Habits life Parenting

Family Routines I Made Progress on This Year

December 8, 2021

Both mornings and bedtimes were pain points.

Both are now somewhat better! (Not perfect. But better!)

A brief dive into current routines:


We get the kids up between 6:45 – 6:50, with Josh often starting the process as I am showering post-run/workout. They are often grumpy initially — unfortunately this has not been entirely ‘fixable’. However, it’s been marginally better. They used to frequently fight over the use of the downstairs couch, and this has not been as frequent.

I usually make all 3 kids breakfast, though on occasion Josh will jump in. Breakfast is either oatmeal (mostly only Annabel picks this option!), cereal, yogurt parfait, waffle, or bagel. Nothing fancier than those options. I will ‘default’ to cereal if no one answers what they want. Sometimes there is whining.

At 7:20 I cut off breakfast time, no matter how much has been ingested (G is the slowest here) and get her dressed and teeth brushed. The other two get ready themselves. We have songs that play on our SONOS speaker at 7:25 to start warning of impending exit time. By 7:35 I am usually pulling G out of the house and expecting the others to come too. Sometimes the big kids are slow with shoes/socks but for the most part it’s not terrible.

If someone is lagging I will threaten that the other kids get to pick the car music. This usually works.

Thankfully, the drop-off time works perfectly so that if I’m driving and we leave on time, I can get to work on time. I drive 2-3x/week and our nanny + Josh split the rest.


This was also a pain point for a long time, and I’m not sure why it’s better but I’m sure the seasonal darkness helps! ALSO, this process always goes more smoothly when solo parenting. I am still trying to make it a largely divide + conquer event when Josh is home, but that is still a work in progress. At 7:30 (sometimes 7:45 if I just can’t bring myself to start), I get the kids off of any screen and to go upstairs for bed. The big kids brush teeth + I brush G’s teeth + enforce bathroom usage.

Then books (2-3) and bed. I will offer to lie on the floor of G/C’s room for 5 minutes and lately have been reading on my Kindle during that time as I finally discovered the Libby app (I know, late to that party). Then sometimes I will lie on A’s floor. The process is usually done by 8:20 – 8:30. Sometimes A stays up a bit later reading. The other two are usually very tired.


So . . .the next routine to conquer? A few in mind: getting out of the house for weekend activities, the immediate getting-home-from-work period when everyone goes crazy, dinner. I still don’t usually eat with the kids because they are usually hungry at like 5 pm, but this is something I’d like to move towards in the future. (I usually eat standing up in about 3 minutes at 6:15 or so. It’s kind of lame!).

I can’t tell if I’m starting to make headway on these routines simply because the kids are getting older OR whether various strategies and intention have helped.

What routines are your pain points? Was this a year of more progress? What is up next?

Totally unrelated but I just thought this picture needed to be used. Those are not real glasses.


  • Reply Gillian December 8, 2021 at 7:24 am

    In our house the mornings and evenings run pretty smoothly. Our pain points are the teenager management. We used to eat dinner as a family around 6:30, but it has been more like 6:45/7 lately. Complicating that is the fact that teenage activities get later and later. He has martial arts at 7 and 8 p.m. twice a week and confirmation class is from 6-7 once a week. This means dinner is constantly on the move, though we remain pretty committed to family dinner (family breakfast is not an options for us). I think the answer to this is to institute a Sarah Powers style family meeting, but I have just not had the discipline to get this started. I think this will definitely be a 2022 goal.

    Also teens have the strong desire to stay up sooooooo late and sleep soooooo late, but school still starts early. Getting the 14 yo to get into bed at a time that allows for a decent amount of sleep has been a challenge. This leads to rushed sprinting to school (he walks to school, we live steps from school). I fear fighting biology could be tough, though.

    • Reply Hanna December 8, 2021 at 9:00 am

      Something to consider, you may have to spend Q1 “resetting” your morning and bedtime routines as a new house may alter them some, or just throw the kids out of their routine. I like your other routine ideas though!
      Now that I’m officially going back to the office 3 days a week I’ll have to solidify both my PM routine, to prep my stuff, and my AM routine, for home vs office days.

