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How to: get out of the house in the morning without stabbing a family member in the eye with a spork

I wanted to write the longest ever post title.  Done!

I have been working outside of the house since Jack was four months old.  For about 75% of that time, Troy has not been around to help me out.  I’ve been rocking solo mornings since the dawn of time.  I’ve had terrible angry mornings, and mornings when we waltz smoothly out the door with nary a worry.  We’ve gotten it down to a science (well, Jack and I have), and I’m going to share our tips with you today.

Just a warning, the first one is going to piss you off.

1) You have to get up before your kid(s)
I know, I know, you’re already tired.  You’re so exhausted that your eye boogers have eye boogers.  I get it.  My kid slept 90 minutes at a time until he was 13 months old and I commuted 2.5 hours a day.  I get your level of tired.  I’ve lived it.  I’ve drooled at red lights in sympathy of your level of tired.

But getting up at least 15 minutes before your kid(s) is going to make your life so much easier.  Having silence to take a shower (and maybe a poop if you’re lucky) solo without listening to whining and small people begging to watch Dinosaur Train will allow you to start the day with a sliver of sanity.  Personally, I get up way earlier than anyone else in the house, but that is so I have 30-45 minutes to work out, shower, get ready, and finalize any little tasks that have to be completed before my fortress of solitude is pierced with other people’s voices.

2) Keep the damn TV off
From the time Jack wakes up, until the time we are rolling out the door, exactly 35 minutes passes.  In that amount of time, he gets dressed, eats breakfast, brushes his teeth, and gets to watch a little TV.  TV is the very last part of our routine, and keeping the boob tube off ensures a smooth morning.

TV is used as a motivator for Jack to get a move on and not dawdle with his tasks.  And he doesn’t get the choice to rush through breakfast so that he can watch more TV.  Homeboy tried that once and ended up starving that day at lunch time.  I warned him, but let him live out his little “I’m full” lie, and he’s never done that again.

3) Determine your defense
Choose your defense: man on man, or zone.  In our house, we have to do man on man.  Troy’s schedule has been so wacky for so long, that he can’t keep the routine straight, and I ended up having to march around the house barking orders to a grown man and a five-year old.  The five-year old at least knows the routine but gets confused when Troy throws a wrench in the order of things.

My aunt and uncle watched Jack until he was in kindergarten, and the only times I was ever late dropping Jack off at their house, my uncle would meet us at the door saying “Troy must be home this morning”.

After too many mornings of stomping around saying “how in the world can a child remember the routine, but you can’t”, I had enough.  I cut Troy out of the equation and Jack and I just had to pretend he wasn’t there.  Sounds cold? Sure, but it got us out of the door with limited drama and no tears (from me yelling at everyone).

If you take a “zone” defense approach, make sure you each have a finite set of tasks that you are responsible for accomplishing, and making your child accomplish.  And don’t change it from day-to-day.  You also need to know each others tasks, in case someone is on the injured listed (aka, your husband is constantly sick like mine).

4) Preplan
A few times a month, I will make a bunch of breakfast foods to freeze.  Whole wheat waffles, mini quiches, and a buttload of bacon are favorites.

Every night, I rub Jack’s back in bed after we read books.  We talk about two things: 1) what was the best part of his day 2) what he wants for breakfast the next morning.  Having that locked down the night before means no guess-work about what he’s going to eat in the morning when he is in full on grump mode.

Boys are generally easy when it comes to get dressed.  In the summer, it’s: shorts + cool superhero shirt.  Cooler months: jeans + cool superhero shirt.  If you have a kiddo that takes longer to decide on just the right outfit for the day, I would recommend laying out the clothes the night before.  I’ve even seen some parents hang one of those canvas hanging organizers meant for shoes (not the ones that go over the back of a door) in their kid’s closet, and have their child pick out seven outfits, and put one in per section of the organizer.  The child is not stuck to a certain outfit for a certain day, but the guess-work has been taken out of the equation and they have seven outfits picked out for the week.

