The new Mighty Mommy has expert tips on how to make your family life easier by implementing rock solid routines.
Step #1: Morning Routines
Morning routines set the tone for the whole day, so don’t wait until after everyone has overslept to get your morning routine under way, you’ll only set a frantic pace for the whole family which can easily leave you all feeling overwhelmed before you even get out the door. Successful routines take planning, though they needn’t be complicated and time consuming to put into place.
Decide what time your family will be getting up each day and stick to it. Whether your family will be awaking to their own alarm clocks or to your motherly nudging, remember that an affectionate and pleasant “GOOD MORNING SLEEPYHEADS” is a nicer way for everyone to wake up to than you screeching “GET UP OR ELSE!” Make sure that your children are well-rested so they don’t oversleep and that you enforce work before play. In other words, no watching cartoons or playing video games until children are completely dressed, fed, and have all their school supplies ready.
If you have family pets, get your children in the habit of taking the dog out for a morning bathroom walk or tending to the cat’s litter box in addition to feeding the animals before they head out to school.
Establish the routine of getting everything ready the night before (more on that in a bit) so that your kids aren’t struggling to find matching socks, homework binders, and such on the fly. This in itself can keep your blood pressure at a very healthy level!
Have a healthy but easy breakfast menu ready to go for school and work days. Forget the eggs Benedict with a side of hash browns—instead, be practical and have selections like oatmeal, cold cereal, English muffins and jam, and a few hardboiled eggs cooked in advance.
After breakfast, have everyone take care of personal grooming, teeth brushing, getting dressed, and gathering backpacks and necessary school items.
Finally, don’t forget to give your kids and spouse a warm kiss good bye and wish them the best for the day. If you as the parent can set an upbeat tone with smiles, kisses, and encouraging words as you send them off, you’ll give them a positive start to the day. And that can make a huge difference.
Step #2: After School Routines
The after school routine can actually be one of the trickiest parts of the day, especially when your kids become a bit older and start getting involved in numerous extracurricular activities that don’t leave them with much homework or leisure time. It’s also a bit more difficult, yet certainly not impossible, to oversee a routine at this time if you are working full time and your child goes to after school daycare or you have a babysitter helping out.
Depending on your children’s ages, you will need to make sure they have time to decompress when they get home from school. This can include having a nutritious snack, playing with friends in the neighborhood, riding their bikes, or even watching a bit of TV.
At our home, our elementary school-aged children have a different afternoon routine than our middle school and high school kids. But regardless of whether I am home in the afternoon or they have a babysitter, the routine is the same. The younger kids get off the bus, come in and put backpacks and lunchboxes in their proper places, eat a snack, and have an hour or so of play time. We eat dinner at 6 PM each night, so they start homework by 5:15 and it’s completed (hopefully) before dinner.
Our middle and high school kids usually have afterschool sports/activities so they come home right before 6PM, put their things away, wash up and eat dinner, and then do their daily chores such as putting laundry away or taking out the garbage. Then it’s homework time, showers, getting backpacks and outfits ready for the following day, and if there is free time after that they can chill out with some TV or an activity of their choice.
Step #3: Dinner Routines
If you start thinking about what to serve your family for dinner while sitting in rush hour traffic on the way home from work, you’re probably constantly stressed about finding something in your fridge that you can throw together so you don’t have to serve cold cereal, again.
But if you can get into an organized dinner routine, you’ll add years to your life! You don’t have to get fancy. But by shopping for groceries ahead of time and planning a handful of meals that you know your family will eat—such as lasagna, baked chicken and potatoes, macaroni and cheese with grilled sausage, tacos, etc.—you will have all the ingredients on hand to prepare dinner quickly. If you really want to optimize your time, make a few meals on the weekend to have ready for the following week. I make calzones every Thursday. I love having a no-brainer meal in the mix each week.
Even if you can’t serve dinner at the same time each night due to work and other commitments, you can still make dinnertime a routine that works by getting help from the kids to set the table while you’re cooking. (Get them involved in making the salad or other dishes when they are old enough). Even if you’re only at the table together for 10-15 minutes, that time is precious family time that kids really do cherish and benefit from. After dinner, you can enlist help for clearing the table and doing everyone’s favorite chore—the dishes!