Magazine article USA TODAY

School Morning Madness

Magazine article USA TODAY

School Morning Madness

Article excerpt

BACK-TO-SCHOOL is here again and, for many mothers, that means a return to hectic mornings, domestic crises, and stressful fights through traffic as you race the school bell. From spilled milk to argumentative siblings to lost homework to road construction, there is so much that can make you crazy before 8 a.m. rolls around. Yet, it does not have to be that way, as there are concrete things you can do to ensure there is less morning hassle this school year.

Moms need to maintain their sanity so they can set themselves and their kids up for success. All too often, so-called "bad" days are sparked by frustrating mornings. How smoothly things ran as you get ready for school and work can set the tone for the entire day--and the same thing is true for your kids. If a bad morning makes you feel bad for hours to come, it probably has the same effect on them.

You can solve part of the hectic-morning problem by building and sticking to a working routine. The other piece of the puzzle is not expecting too much from your kids or yourself. It is important to remember that having it all is not doing and being it all--it is knowing how to enjoy the ride. Balance and perspective are key.

Here are some tips to help maintain domestic order during back-to-school mornings--and throughout the year:

Stop expecting a fairy tale. Women tend to visualize perfection: "This year things will be different. We will get organized and stay organized. No more frantic mornings or running late." Then, when that inevitable morning comes--you hurl your bickering kids and their bags into the car, stomp on the gas pedal, and pray that you do not run into any traffic-- you are a lot more disappointed and upset than the situation (frustrating as it is) warrants.

Manage your expectations. It is good to set realistic goals for your family and, of course, you should try to improve bad habits. Just keep in mind that the school year will not be a string of perfect mornings. Accidents will happen; kids will misbehave; you will oversleep--and that is okay.

Remember that a little preparation goes a long way. Especially when you and your kids are tired after a long day, it is easy to put off seemingly small tasks with a muttered, "I'll take care of it in the morning." To be honest, though, that strategy rarely works. When morning comes, you are running around like a chicken with its head cut off, trying to fit too many tasks into too few minutes. Your anxiety level is at a 20 when it should be a two.

Even if you would rather face-plant onto the bed, it is worth your time to take care of prep work the night before. For example, lay out your kids' clothes and yours. Prepack lunches. Do not wait to go over your fifth-grader's spelling words. Sign all necessary papers. Have a designated spot for bags and homework so you are not tearing the house apart to find things in your pre-coffee fog. You know what needs to happen at your house--so make it happen before the morning of.

Get your beauty rest. Many moms stay up late into the night thinking that, if they burn the midnight oil, they finally will be able to catch up on their to-do lists. While it is true that you may be able to accomplish more by pushing your bedtime back a few hours, it also is inevitable that you will be less than effective the next day. When you are tired, groggy, and irritable in the morning, you do not do anyone any favors. Make sure to get enough rest so that you are capable of handling what life throws at you. Your body needs adequate sleep and downtime to operate efficiently.

Be fashionably early. If you are like many mothers, some of your most stressful morning situations stem from not having enough time. So, allow yourself more time than you think you need in the mornings. If you usually get up at 6:30, set the alarm for 6:15, or even 6:00. Ask yourself which is more valuable--a few extra minutes in bed or your peace of mind and mood as you prepare for the day? …

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