5) Don’t take any shit
This might sound mean, but maybe it is.  About fifty percent of the time, Jack is an angry beast when I get him up.  The other morning he yelled “you’ve got to be kidding me” when I woke him up, and then chucked his stuffed kitties at me.  On those kinds of mornings, I simply say “I’m sorry we both had to wake up early today.  I know it’s not fun, but we have the choice to make it a great day, or you can be a pouty butthole.  Now stop whining, and get moving”.

Troy on the other hand, will try to reason with him, and have a mini therapy session about why Jack is so grumpy.

He’s pissed because we woke him up; mystery solved.

6) Keep to the schedule
There are days I go in to work late (because I have to work late), so the wake up and departure time is different, but I make sure we stick to the same routine.  The exact time of the day doesn’t matter, but the order of how we get ready for the day does.

With a consistent schedule, they know the order of actions that need to occur, as well as the general time allotted to each activity.  If Jack is moving slowly, I will do a “countdown” reminding him we have x number of minutes until departure.

For visual learners, you can make a chart showing the order of events that need to occur for you to get out the door.

For anyone curious, here is our exact schedule:

  • 4:30 am – I wake up cursing the invention of the alarm clock
  • 4:32 am – start my workout, hating the invention of exercise
  • 5:15 am – end my work out.  Finally be alert enough to realize I just worked out.  Pity myself.
  • 5:15 am – shower, put on my make up which watching the news, dry and style my “do”
  • 5:35 am – pack Jack’s lunch, get his backpack packed, pack my lunch, load up the car.  Often I will start a load of laundry, and hang it up to air dry that night.
  • 5:55 am – start whatever his royal highness has chosen for breakfast
  • 6:00 am – wake his cranky ass up.  Dodge flying stuffed kitties.
  • 6:01 am – Jack pees.  I yell “watch where you’re pointing that thing”, and realize that I’ll need to clean the toilet rim yet again that night.
  • 6:02 am – Jack gets dressed
  • 6:03 am – Jack comes out to the living room to eat his breakfast
  • 6:15 am – Jack finishes breakfast, puts his plate in the kitchen, and goes to brush his teeth
  • 6:15 am – which Jack brushing his teeth, I head out to open up the chicken coop door and put their feeder in there (we keep it in the house at night)
  • 6:18 am – Jack watches a 12-13 minute episode of something on Netflix
  • 6:30 am – We head downstairs to put on shoes, get in the car, etc.
  • 6:35 am – I am backed out of the driveway and we’re on our way

Some days it is a bit more bumpy than the above scenario, but honestly it is pretty rare these days.

Though some mornings require headlamps for brushing teeth, because well, you know.


Any tips or tricks that work for getting your family out the door on time?

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23 comments on “How to: get out of the house in the morning without stabbing a family member in the eye with a spork”

  1. Long time reader / stalker. I laughed out loud when I read “The other morning he yelled “you’ve got to be kidding me” when I woke him up, and then chucked his stuffed kitties at me. ” Oh Jack, I get you man! 😉

    No kids, but I get up at 5:30 to get to the gym, have a full time job and an occasional part time job. My partner is funemployed and he does the best thing – he stays in bed from the time I get back from the gym to when I leave for the train. Even if he gets up and sits on the couch (sounds super benign) it throws me off my selfish morning routine.

    I totally agree with pre-planning meals – being able to nuke breakfast while I hop in the shower and having my lunch already ready in the fridge are life savers. Honestly, it lets me just enjoy the morning more. I get to watch the sunrise and not scramble to pack up. Putting my gym clothes out the night before sets an intention and keeps me from turning the lights on and making a ton of noise. (And, faster.)