      • Reply Hanna December 8, 2021 at 9:00 am

        Something to consider, you may have to spend Q1 “resetting” your morning and bedtime routines as a new house may alter them some, or just throw the kids out of their routine. I like your other routine ideas though!
        Now that I’m officially going back to the office 3 days a week I’ll have to solidify both my PM routine, to prep my stuff, and my AM routine, for home vs office days.

        • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger December 8, 2021 at 9:24 am

          Ooh good point!!

  • Reply Alex December 8, 2021 at 7:26 am

    We do a similar morning routine except we get the kids dressed and teeth brushed before going downstairs for breakfast, to reduce transitions back to their room and up and down the stairs.

  • Reply Sheryl December 8, 2021 at 7:45 am

    Our mornings are much the same (kids woken up between 6:30 and 6:45- and out the door by 7:25). I even have the same default cereal option! We have a loose rule about getting dressed, brushing teeth etc. before coming down for breakfast. I agree with the commenter above that reducing these transitions has been very helpful. Also- for two of my three, breakfast is a very motivating tool! Sometimes I envy the families who have a bigger window of time to get out the door but then I remind myself that idle time in the morning might actually make it more difficult to get everyone motivated to leave on time. Sounds like you’ve made good progress on both ends- whether it’s age/maturity or new strategies- enjoy it!

  • Reply Kristina December 8, 2021 at 9:37 am

    I have loved tweaking my morning routine over the last few months- some inspired by your morning routine! I still have to be flexible (i.e. this morning 2 y.o. woke up at 5am and would not go back down, it happens but not often). I’ve found if I give myself some time to read and wake up in the morning rather than attempt to jump right into a workout, I’m much more likely to actually get up and then proceed to workout. I don’t seem to be as successful if I tell myself I need to workout as soon as I hop out of bed. Who knows.

    I think the immediate getting home from work/daycare is a bit of a pain point for us. We manage to eat dinner together, but our toddler is hungry as soon as she gets home and chaos ensues if no snack is provided. Therefore, actually making dinner can be a bit tricky since she’s ready to eat ASAP. Also with two big dogs who need to go out and eat, work bags, snacks, daycare bag…there are just a lot of things and bodies in one space all at once. Trying to figure out how to make this 4:30/5pm a little calmer so that dinner isn’t a S*$! show. Taking a few deep breaths while I walk in the door has helped. Working on some type of organization for bags/ shoes might help-along with a 31 y.o. man not leaving all his stuff right in the entryway 😉

  • Reply Diane C. December 8, 2021 at 9:56 am

    I like how streamlined your morning is! Our kids are usually up by 6:30a and we have to be out the door by 8:00a. I feel like having so much time does deaden our sense of urgency and the last 10-15 minutes is always a rush and struggle. Even for me too! Half the time the school bus alarm goes off and I’m still in my pajamas.
    About dinner- I’m curious as to whether eating dinner together for you ideally means the kids eating later or the grown ups eating earlier? Or something in between? At our house we always eat together (around 5:45/6pm), but the kids usually have a small snack at 4:30/5p on the way home from school or when they get home from school to tide them over til then.
    On my “routine aspiration list”, I feel like I would like to be better at getting the family outside on weekends and establishing a chore routine for the kids. Oh and also having the nine year old take more ownership of her routines and schedules, i.e. a consistent homework and music practicing schedule. (Or maybe these are habits? It’s a fine line…)

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger December 8, 2021 at 11:52 am

      Dinner together would mean me and the kids at 6ish. Hard to do before that esp since some nights (like tonight) I’m picking A up from activities and we will both get home around 6.

      • Reply Gillian December 8, 2021 at 12:25 pm

        We dealt with the need for a later dinner by bathing BEFORE dinner. I was afraid to do this because of the potential mess but we have been eating at 6:30 since before my youngest was born and rarely have things been so messy that a second bath was needed. So we bathe kiddos between 5:30 and 6:30 then eat and are headed upstairs to bed by 7:30 (for the 8 ad 6 yo). We do have a substantial “Snack” after school around 3:30/4 due to the late dinner.

