School Day Stressors

The Morning rush!

“We” are not what you’d call morning people in my household. It’s not so much that we’re all a bunch of gloomy grumps (though some days that’s the case) but speed is not on our side before 10 AM. 

Although, independent of each other, any one of us might be just fine making it to earlier morning commitments, collectively mornings become a crunch! I used to at least be able to blame this on my second shift work schedule. For you night owls out there who regularly swing the 3-11, 4-12 or even overnight shifts, I’m sure you can relate. It’s not exactly like you punch out at 11 PM on the dot, speed off for home and slide into bed by 11:30. 

No, no, no – there are co-workers running late for the next shift, last minute stops at the 24-hour Walmart or convenience store for milk, bananas or bread…and whatever browse buying occurs in between, overnight construction crews backing up the highway – the list could go on. All of this adds up to you arriving home somewhere between midnight and 1 AM at best, jumping in the shower, doing your evening pick-up-the-house routine if you’re a bit OCD like me, and possibly crawling under the covers around 2 AM. 

As babies I think my girls got accustomed to a very relaxed morning routine due to my work schedule. Fortunately they both were pretty easy babies – up once or twice around the time that I’d get home and back to their cribs to sleep until 8 AM or so most days. Even with that, they’d likely nurse and doze off to sleep again so mommy could follow suit!

Flash forward three years and it was time to transition into the  somewhat more structured routine that is preschool. To say it was a struggle would have been the understatement of the year. We were shocked and awed into this newly imposed morning routine. Mommy had to actually get out of her PJs before Noon, dress said preschooler and feed both she and her baby sister and while fashioning a hairstyle to keep her lengthy and at times unruly curls out of her face. Then it was pack up and safely commute off to the nursery school. 

To some of you super-moms out there, this is all in an easy-day’s work. But the reality is, there are others of you out there who like me are not gifted with superhuman powers and can feel where I’m coming from. Preschool for us started at 9 AM…consequently my daughter’s typical E.T.A. would range anywhere from 9:15 to the 9:30 range if I’m being honest. 

Years later, at 10 and 7 years old, I can officially say my daughters and I have (finally) settled into a decent elementary school morning routine. Full disclosure, this was no doubt another semi-traumatic transition at first which has taken time to tweak. We are still teasing out the kinks here and there with an even earlier start time and double duty daughter prepwork. 

Even with being the last stop on our bus route, 8:35 AM only solidified that the struggle is still real! Things have changed though. Luckily I am no longer on those 2nd shift late nights and with a bit more planning and prep we can at least confidently say we’ve got it down to a  -well – pseudoscience at least! Again, making the shift toward a more amenable morning remains a work in progress. I have also adopted a more flexible approach toward outfits and hair (leggings and ponytails all day everyday, A-okay!) but I’d like to think we’ve implemented some strategic changes in our household that could help support others in the “I don’t do mornings” coffee cup camp.

School Day Stress Busters: Don’t Get Beaten by the Bus!

  • Bad news kiddos, bedtime’s busted! This may seem like a no-brainer, but the earlier you can get your little ones into bed, the more time you have to put the work in to make the morning move more  swiftly and smoothly. As I said, we were formerly a second shift family, but that often shifted bedtime later than was practical anymore once school rolled around. So, consider scaling back the evening cutoff, even an extra 15 minutes to a half-hour can mean so much. You kids can use the extra time to wind down, have a story, that extra hug and snag a little extra sleep as well.
  • Lay out your morning wardrobe game plan for the gang! Is it gym day? Make sure there’s an activewear/sneaker combo ready to go. Looking for that favorite faux fur fleece vest – it’s gonna be easier if you do search and rescue the night before school than as you’re all running to the bus stop. Making an outfit game plan will also help avoid any early morning clothing wars. Compromise is an option when you’ve got 12 hours in front of you, not 12 minutes ‘till the bell rings.
  • Kitchen Prep! Pack lunches if you’re able and portion out healthy snack choices so they’re ready to grab and go. Sectioned storage containers are super for making snack combos your kids will love: slice up apples and cheese and pair with pretzels, scoop some hummus and add along carrot sticks with Goldfish crackers – the options are endless. Don’t forget to also fill up water bottles and put together those standby PB&Js if you can make ahead. 
  • Backpack, Backpack! Dora the Explorer days may be in your child’s past, but you can also prep that backpack (you can sing the old Dora backpack song while you do it if you’d like) with signed permission slips, the homework folders and projects prepped to go. If you’re children are older elementary age, make the backpack check part of their nightly routine. 
  • Shake up Breakfast! We actually have been doing this since the girls got started on regular milk. Each morning their dad mixes up a batch of healthy morning breakfast shakes using a nutritious plant-based protein formula, fresh or frozen fruit or peanut butter and bananas. Most of the time – no this is not foolproof – the girls are good about at least guzzling down their healthy shakes and we feel good sending them off to school with something substantial even on days they don’t finish their full breakfast. Shakes are super quick and can be personalized to suit your children’s tastes or nutritional needs and, best of all, are highly portable whether you’re running to the bus stop or careening off on the Caravan carpool.

Final Thoughts

I used to attempt to manage multiple hairstyles a week , made sure we never wore exactly the same outfit twice, even drew intricate paper towel doodle notes for school-day lunch bags. All of this is nice, and I’m not saying the perfectionist in me will ever really give up on some of these practices once in a while at least. The difference is I do it when I can and if I can’t, I don’t stress about it. Pop into any elementary school classroom and you’ll surely find an eclectic array of creative clothing. And really, by the end of the school day whose child actually come off the bus with their pigtails still perfectly in place? So relax super-moms and dads, we’re all in this together! 

Remember, years from now when you’re sending your sweeties off to college, what will you and they remember most from those elementary school days? Who had the cutest designer clothes or the best braids and bows? What really matters is your child’s happiness, health and the fleeting fun times you’ll share as you navigate their early educational experiences. You may need to speed up your school day morning routine, but as for the rest, I intend to slow down, simplify and savor even the messiest but-oh so-memorable moments.