 19, 2020 at 4:32 pm

    Feed them the same thing for breakfast every day. None of this “ordering” business.

    Set alarms for various points in the getting ready process. Dyl responds better to an alarm than to me.

    Put G in the car with a dirty diaper and change it when you get her to school.

    Kids pack backpacks night before.

    Hire an au pair and leave the house unemcumbered and breezily at 6AM before anyone gets out of bed, like I do 😉 (just kidding)

    Hire someone to do either A&C or G dropoff in the morning. Or both.

    With our au pairs, Dyl gets out of the house in 20 min. With me it takes 30 because I am special.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger February 19, 2020 at 4:49 pm

      I have to laugh about the diaper bit. Let me tell you, i am not talking about a simply WET diaper 😂😛

      • Reply omdg February 19, 2020 at 5:32 pm

        Lol. Maybe the aroma will motivate everyone to move a bit faster. 😉

  • Reply Jenny February 19, 2020 at 5:30 pm

    Mornings are harrrrrrrrrrd. I hate that I get to work and I’m all wrung out before the day is even started. And I am afraid to report that my kids’ teachers told us that mornings don’t actually get any easier as kids get older because when they’re teens they won’t want to get out of bed AND they spent 45 minutes in the shower and then sitting on the bed in a towel looking at their phones and and and… I was distraught to learn that NOW is as easy as it’s ever going to get. The very idea!

    A few things that have worked for us with (very) varying degrees of success:

    – Kids get dressed immediately upon waking, including shoes
    – No breakfast orders ever, and I don’t even serve food; they know they can have cereal, fruit, cheese, yogurt, or breakfast bars, and I moved everything, including bowls and milk, down low to where they could reach it themselves
    – If they dawdle too much to the point where they don’t have time to eat, oh well (if I am feeling really generous and they do actually seem hungry, I’ll throw a sad plain waffle in a bag to take to the bus stop)
    – Screentime only happens after clothes, teeth, hair, and backpack are totally ready and they lose privileges if I catch a violation of this rule
    – I bought an Echo Dot and put critical reminders on it (“Time to get ready for the bus”, “Time to walk out the door”, etc.) because my 6yo will respond to Alexa in a way she won’t for me 😛

  • Reply Li February 19, 2020 at 5:58 pm

    If sunscreen is part of your kids routine I recommend spraying/applying before kid(s) wake in addition to sleeping in clothes for next day. 🙂

  • Reply Jessica February 19, 2020 at 7:43 pm

    Great strategies here! I agree with the more sleep suggestion (as well as many of the others!) – even an extra 15-20 minutes of sleep can make a difference. We used to be more flexible about the bedtime routine but we noticed how much happier the kids are when they wake up on their own vs being prodded awake by me. A mental swap that has helped me is thinking about the day as starting the night before, at bedtime. On the nights when my kids (ages 6 and 3) are in bed with lights out by 8:20 pm, they wake up on their own, happy and seemingly well-rested by about 6:50 am which seems to be the sweet spot for getting out the door by 7:40 am without much yelling. If they are not in bed until 8:40 pm, then I am dragging them out of bed at 7 am, the entire morning goes slowly, there is a lot of nagging, and we are rushing out the door late at 7:45 am with hair not yet brushed. By shifting my mindset that getting to bed on time is a requirement for a pleasant next 24 hours, I am now much more strict about getting the kids into their beds with lights out by 8:20 pm, even if that means reading a super short bedtime story (or eliminating the bedtime story altogether) if we are running late on the rest of the evening. It sometimes makes the evenings slightly more stressful, but I would rather have that than starting my mornings off super stressful.

  • Reply Irene February 19, 2020 at 8:42 pm

    I’m trying to remember if I’ve commented this before but I really love the book “ how to talk do kids all listen and how to listen so kids will talk”. There is a sequel for younger kids and there are tons of great examples of ways to get your kids to do what you want or need them to do with out a power struggle. For example- if someone isn’t getting dressed you can say “I wonder if you can get all the way dressed in less than a minute!” And set a timer. Works well for my obstinate older one. Also keeping expectations low for the morning is good!

