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How to get to work (and kids) out the door without losing your cool

September 20, 2010

By Pam Houghton

Getting kids up and out the door in the morning without being late to work is a challenge many working moms (and dads) face, no matter how old their children are.   Kids dawdle and tempers flare while parents struggle to get their children ready for daycare or school.

One mom I know confessed to screaming when her two children were young.  Something always seemed to go wrong.  Either one of her kids couldn’t dress quickly enough, or another refused to eat Cheerios, hampering her ability to prepare them for daycare and get to work on time.  By the time she got to her desk, she felt guilty for losing her temper and acting like such a “bad mom.”

When my own daughter reached adolescence, her snail’s like pace at getting out of bed and ready for school fueled my impatience, resulting in a regrettable scream-fest of our own.  Slinking into my cubicle well after an 8:00 am start time, I felt bad about the morning’s events.  It wasn’t until our son told us about a school assignment that I realized it was time to change the way we behaved.

Required to write a tall-tale, an exaggerated version of a real life situation, he had entertained his 4th grade classmates with a Jerry Springer-like version of our morning routine.  Yep, in front of the whole class.  There was a lot of yelling and screaming and “shut-ups” in his tale, but at least he didn’t portray us as a chair-throwing family.  Oh, the humility of having our morning friction exposed.

So how can we get our mornings off to a more peaceful start?

1.  Remind yourself you aren’t alone.  Factor in a long commute, one or more drop-offs on the way to work, and you have a recipe for parents who arrive late to work.  Most parents responsible for getting the kids off in the morning struggle with a strict got-to-be-there time.  If your work environment allows, flex your work hours to accommodate this issue.  Agree to start and end your work day later, work through lunch, or catch up on projects at home.

2.  Keep in mind that kids’ developmental schedules are not always going to be in sync with your work schedule.  And that’s just the way it is.  Is it worth it to battle it out every morning?  Probably not, especially if one of your kids rats you out in front of the whole school.  Find a way to make peace with that.  Once your behavior improves, so likely will your child’s.

3.  Time and patience resolve a lot of issues.  Children who struggle with their clothes eventually learn to dress themselves at a reasonable pace.  Kids who don’t like breakfast cereal sooner or later find something else they like to eat.  And the young adolescent who had a hard time getting out of bed? Well, she is now a mature, responsible 17-year-old who drives herself (and her 15-year-old tale-telling brother) to school every day.  Yep, she’s on time.

Do you struggle with the morning rush?  How do you make sure you get to work on time?  If you have a flexible work schedule, has it helped reduce the stress?
About Pam Houghton: A technical editor, product release manager and faithful cubicle dweller for over 20 years, Pam is currently a freelance writer of website content, marketing and employee communications, personal essays and travel articles.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. September 20, 2010 8:55 am

    We have discovered that letting our young teenagers (we have almost 11 yrs old and 17 this yr) get up and play a game on the pc for 30 mins before school makes him want to charge out of bed– he has to be ready for school before he can play— it also lets us spend time with him alone vs having to compete with his 4 yr sister.

    Started this about 5 months ago and even he has commented how he likes to spend that special time with us every day. We parents get up even though hubby works 2 different jobs at 5:30am every morning to be prepared for the day. This has decreased our “morning stress” considerably vs the 6:30 get up and rush.

  2. September 20, 2010 12:28 pm

    We have built extra time in by getting up earlier and doing some things the night before. For example, the kids need to have their backpacks packed the night before so that in the morning, they don’t have to rush around looking for things. Additionally, on the weekend, I make extra amounts of breakfast foods that can be frozen (eg. waffles, pancakes). Then, in the morning, breakfast gets popped into the microwave for a minute, and, voila, it is done. Finally, I have seen the importance of establishing a solid routine so that the kids know what to expect when. I have found that these techniques coupled with the extra time we built in by getting up earlier have helped to reduce the stress in the morning, even if there is a little dawdling.

  3. September 20, 2010 6:54 pm

    Hi Tonie,

    I like your solution! Interesting how creative parents can be when thinking up ways to solve problems, and getting out the door in the morning peacefully can be a big one. Thanks for sharing!

  4. September 20, 2010 7:14 pm


    Those are great ideas, and really, so sensible. Thanks for adding them to the list here.

  5. November 2, 2010 1:08 pm

    I am not a morning person. There is no hope for that changing so I’ve learned to adapt by putting into place routines that can be followed easily. Think of it this way, your family should be able to manage and know what needs to be done even if you aren’t there because they have a routine. It also helps reduce resistance behaviour from sleepy kids.

    Getting things done the night before such as lunches, choosing clothes, checking homework (having the coffee start automatically!) are really helpful for reducing the morning stress and help prevent the last minute rush which gets every one in a fluster.

    Your point about time and patience are so important. Families grow up so fast who wants to spend the time being grumpy?

  6. November 11, 2010 4:33 pm

    Hi Bonnie – getting things done the night before really does help. And I agree about the issue of grumpiness! Who wants to be remembered for that?? 🙂 Thanks for the comment.

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