If you’re no stranger to chaotic, stressful mornings when just getting everyone out of the house on time seems like a battle, join the club. But mornings don’t have to be that way. Yes, everything’s a hundred times more difficult when you’re tired, and life with small children is unpredictable, to say the least. But there are things you can do to up your chances of a smooth start. We asked experts and mums for their top tips.
Prepare in Advance
The key to a smoother morning is preparing the night before. It may be the last thing you want to do when you’re tired, but it makes sense to do it while your little one is in bed, rather than in the morning with a baby or toddler in tow.
Hannah Brooker, 25, mum to Lily-Mai, 7 and Alfie-George, 4, says “The night before I lay out clothes – everything from underwear to shoes – for the children and me. I double-check the calendar, check and pack bags, prepare lunchboxes and water bottles, and check my alarm’s set. After that, the morning’s pretty easy.”
“Try to get yourself 90 per cent ready before the children wake.”
Kath Sloggett is co-founder of The Neo Practice, which provides expert advice and support for parents of babies and children. She says, “Check the weather forecast, so you can put out the right gear such as wellies, a raincoat and the rain cover of the buggy.” She also advises reorganising your hall to avoid those last-minute charges upstairs for forgotten items. “Put some coat hooks at child height and have a place for everything you might need to take in the mornings: coats, hats, shoes, bags, sun cream and keys. It’s also good to have a grab bag for any activities your child does – swimming, ballet, play dates and so on.”
Set your alarm
Getting up earlier than your child is a big ask when you’re permanently tired. But lots of mums swear by starting the day with some peace and a nice hot cup of tea!
Nicola Sutherland, 44, mum to Rose, 8, and May, 2, says, “I feel slightly less stressed if I have a bit of time to myself to have a cuppa and watch the news before getting the girls up. It helps me cope better, which in turn means a slightly smoother morning – well, apart from a crying 2 year old clinging to my legs as I prepare breakfast, and a poo-filled nappy just as we’re ready to leave!”
It takes twice as long to make yourself presentable if you’re constantly being interrupted, so Kath recommends getting ready before your children get up – as much as you can do, anyway! She says, “Try to get yourself 90 per cent ready before the children wake, otherwise you’ll end up leaving yourself until last. But don’t put on your best top until just before you leave the house, because chances are you’ll have something spilt on it.”
She adds, “I advise parents to keep an emergency kit in the car, including things like wipes, a deodorant, a mini make-up bag, a spare pair of tights, a non-wrinkle top, and a scarf to hide stains.”
Nail their routine
Fight the urge to let your children play in the PJs while you get a few things done. Instead, try zooming through their routine first thing, while you still have energy and before they have time to argue!
Sarah Beeson is a former health visitor and author of parenting book Happy Baby, Happy Family: Learning to Trust Yourself and Enjoy Your Baby, £9.99 Harper Thorsons. She says, “When children spend too long in their PJs they often won’t be willing to break off from what they’re doing. Get them washed and dressed and clean their teeth first thing. Use an apron to keep clothes clean while they have breakfast.”
Unsure about cleaning your child’s teeth before breakfast? It’s actually fine. The NHS recommends that children’s teeth should be brushed twice a day: just before bed and at least one other time during the day. Getting teeth-cleaning out of the way first thing means you won’t need to go back upstairs after breakfast.
“Parenting’s a team game, but it may not always feel like it.”
Keep them on side
No one wants to be a shouty mum, but sometimes the stress and frustration of packing 101 tasks into a very limited time period is all too much. We asked Sarah for advice on keeping your little ones on side and on track in the mornings.
Use narrative “Pretend you’re a football commentator and narrate what’s going on,” says Sarah. “For example, ‘Are those your shoes? Shall we put them on?’”.
Speak nicely Most children prefer to follow the fun suggestions of Nice Mummy rather than the barked orders of Dictator Mummy. Sarah says, “Don’t order them around; try to be inclusive. Say, ‘Let’s do this’, rather than, ‘Do this now!’ And speak in a warm friendly tone.”
Give regular praise Pay attention to the behaviour you want more of – not just the behaviour you don’t! Sarah says, “Always say ‘Well done’ if they eat their breakfast. Otherwise, why will they bother in the future? If their behaviour is really awful, blame the behaviour, not the child. For example, say, ‘Kicking is not acceptable behaviour.’”
Offer two choices Letting your child feel in control may stop tantrums. Sarah says, “Give two choices – both things that you’re happy with. For example, say, ‘Do you want toast or porridge today?’”.
Ask for help
Parenting’s a team game, but it may not always feel like it. If your partner’s not around in the mornings, suggest he helps with the evening preparation instead – making the packed lunches, for example. If he is around in the mornings and you feel he could do more, come up with specific suggestions.
Kath says, “When you ask your partner for help, pick something that’s going to work. My husband is a hands-on dad but gets into a panic over picking out clothes for the children. So I know if I want him to help with dressing I have to lay out the children’s clothes in advance.”
Finally, don’t assume that your way is the only way. As Kath says, “It can sometimes be helpful to have a different person with a different approach.”
“If it all goes a bit pear-shaped, don’t beat yourself up.”
Give yourself credit
The reality of life with small children is that there will be mornings when, however prepared you are, things will still go wrong. You can’t prepare for your toddler upending her full cereal bowl on her head, or your baby doing an explosive poo requiring a full outfit change just as you’re leaving. And, of course, these things tend to happen when you’re also having to cope with the cat being sick and the car refusing to start.
Sarah believes mums don’t give themselves enough credit. She says, “If it all goes a bit pear-shaped, don’t beat yourself up – it happens to everyone. Don’t focus on what’s gone wrong, just give yourself credit for everything you have managed to do. Remember that most of the time you’re doing a splendid job.”
This article first featured in the October 2015 edition of Prima Baby Magazine |
Author: Georgina Wintersgill | Contributor: Kath Sloggett.