  • Reply Rebecca February 19, 2020 at 9:27 pm

    We have to leave at 615 every day for me to be at work by 7 and my 3 year old at daycare by 645. I give him a vegetable/fruit pouch and either breakfast bar or waffle or boiled egg in the morning. I ask which one he wants, and we both eat in the car. I keep the morning routine simple- wake up, get dressed, Brush teeth and go. I get ready before I wake him up so his process is only 10 minutes. Sometimes he’s in a bad mood and fights me but he always gets over it by the time we get in the car and he’s happy the whole way to work. He’s only 3 so that may not work for your stage of life but I keep expectations low that time of day 🙂

  • Reply Kathleen February 19, 2020 at 11:29 pm

    It sounds like you have a lot of good advice. My crew is motivated by competition. “Who can get dressed the fastest?” Also, along the lines of audiobooks for the car, there are some kids’ podcasts they might enjoy.

  • Reply Sara February 20, 2020 at 4:11 am

    We have the same timeline with a 6 and 4 year old – 6:30 wake up and 7:20 departure. We are adding a baby soon and that will mean an earlier start time for baby because of the diaper variable. One thing I stopped doing was offering breakfast choices – they get cereal now and that’s it, if they’re still hungry they can have a banana. Making the decisions and/or toasting an English muffin takes valuable time we don’t have. Not to mention the (just turned) 4 year old always wanted whatever the other option was after you fix the first option. I also share the smoothie I make for myself but usually they don’t drink it. We have had them go to school hungry if they just don’t eat and they make it through to their early lunch just fine so either they weren’t hungry or learned a valuable lesson if they were. Screen time in the morning for us does not work, it just ends in every morning begging for screen time and tears when it’s off so that is totally off the table. If we find we are having to wake them up in the morning (which throws off the whole schedule) instead of them waking up with their green light clock we move bedtime earlier. On a few desperate mornings I have set a timer for breakfast which they really don’t like so it’s a last resort and depends how your kid responds when you throw away their breakfast after it goes off. It did seem to break a pattern though and we haven’t had to us it for a long time.

  • Reply Sara February 20, 2020 at 4:23 am

    Three more tricks – each of our two kids has refused to sit in the car seat or do their buckets and we have started backing down the driveway without them buckled in which really freaks them out. Especially since my 6 year old thinks the police will arrest you if you aren’t buckled in (we did not give him that idea on purpose). We’ve only had to do that once with each. Giving the brakes a gentle tap on the way down the driveway gives them an idea of why they want to be buckled. We have also done natural consequences with coats – you refuse to wear your coat you experience what cold is like. We are in the south so it’s not dangerous, just uncomfortable.

    • Reply Dominique February 20, 2020 at 10:52 am

      Natural consequences – it is great when they work. My 4 year old likes to “be the mom” and pretend to drive. But if she refuses to get in her carseat after a couple minutes (especially if I’m in a hurry), I sit in her carseat which she hates.

  • Reply Gillian February 20, 2020 at 8:56 am

    I don’t do the morning routine, my husband and babysitter do, but this is what works for us. Middle two kids have to get up, get dressed, pack lunch, pack backpack, brush teeth and comb hair. When that is done they can watch some screentime while they eat breakfast–this keeps them moving at a reasonably brisk pace. They get up around 7 and have to walk out the door at 8:15. At 8:10 all screens go off and they get on coats, hats and mittens and head out the door. They walk to school sometimes on their own and sometimes with my husband.

    My middle schooler gets up closer to 7:15. He gets dressed, lolls on the couch and then grabs a minibagel and walks out the door around 7:35-7:40. He usually requires some prompting.

    Pre-school only has to get out the door at 8:30.

    I do think the staggered departures is helpful because you are only trying to corral 1-2 kids at a time. Some days aren’t great. Honestly, on the days when I am home in the morning I think my presence causes problems.

  • Reply I. February 20, 2020 at 1:52 pm

    I don’t have much to add that doesn’t repeat what’s above except that we live 1.5 blocks from my kid’s school (which is also where he attends an after school program), and it makes everything easier. Since you rent, Sarah, could you consider moving closer to the school?

