This post has nothing to do with writing really, but recently several of my friends with one child have said they couldn’t do what I do. Specifically, get three children up and ready each morning. I’ll confess, I do feel a little burst of pride when I drop my son off at preschool and I’m wearing makeup and everyone’s clothes match. There’s just something about being ready for the day that makes everything I do feel more productive. Despite those feelings of pride, I have a confession to make: I’m not special.
First of all, I’m 100% certain that everyone who thinks they couldn’t do it could, and do it better. But that’s a whole different post. I am not an expert in any way, and most of what I do was learned through experience. In a way, I guess this is a lot like writing. From the outside, publishing a novel seems a daunting task. But no one woke up one morning and was an expert. Instead, most of their expertise was gained through hard work and time. Similarly, it used to take me until noon to get out of the house with one child, and now I can have all three dressed, fed and ready by 8. Experience is a beautiful thing.
So, without further ado, here are a few of the ways I have streamlined our day:
1. I get up early. Some of my friends get up at 6 a.m., work out, shower and do hair and makeup, and even squeeze in a cup of coffee or blogging before the kids open their eyes. Not me. I also get up at 6, but I’m lucky if I get through a shower before my two-year-old is peering through the frosted glass door. So much for privacy. Still, I’ve found starting the day even half ready means I’m more likely to finish the job. On a very good day everyone stays in bed until 7, which means I’m dressed and ready before they get up. No coffee, exercise, or blogging for me, but it’s better than nothing.
2. I set out their clothes. Let me be clear – I am the least organized person on earth, except in one tiny area. My children have hanging sweater organizers in their closets, and when I put their clothes away each week, I place outfits in each compartment. For my daughter, the outfit is complete down to the coordinating hair bow.
Pre-matching their outfits is a tiny step that reaps enormous rewards. First, my four-year-old can reach each outfit and dress himself, and he is expected to do so before he leaves his room. Since he has no desire to hang out in his room all morning, this means he dresses in ten minutes or less, instead of the up to two hours (true story!) it used to take him when he was downstairs distracted by the TV or his toys. My two-year-old can’t dress herself, but I can either get her dressed each morning without wondering where her new pink socks are, or she can bring the outfit to me if I need to be in another room.
The second benefit of the outfits doesn’t help us get ready faster, but it sure makes us all look better. On mornings when my husband dresses the kids, the matching work has been done for him. I’ll let that speak for itself.
3. I brush my kids teeth before breakfast (sometimes). Yes, I take my children to the dentist. No, they don’t have a mouth full of cavities. Before, I used to wait until after breakfast to brush their teeth, but that meant some mornings it just didn’t get done. The kids’ bathroom is a long way from the kitchen, and fetching toothbrushes wasn’t in the cards on days we were racing to be somewhere. Yes, I could have kept a separate set of everything downstairs. But I didn’t want to. Instead, I brush hair and teeth before heading downstairs. Not right for everyone, but it works for us.
4. I keep breakfast simple. We love our pancakes and waffles, which is why I serve them at dinner. In the morning, we keep things easy. Cereal (often dry until they get the hang of not spilling spoonfuls of milk), fruit that isn’t juicy (bananas and apples are great, oranges are out), and cups of milk. Toast and cheese is about as fancy as I get. Their egg allergies mean I’m never expected to make an omelette. These simple breakfasts take little prep or clean-up, and keep clothes clean – at least until lunch. On mornings when everyone gets up extra early and I’m not ready yet, I spread a blanket on the floor and serve bowls of dry Cheerios. They watch TV while I finish my hair and makeup. Then we have our milk and fruit at the table.
5. They are responsible for their own coats and shoes. I give the baby a pass on this one (aren’t I nice?), but the other two must put on their own shoes and outwear. This means I have to buy shoes without laces, and most days I have to set each shoe next to the appropriate foot (left to their own devices, they will place them on the wrong feet 95% of the time), but it’s still 4 less feet to clad and two less coats to wrangle and zip.
There you have it. No superwoman capabilities. Just a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way. Next up: How I Find Time to Write (insert maniacal laugh).