    “Dodge flying stuffed kitties.” Extra work out! bonus! 😉

  2. It sounds like you guys have it down pat. Of course there will be days when it’s not perfect but not giving up and trying again the next morning is key. I admire you for your ability to wake up early and get a head start on the day. I need to try doing that because I agree that having a little quiet time to yourself makes it easier to greet the morning/day filled with little (loud) voices. For me, having 15 minutes to get a cup of coffee in me before everyone starts to wake up makes me a happy mommy. It hasn’t been happening lately but I will take your post as a reminder. We tend to take our quiet time after the boys go to bed (8:30 is their bed time, I don’t know if that’s normal or late compared to other kids) but we end up staying awake too long watching “our show” of the week/month which makes it really hard to wake up early. Plus, my kids are pretty light sleepers and I’m always afraid they’ll wake up extra early if they hear me. I guess the obvious answer is to set a limit at night and try to fall asleep at the same time instead of watching one (or two or three) more episodes. I wish we could limit screen time before we sleep too because I know they contribute to bad sleep. I could read to fall asleep most nights but my husband is not a reader and gets bored (or browses on his phone) and wants to turn off all the lights (a must for him to be able to fall asleep) while I’m still reading. Wouldn’t it be so cool if I could have my own room where I could read until my eyes are about to shut and then the lights would turn off on their own and I could magically teleport back to our shared bed? Hehe.

    What time do you usually fall asleep?

    • Jack sleeps like the dead, so I’m not worried about waking him up with my “carrying on”. As to the adult screen time, I hear you and that is the number one reason we stay up too late. I keep my evening TV watching in check by watching my kindle fire on the exercise bike in the morning. It helps pass the time, and I feel like I still stay caught up on my shows.

      I try to be in bed between 9:30 and 10 pm. I take a long time to fall asleep some nights, so on nights when I’m extra tired, I try to be in bed closer to 9. And I’ll be brutally honest in that 1-2 times a week, I take a Target brand (Up and Up) version of Unisom so that I am guaranteed a chance to pass out quickly.

  3. I’m like Izzy- I want to be an early morning person but I just can’t. And I agree with Brenda. It helps to know if your a night owl or an early bird. If I have somewhere to be early in the morning, I prefer to get up at the last minute and rush out the door. The hubby needs to get up early enough to relax and eat breakfast while surfing the web. My kiddo is more like him. She will wake up on her own anywhere between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m. and read for an hour before she is ready to face the day.

    I have great respect for people who have to be up and out of the house really early. And I am thankful I am not one of them.

  4. Oh, Sarah. You make me laugh. Thanks for that!

    Recent trick, which seems counterproductive, but is working for my 2 boys (10 and almost 7) is to snuggle in my bed for a few minutes in the morning. It was totally frustrating me to listen to their alarm buzz for 10 minutes every morning, then have to go wake them up anyway. One night, I promised that if they woke up with their alarm, they could get some snuggle time in my “big bed”. Not sure why it works, but it does! Everyone is much happier (ie much less yelling by me).

    We also have a similar routine of “what was your high and low for the day”. I may have to add breakfast order to that! They used to eat oatmeal every day, but now it’s waffles. They love quiche (and frittata), so maybe I’ll have to prebake a bunch of those! Great tips!

  5. I get up 50 minutes before everyone else and I wish I could say it was to work out, but really I just need 20 minutes to eat breakfast and drink coffee in peace and another 30 minutes to pack lunches and get breakfast ready before everyone else is underfoot. Thankfully, my first-grader and kindergartner are good about getting themselves dressed (we lay out clothes at night) and brushing their hair and teeth. And my husband takes them to school so once they’re out the door, I still have 25 minutes to get myself showered and ready while my four-year-old gets highly cherished iPad time! Some days I feel like I do more “work” in the hour and a half between getting up and getting everyone out the door than I do the rest of the day!

    • So, if I worked out at night, I would NEVER work out because there is too much to do So, I had to force myself to start doing it in the morning. In order to do that, I stopped eating breakfast at home, and now I eat it at work. Changed my whole routine (for the better).

      I hear you on the highly productive time in the morning; I can get so much done in that time!

