Leaving the house in the morning with my little towhead in tow has never been an easy undertaking. But when I returned to work and he began day care, the "struggle" became real. Before I had a baby, it took half the morning for me to feel awake, half the day to feel accomplished. Now it takes half an hour, and I feel accomplished before even arriving at work. Here are 10 steps for making your morning departure from home and day care drop-off a success (more or less)...
1. Cuddle up.
It's 6:00 a.m. and you hear your alarm. Or your child crying. Either one will do. You should have been up 10 minutes ago. You are tired to the point of near blindness. But you manage to see your little man's pajama-clad arms reaching out for yours, as a sleepy grin spreads across his cheeks. This is when you know it is time to cuddle. That's right. No matter how late you may be running, early morning snuggles are as essential as your morning coffee (which I will get to in a bit). Bring your baby to bed and soak in all the hugs and smooches and spooning you can. Everyone's day will be better for it. And when you eventually look at the clock and realize it's already 6:20, just remember the following rule:
2. DO NOT PANIC.
If you've ever flown on an airplane, you know that the flight attendant advises all passengers to put on their own oxygen masks before helping anyone else. This is true for morning wake-ups, too. You can't get your child ready for the day until you yourself can function, and this requires coffee. I begin brewing ASAP, because the sooner I smell those beans, the closer I am to making the impossible possible: getting both me and baby dressed for the day, which leads me to No. 3.
3. Have toys on hand.
Baby needs your attention. But you need a pair of work pants. Preferably a clean, pressed pair. So you search in the closet but then move to the floor, to sort through the heap of clothes that have not yet been folded. (This is hypothetical, of course, and has never happened to me.) Your baby starts crying. You start singing.
It's OK, we're gonna have a great day, I love you, do you love me, too?
Baby is not impressed. The clock is ticking. You need a toy. Or two, or three. Best are the ones that light up and make loud noise. Distraction is key. If you cannot find said toys, baby will probably find a pair of socks to play with instead, but it's a chance you don't want to take, not when it's already 6:30.
By some stroke of luck -- and it feels like luck every time, though you do it every day -- you are dressed. It's not your best get-up, but it will do. Now it's time to tackle baby's attire, and time is of the essence. But your boy is finally content, playing with his "cahh." The second you scoop him up, you're sure he will scream. So what's the alternative? You rack your brain. Is it Pajama Day at day care? Or is that wishful thinking? PJ Day was so last week. Now is the time -- if it's an option -- to take advantage of No. 4.
4. Tag-team it.
Grab your partner, or really anyone in your general vicinity, and delegate. In our family, mommy dices strawberries while daddy wrestles Cody for a diaper and outfit change. Each of us thinks we have the harder job. But I secretly know mine is better, because I've mastered No. 5.
5. Make it a game.
I like to time myself. How fast can I toast Cody's waffle and find right-sized Tupperware containers? How many minutes to locate lids, to pour his milk and pack it in ice, to choose a wholesome lunch he won't throw on the floor? To get the check for day care and extra stuff they requested: the diapers and butt paste and boots. What time is it now? Did I beat my record? I head for the door, about to load up the car, and deem myself Master of the morning routine -- when I realize one thing I forgot, the one thing I always forget.
Food for myself. But now Cody's getting fussy, and by fussy I mean furious. He's flailing his arms and stomping his feet, and, in his 14-month-old language that I understand every other word of, demanding to know why we can't blow bubbles.
Bubbooes! he begs.
I'd be mad, too, and I tell him that. But my words only get me so far. He gets on his knees and pleads. I move on to No. 6.
6. Have food on hand.
Blueberries are like crack to my son. So I plop him in his high chair and let him go to town on berries while I get to work raiding the fridge, stuffing whatever food I can find in my purse. The success of my morning can be measured in part by how closely the contents of my bag come to resembling a proper lunch.
7. Expect the best.
Prepare mentally, but also literally. Do as much as you can the night before. Wash the sippy cups, make the lunch, pack the bag, lay out the clothes. You will thank yourself in the morning. You will sing your own praises! Ninety percent of your morning stress will be eliminated. It will be glorious.
8. Prepare for the worst.
But then, of course, there will be nights when you cannot bring yourself to prepare, because it's the last thing in the entire world you want to do. That's understandable. It's even happened to me a few (hundred) times. Don't worry about it too much. Until the morning, that is, when you will curse yourself. When you will need to remember: DO NOT PANIC. You may even need to repeat this to yourself as you run around the house feeling like a scrambled egg that you don't have time to make. Trust that you will make it out of the house... though you may have to sacrifice a few aspects of your personal hygiene to make it happen. But hey, what's one skipped shower in the grand scheme of things?
The devil is in the details, so never leave the house without giving that second glance. Are you wearing a bra? Did you put deodorant on? Is your baby dressed for the weather? If you live in Massachusetts, like we do, this means wearing a full-body snowsuit in the middle of March. Did daddy color coordinate baby's outfit, right down to the socks? Kidding, kidding. (Kind of.)
10. Enjoy the ride.
Lastly, but most importantly, in the mad rush of the morning, try your best to stay present, and always have a camera (or iPhone) ready, so that you never miss a moment.
What are your mornings like with your kid(s)? Please share!