Parent Corner: Messy Mornings

by KAREN COREKIN-DeLaMER, Education and Community Relations Coordinator, Northern Door Children’s Center

Art by Andrew Kleidon.

Dear Karen,

I am the mother of three daughters under age 7. My oldest is in elementary school, and my younger two attend our early-education center. My husband and I both work full time, and getting everyone ready and out the door on time in the mornings is very challenging. Waking them up, dressing them and getting everyone fed and out the door can feel impossible.

I’ve been told we should get as much done at night as we can, but by the time we get everyone to bed, we’re just too exhausted to do another thing. Somewhere in there, we also want to have family time.

Is there a secret to making our life work so we can manage our schedule and not always be so stressed out?

– Messed-Up Mornings and Nutty Nights

Dear Messed-Up Mornings,

First, let me applaud you for wanting to make family time a priority during a very hectic weekday schedule! The good news is that there are definitely ways to organize your routine so that it takes some stress away from you and your husband, and looking at your nighttime routine may help you make changes to the morning routine. 

It sounds like you’ve divided up tasks between you and your husband, but there just might be more to do than the two of you can do by yourselves. This could be the moment to think about what your children can do to help. Rather than seeing chores as something that must be done so you can have family time, try turning some of the chores into quality family time.

The first step could be having a family meeting to talk about the mornings and evenings. Offering your children the opportunity to participate in making group decisions and take on some responsibility can build their confidence and teach important life skills. In addition, it gives you and your husband special time with your children while they help you with the things that need to be done. This is a win/win for everyone!

It may seem impossible to do anything else in the evenings, but there may be ways to accomplish more than one thing at a time. For example, while your husband prepares dinner, your oldest daughter could sit in the kitchen, finish her homework and help with dinner prep. At the same time, you could give the younger two a bath. After dinner, your younger girls could help you tidy the kitchen while your husband supervises your oldest taking her bath. By the time the post-dinner part of the evening is over, the kitchen is clean, baths and homework are done, and you’ve all spent that time together making it happen. 

Your husband could have all three children help him prepare breakfast and lunches for the next day. Even the youngest could wash fruit or put out cereal boxes. You might assist your middle child in choosing two outfits that are ready for her to pick from in the morning. Your oldest could choose her own morning alarm (check out Sunrise or Zen alarm clocks), which might make it easier and more enjoyable for her to wake up.

You might also consider setting aside time on weekends to work together to prepare for the coming week. Making meals ahead, for example, can be an enjoyable family activity. These are just a few suggestions, and your family members will have their own great ideas!

The key is to let your daughters be part of the decision-making process for producing change – they’ll be more invested in a routine that they’ve had a hand in creating, and it’s very rewarding for them to choose their own responsibilities. Then, the time spent with – and the attention received from – both parents while doing their chosen tasks will be its own reward. 

Your regularly expressed acknowledgment and appreciation of their efforts also helps to build their sense of self-worth, and they will begin to understand the value of contributing in meaningful ways to the life of your family.

Karen Corekin-DeLaMer holds degrees in elementary, special and early-childhood education. She has been a teacher, administrator and parent educator since 1984 and is the education and community-relations coordinator for Northern Door Children’s Center in Sister Bay. Email your questions to her at [email protected].



The percentage of parents who say it’s harder than they thought it would be to be a parent 

The number of hours per week that mothers spend on activities such as reading to children, doing crafts with them and taking them to recitals and games

1 hour, 45 minutes
The amount of time per week that mothers spent on those activities in 1975

Sources: New York Times, Changing Rhythms of American Family Life