  • Reply Jen December 8, 2021 at 9:56 am

    For me the pain point is definitely the 4-year old dawdling in the morning. This does not seem to be child specific as i remember calling my now 8-year old ‘Miss Dawdles’ in the morning at the same age and her brother is no different. My husband started instituting various rules because my kids wake up at 6 am so we have loads of time (I aim to get out around 8am to walk to the school for the before school care). So, the first rule that seemed to help was they can’t watch any morning cartoons until they have eaten and are dressed. And right now the same rule applies for opening their Lego advent calendars and they are extra motivated. But it falls down when it comes to actually getting their coats, shoes, masks on … in the last ten minutes! And, being in Canada it’s now snowsuit, boots, hat, mitts, mask .. lol! By March i will be really over it but I do take solace that the older one is much better – so it’s probably just an age thing? But I really don’t like the yelling that sometimes, okay – often comes along with trying to get a 4 year old out the door.

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns December 8, 2021 at 9:58 am

    Ugh mornings and evenings have gotten harder over the past year for us. I feel like 3 has been just SO challenging overall and doing anything on a schedule is very hit or miss. I think of the days pre-covid when we had to leave at 6:50 so I could catch a bus and my husband could drop the kids at daycare and then catch a bus from there. We had no margin in our schedule but it worked out 99% of the time. These days I never know when the 3.75yo is going to be so ornery in the morning that it’s impossible to get him moving. Nights have been rough since he transitioned to a big boy bed. He had a mini crib before which was getting tight so we moved him in October and it’s been rough since. He also does not need to nap anymore, but daycare requires rest time although they have agreed to let him read/play quietly at the start of quiet time so he naps for 30-40 min instead of an hour+. I’m hoping this is just a season of life and that things get better in 6 months or something? We trade off doing bedtime for the 3.5 yo – always have done that and now it’s especially important to take turns since it is a very frustrating experience. I do the 1yo’s bedtime every night since he’s still nursing but he’s a cinch to put down. So I am going to enjoy this easier faze while it lasts!

    I don’t really think there is anything we can do to improve our routines, though. I think it just takes time and more maturity? Hearing that your bedtime routine has improved give me hope! And it’s a reminder that if things are easy or hard for you, it’s not necessarily something you are doing wrong, it could just be a phase. That is not to say that you haven’t made changes to make things so easier but it feels like being beyond age 3 and G not napping at school are really helpful!!

    Things will really change come January when I go back into the office 3 days/week. I’m really not looking forward to it, but am lucky that I was able to 100% WFH for 22 months, especially while pregnant and pumping for the baby!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger December 8, 2021 at 10:43 am

      Not napping at school is completely essential. Our lives would be miserable if they were enforcing a nap.

  • Reply Coree December 8, 2021 at 10:03 am

    We’d like to get our son (4) to get himself dressed everyday. He CAN do it, but he’s quite sleepy and lazy in the morning and it would make life easier, particularly when my husband is solo (half the week) if they could get dressed at the same time.

    • Reply KGC December 8, 2021 at 3:22 pm

      We half-solved this problem – my son often changes before he goes to bed into whatever he will wear the next day. This is particularly easy after a shower since he has to get dressed anyway. We’ve been doing this since he was a toddler! He puts on a clean tee shirt and clean underwear and then usually sleeps in athletic shorts. In the morning, he just has to lose the athletic shorts and put on bottoms (shorts in summer or pants/sweatshirt in winter). He CAN get himself fully dressed (age 5.5) but only having to do part of it in the morning when he’s waking up seems to make things go faster.

      Full disclosure: we started this before he could dress himself because I was trying to streamline mornings for myself. So he’d sleep in clean sweatpants and a tee shirt and then just wear that to daycare the next day. After we implemented this, I learned that my parents used to do the same thing for me as a little kid. Apparently we’re all just trying to be more efficient!!!

  • Reply omdg December 8, 2021 at 11:29 am

    Well, we literally eat dinner as a family almost never. But as you know, I am mother of the year, so YMMV. 😉

    This morning I told Dylan that if she wasn’t in the car in the next five minutes, I would be leaving without her. It was effective!

