timesavers, lifesavers

We’ve had a couple months to get used to juggling the two-working-parents-and-two-kids-in-school schedule.  Some changes fell into place quickly; others have taken some time to finesse (and are still being worked on at the moment). By far, the biggest challenge has been getting everyone fed, washed, dressed, lunchboxed, and out the door in the morning on time. We’re still tweaking our tactics, but a few–some common, others a bit unconventional–have proven to save both time and sanity.

1. Dress the kids the night before.
This once-dirty secret among working moms is fast becoming common practice — and for good reason. We’ve saved many a precious minute avoiding the “Mom, I don’t know what to wear” game. Most of the boys’ wardrobe consists of simple cotton shirts, so not only do Mom and Dad get away with this trick, but the kids stay comfortable at night. (They don’t even mind sleeping in jeans in a pinch.)

2. Pack lunches the night before.
The first few days of school, I obsessed over making fresh lunches in the morning. That lasted, oh, a few days. Once I realized that prepping the night not only saved time but also made lunch contents healthier (more time to plan out the menu instead of grabbing the nearest bag of chips), I was sold. “Divide and conquer” is another time-saver, although it takes a bit more planning: when putting groceries away, I portion out things like baby carrots and grapes in snack-sized ziploc bags, ready to be tossed into a lunch bag any day of the week.

Late nights allow for more creativity, too: Turkey, spinach, and cheese sandwiches cut into fun cookie cutter shapes from IKEA.


3. Give kids easy access to their own breakfast.
We grown-ups are used to organizing our kitchen for other grown-ups: cups and bowls in upper cabinets, cereal boxes on top of the fridge, etc. Placing the kids’ bowls in a low drawer and cereal on the countertop helps foster a child’s independence–and a parent’s ability to step into the shower or sleep in a few more minutes.

4. Keep a set of toothbrushes in every bathroom of the house.
Getting my kids to brush their teeth was a chore in itself; getting them to climb two flights of stairs to do it was near impossible. Keeping a set of toothbrushes in every bathroom cured our morning hygiene battles.

5. Give plenty of transition time and monitor your tone of voice.
This may seem like a throwaway tip, but it has arguably been the most valuable in our family. Rushing the kids always proved to be counterproductive, leading to crying, whining, defiant mess. The 5-3-1 model (giving warnings that we’re changing activities or leaving within 5 minutes, then 3 minutes, then 1 minute) has done wonders for us. In the car, instead of focusing on traffic, I now engage the boys in silly songs, a “dry run” of what their day might look like, or a game of I Spy in the car.

Incorporating these little habits into our morning routine has made a big difference. Next on the agenda: a message board that actually stays organized….

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