Anne Tergesen

I am not a morning person. My relatives would tell you that that’s an understatement. Consider the following facts:

1) When I was in high school, the first bell rang at 8:05 a.m. My alarm clock rang just a half hour before, at 7:30.

2) Today, I still have to be out the door at 8:05. But while I’m now responsible for four people—myself and my three sons—my alarm still goes off at 7:30. As they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I admit mine is a pretty pathetic track record. The big problem: None of us get enough sleep. My sons have inherited my night owl tendencies. But the bigger problem is my work schedule, which keeps me out until 6:30 most nights. There’s just not enough time for us to do all we have to do—homework and chores—and unwind a bit by 8:30, their ideal bedtime. More often, their bed time slides back to 9:00, or even 9:30. My bedtime is much later, thanks to the usual suspects—laundry and preparing for the next day, both at work and school.

How I manage to get three kids and myself out the door in a half hour’s time amazes even me—especially when you consider that I’m pretty groggy until noon most days. (My uncle, a doctor, once told my parents they should enroll me in a scientific experiment.) Here’s a rundown: After the alarm goes off, I vault out of bed. My first stop: My sons’ room, where I raise the blinds and start screaming, “Get up!! Get up!!!” I turn on the bath water (in the winter, they like to take a hot bath in the morning) and run to the kitchen. There, I feed the cats, scoop out the cat litter, and throw a bunch of frozen pancakes into the microwave (after washing my hands, of course). I pour juice and carry the whole mess, on a tray, to the bathroom, where they eat in the tub (a totally absurd situation). While they’re eating, I take a shower and get dressed myself. At 7:50, I start yammering for them to get out of the tub. At 7:55, I get serious about it. They get out and dressed. They even make their beds. They brush their teeth and hair and we’re out the door by 8:10—five minutes after our target, but still soon enough to get us to school on time. Once I drop them off at school, I get on the subway and arrive at work by 9:00. I take about a half hour to relax and gather my thoughts, while reading email and eating breakfast.

Not that I’d advise anyone to emulate my crazy routine. But if you’re so inclined, here are some tips on how to make it work. (After all these years of half hour sprints from bed to the door, I’m probably the world’s foremost expert):

1) Do as much as you can the night before. I lay out our clothes, the breakfast dishes, and the coats, hats, and gloves the night before. I make sure each child’s homework is in the appropriate backpack, along with anything else that has to go to school, such as gym clothes or a note for the teacher.
2) Get the kids to help. It takes more time in the short-run. But in the long-run, it makes everything more efficient. I insist that they make their own beds, for example.
3) Have some self-discipline. If I didn’t have kids, I’d probably stay up really late. But given our 8:05 deadline every morning, I can’t afford to stay up much past midnight. I also try not to drink—even a half glass of wine—or eat too much sugar in the evenings. Otherwise, I have an even harder time waking up.
4) Get some help, if you can. Some mornings, my husband is around to help with the breakfast. I yell much less on these mornings. Our babysitter arrives at 8:00 to take my youngest to nursery school, leaving me with only one school dropoff—a huge help.

Any tips? Let me know!

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