    • Reply Grateful Kae December 8, 2021 at 11:59 am

      Well, if it makes you feel any better, we are not big enforcers of “sit down family meal”, either. I can’t really remember when the last time we all sat down AT THE TABLE to eat was, besides Thanksgiving. My one son has swim practice 3-4 nights a week, usually somewhere in the 6:00-7:30 hour time frame. My husband often isn’t home until 6. I sometimes work until 5. My swimmer son generally wants to eat something before swim practice, but “dinner” (if there is an official dinner being made by someone that night…) might not be ready yet before carpool shows up. He eats a LOT of eggs and toast for “dinner” at the breakfast bar. 😉 Then he’ll eat another snack/dinner after practice usually. But…it’s not like he sits in there alone! Even if I’m not eating yet, I stand and chat with him, or I’m making actual dinner while he eats/ chit chatting with him at the same time…Then the rest of us/ or some combo of whoever is home will eat (also usually around breakfast bar) whenever it fits in once husband is home. It’s fine! We talk, we connect, yada yada. I don’t feel like we specifically need to all sit at the table at the same time to do that! Plus, in normal times, we typically eat out a couple or few times a week (even if it’s just Chipotle for lunch on Saturday or whatever), and we all sit and eat together in those situations. I personally don’t feel any big stress that we all have to sit down together every single night, since we spend plenty of time together and connect in other ways.

      • Reply Alexicographer December 8, 2021 at 8:14 pm

        LOL. We do this too and have probably since my son quit wearing zip-up onesies as his jammies + clothes at about 18 months (he’s now in high school…). I forget the details but basically he cannot stand and will not wear pajamas (perhaps because until 18 months that was all he wore?), so he sleeps in his clothes (he basically wears sweats all the time) and that’s just that. I mean, at his current age it really doesn’t matter to my efficiency one way or the other, but it sure made those younger years easier.

        • Reply Alexicographer December 8, 2021 at 8:15 pm

          Sigh. I was trying to respond (upstream) to KGC, sorry!

    • Reply Diane C. December 8, 2021 at 6:36 pm

      We have found that going to sit in the car/ walking out the door is the best motivator for getting my kids out the door!

      I went back and forth this year with scheduling kids’ activities on weekdays or weekends. I ultimately did weekend only, which has definitely helped with the evening routine, but i find i have to be more purposeful with weekend time now since there are fewer time chunks where everyone is free. My daughter’s piano lessons are at 7:15am on Wednesday, and I actually think that is perfect – it gets us going in the morning and doesn’t take up evening or weekend time.

  • Reply Natasha December 8, 2021 at 2:18 pm

    Getting home from school and work was always my pain point as well as bedtime. Now my older two are 20 and 18 and just my 11 year old is here. This is the first year tht the after school/time until dinner isn’t crazy because she can start her homework on her own. Bedtime is still a pain point most nights with an 11 year old – prompting to bathe, brush teeth, read a chapter etc. Definitely easier with one now than it was when all three were young. I like that you encourage us to explore this- the bedtime routine is something I need to improve! Mainly so that I can still get some down time myself.

  • Reply Elisabeth December 8, 2021 at 9:41 pm

    Pain point is definitely currently the post-school/pre-supper time. I stop work just before the bus arrives and go on full-time Mom duty at this point. The biggest issue is the constant requests to have playdates with friends in the neighbourhood. It’s a challenge because my husband has regular afternoon high-level business calls. While he’s in our home office, I do have to keep things to a dull roar. The two hours between coming home from school until supper can feel like forever.

    I’m trying to schedule more errands/outside play (go to a park, go get groceries, slot in a haircut etc) + I’m hiring a teenager to come babysit at least one day after school. I don’t even necessarily need the childcare to get work tasks accomplished (I often have to work an evening shift anyway, because of the nature of my work), but just so I get a day off from the requests/complaints/stress! They love her and I’m thrilled to have her start doing this TOMORROW! Oh happy day…especially as it’s almost guaranteed to be a snow day, but she lives relatively close and is willing to walk to our place. There may, blissfully, be a snowman on my front lawn at the end of the afternoon that I did not have to have a hand in making.

  • Reply HYJ December 11, 2021 at 10:30 am

    Alarm clocks for our kids greatly improved our mornings. For whatever reason, the alarm got them up and out of bed with less fuss then if we sweetly woke them up ourselves.

  • Reply Rebecca December 11, 2021 at 6:54 pm

    I love reading about everyone’s routines. I treasure my mornings because I get up first (partially inspired by you Sarah!) & start my day & get ready in peace before anyone else is up. However, let’s just say evenings & the dinner prep (or lack of), cleaning up, kid bedtimes, & getting ready for tomorrow are not my shining moments. We pushed the kids bedtime routine start back to 6:45 this year & that helped. Next year’s goal is to push bedtime start even earlier which involves me leaving work on time & staying focused when I get home aka no phone.

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