    I am also a fan of morning screen time as the kid’s reward for getting everything done (only a dvd or Netflix show that can be paused and picked up in the same spot easily at another time; stopping games mid-play gets too much pushback). If he doesn’t do everything to get himself ready and care for his pet before the “get your shoes on” alarm goes off on my phone, too bad; no TV. That’s kind of a natural consequence that is less painful for me than being late for school/work. We set an alarm for 5-10 minutes before we walk out the door to signal “stop what you’re doing and put on shoes/coat/etc.”…. this alarm helps me, too, as I walk to a train station for my commute after walking him to school. And my kid gets to choose from only two quick prep things for breakfast, like toast or granola and fruit. Smoothies, pancakes, etc. are for weekends only.

  • Reply Beth @ Parent Lightly February 21, 2020 at 10:55 am

    We also use screen time as motivation. If the kids get dressed and feed the dog they can watch TV while we make breakfast. There’s zero variation in breakfast – PB toast or a ham and cheese sandwich. Then they can watch TV again after breakfast, brushing teeth and putting on shoes if we have time. Then they get a vitamin if they are fast enough going to the bathroom and getting coats in before we go to the bus stop. Our mornings aren’t as rushed but this method has gotten rid of the yelling at them to get stuff done at the last second. I also find that I also feel less stressed if I minimize what I do in the morning. I eat breakfast at work now which really opens up the morning for me although it doesn’t really take that much time.

  • Reply Hannah February 21, 2020 at 12:58 pm

    First time commenter! This spoke to me so much. The morning can feel like such a drag, but when you find little ways to elevate it – it can be wonderful. My kids are 5, 3 and 6 months. What has made the mornings work for us is buying an hour egg timer that visually makes a red circle disappear at zero. I don’t have to be the bad guy as they can look at the timer and see how much time they have. And most importantly for the school line I always try and be the first in line and have a book to read to them and put on an audiobook during the drive. It’s much more pleasant to be first in line reading a picture book.

  • Reply Monica February 22, 2020 at 8:36 am

    This was me when my kids were in elementary school. Getting up, breakfast, dressed and ready to go was always a struggle and our kids bus picked them up at our driveway at 8:45. I finally decided they could have breakfast after the were ready to go, and they had to be downstairs, ready by 8:30. If not there was no breakfast. They ate lunch at a reasonable time and I figured it wouldn’t kill them to be hungry for a day or so and then they would get ready faster. I didn’t nag them about getting ready, just a reminder about the time if they wanted to eat, but it was their choice. Mornings went much smoother and they didn’t miss breakfast most days. Turns out they don’t like to eat first thing when they get up. I always packed a very full lunch so there was a lot to choose from if they were hungry. I realized that making sure they weren’t hungry was their job, mine was to have food available and get them to school on time. My kids were 6 & 8 when I started this. I also didn’t ask what they wanted, I said what I would make or give them a choice of two things. If they wanted something specific they would tell me, frequently the night before. This worked all the way through high school.

    Hope you find a routine that works. The morning really has an impact on your entire day.

  • Reply Mary February 22, 2020 at 3:14 pm

    Sarah, as you’re a morning person, maybe having your nanny earlier would work better, as it would mean that she could handle at least A and C’s drop-off and then you wouldn’t end up late yourself. Also, I definitely agree with all the commenters who mention not giving a choice of weekday breakfasts. Or just restrict it to: here are the two cereal options – pick one. Keep choices for the weekends that you have more time.

  • Reply Abigail February 24, 2020 at 5:50 pm

    My child is too young for this to be a problem for me; but my mom had an “I-don’t-cook-more-than-one-thing” policy that started at about age 4. We didn’t have to eat what she made but we were responsible for making our own sandwich or grabbing a granola bar. Also, could your kids put their things in the car at the beginning of their bedtime routine so you don’t have to pack up in the morning?

  • Reply Melissa Holmes February 27, 2020 at 7:48 pm

    We hire help in the mornings. We have a young woman who comes every day 7:15- 8:15 am. I thought this would be impossible to fine but it fits with her schedule and she’s a morning person. We do this b/c I work east coast hours and live on the west coast and my husband is often busy or traveling. She does all the morning drill sergeant-ing. Just a thought… Also, I loved Snow Child so much!!

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