  6. Fantastic suggestions Sarah! I have three boys who are now 23yrs -16yrs and when they were younger I think we followed all those suggestions except getting the breakfast order early.
    As usual, you made me smile and chuckle a bit while reading it. Thanks for writing a blog that tells it like it really is. I can always find something to relate to in your posts.

  7. Dear Abby (or someone like that) said that if there is nothing worth staying up for, you are an early bird. If there is nothing worth getting out of bed for, you are a night owl.

    Hubby is an early bird and of course I am not. Our 2 boys woke up talking & smiling….daughter did not. All of the guys in our house took care of themselves with cereal, frozen waffles or leftovers from the night before because Mom wasn’t worth crap before 2 cups of coffee and 9 am. And Sis took care of herself because she didn’t want to talk to anyone before 10 am…she started using an alarm clock in the 1st grade.

    I share this to say that figuring out a person’s style can go a long way towards knowing how to prepare for the day ahead. I did better staying up after the kids went to bed to do my morning prep….suited my style. Whatever works to get the results we need to get through the day 🙂

    • I used to be a night owl, but with an internal alarm that woke me up, even on summer break by 6 am. I would get very little sleep, and it sucked. I’ve forced myself to go to bed earlier as the years have gone by.

      I think learning the style is a great idea!

  8. Thank you for sharing, I love hearing your routine. Now if only I could get my lazy ass out of bed on time, I am running late every day. My kids, no problem. I am the problem! I want to be a early riser, I really do, but I just can’t get there.

  9. It was a battle every morning getting my daughter out of bed. Starting the day angry was not fun. When she was 8 or 9 years old she got her own alarm clock and it became her responsibility to wake up and get up in the mornings. Around the same time I made her responsible for washing her own clothes. She had a bad habit of stuffing dirty clothes under her bed instead of putting them in the hamper for me to wash.

    When she was around 7 years old (I still smile when I remember this) she was mad at me for something, as she was stomping off to go to her room she looked at me an said ‘you’re a mean mommy’. She is in her 30’s now and I am proud to call her daughter and friend.

  10. Well, now that my kiddos are older getting out the door is easier most days. On the days my son wakes up and refuses to get dress, for school (in his uniform) I just simply say ok well the taxi is leaving at 7:15 you can either get dressed or go to school in your pjs aka undies. Either way I don’t care. CPS only states I have to provide you with healthy food and clothes if you choose not to eat the food or wear your school clothes that is on you not me. Surprising they always eat their breakfast and get dressed without any more lip. lol

    Sometimes on bad days I tell them sure you don’t have to go to school. I will call the school and have the truancy office come pick you up. Saves me gas and I did not feel like driving you today anyways. Pj day for mom. Yahoo!! This works for my teenager. The embarrassment.

    I have learned like you getting up before them makes me happier and calmer. And taking breakfast orders the night before allows me to budget my time in the morning. It makes a difference if it will be a makeup day or a bun day. At first my family thought I was crazy, but we went from cereal only for breakfast to anything you want has long as you place your order the night before changing is not allowed once it is made or if you went from a kind bar and now want an egg sandwich. I do the same thing with the hubby because let’s be honest he is one of the kids most days.

    I have to laugh while writing I am not that mean of a mom, but I am hoping for the worst mom of the year award in 2015;)

    Thanks for letting me ramble.

    • LOL, I love your sayings to motivate the kids! I used to babysit my high school English teacher’s daughters in the summer. He had classes in summer, so I would get to his house at 6 am and watch TV until his daughter woke up around 8 am. I had to get her to her summer camp at 9, and then I was free for the rest of the day. Super easy gig, except she would refuse to get dressed in the am. One morning I said “if you give me this much trouble tomorrow, I’m sending you to camp in your pjs”. And I held true to my threat, and the next day her ass went to camp in her jammies for throwing such a fit. Never happened again!!

      You’re not a mean mom; you’re an awesome mom!