Simple tips to make the morning routine stress-free

morning rush

The Morning Rush: It’s that very stressful period where we have to wake up the kids, get breakfast ready, get them dressed, fed and out the door and deposited to school or daycare - on time. For many of us, it’s a daily struggle. I’ve written about it before and put a humorous spin on in in the image below - you can check out the full post here as well.

Though the morning rush is brief, it’s often intense as time is of the essence and kids are often not the best at following rules, especially when you need really need them to do so. In many cases, stress levels are high - for both children and parents - and tolerance levels are low, often leading to combustable scenarios that include shouting, crying and more. This is far from an ideal way to start the day.

Beginning the day on a negative note is never a good thing as it affects not only one’s mood, but one’s productivity throughout the day as well. This goes for both parents and kids - children are often affected by the events at home and it’s reflected in their behaviour at school. For these and many other reasons, it’s important to alleviate the issues that result in those crazy, stress-filled mornings that leave everyone unhappy.

Following are 10 tips for dealing with the morning rush:

1) Wake Up First - As the parent, you lead the charge. As any leader knows, getting ahead of the game and taking a few solitary moments to breathe, savour the quiet and get your mental battle gear in order is the key to success. Set your alarm to wake up half an hour before the family rises to both mentally prepare yourself and to enjoy the peace and quiet.

2) Prepare the Night Before - Planning is key. To avoid stressful scenarios in the mornings, get organized and plan ahead. Lay out your kids’ clothes, make their lunches, sign all school forms, check homework, pack backpacks, etc. Get your kids into the habit of providing you with their school-related documents when they receive them, not the morning that they’re due.

3) Get Enough Sleep - The importance of a good night’s sleep is grossly underrated. This goes for not only kids but parents as well. Tempers flare and nerves are frayed when people are not well-rested. This goes for not just you but the kids. They’ll be less grumpy and easier to wake up in the mornings if they’ve been able to get enough sleep the night before.

4) Tune Out the Tech - As tempting as it may be to check your email, Facebook or even the morning news online, don’t do it. By its very nature, the Internet is distracting and we all know how quickly we can get pulled in to its vortex. Make a plan to focus on getting the kids dressed, fed and out the door and leave the digital dabbling to later on, when the kids are at school.

5) Get Kids to Help - Why take on all of the responsibility? Kids can learn do do simple tasks at early ages so let them get busy! Have them pack their knapsacks help pick out their clothes (depending on their ages) and help with making their lunches. With even a little bit of responsibility kids will thrive and there will be less for you to do as well.

6) Start Early - If your kids need half an hour to get themselves out of bed, plan to get them up half an hour earlier. The point is to minimize the stress, of which sleep - too much of it - is often a key part. If you’re dealing with a sleepy teenager or tween, or a child who needs a full night’s rest, get them to bed early. They’ll be much easier to wake in the morning and stress levels will be considerably lower for everyone involved.

7) Plan the Breakfast Menu - Breakfast is often a scramble - pun intended. When dealing with kids, there’s the issue of picky eating, whining, complaining and often crying. It doesn’t have to be this way. Get the children involved the day or night before and determine at that point what they’ll be eating for breakfast. Talk it through, get their agreement about what’s going to be on their plate in the morning and rest easy knowing that the breakfast theatrics won’t occur.

8) Put a Time Limit on Tasks - As part of the overall morning plan, give your kids a certain amount of time to eat, get dressed, etc. Left to their own devices, we all know how much longer kids can take getting things done as they often have no sense of urgency. If necessary, use a time or stop-watch - they’ve been known to work with even the slowest of kids.

9) Schedule Bathroom Time - Fighting for the bathroom is yet another morning stressor that doesn’t need to happen. For those of us who don’t have enough bathrooms to support the morning demand, make a schedule. It may sound crazy but planning who is going to go in first, who’s showering at what time, etc. will take the heat of those waiting outside the door. For younger kids, bathe them in the evenings before bed.

10) Check the Weather - Unless you’re blessed with living in a climate where it’s always warm, you will likely have to deal with getting your kids dressed for the season. Whether it’s fall, winter, spring or summer, your child’s outdoor attire can add precious minutes to your morning routine. Check the weather forecast for the coming morning and, where necessary, set out your kids’ rain boots, snow pants, hats, mittens or whatever is required. Doing so will reduce the amount of time and stress looking for the right attire at the last minute.

The Morning Rush from a parent's point-of-view The morning rush is crazy! Getting kids ready for school is often stressful AND funny.

What tips do you have for making the morning routine less stressful? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.


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How to Clean Your House in 15 Minutes or Less

by Samantha on June 28, 2013


The phone rings or you get a text:

“Hi! I’m in the neighbourhood and I’m coming over. See you soon!”

You freeze.

After all, if your mother-in-law, long-lost friend from grade school or pastor is in the area, it’s really hard to tell them “no,” and that they can’t come over. There are repercussions, you see, that will make things so much more difficult, if you choose to deny them.

Now, all of us who are parents know that it’s virtually impossible to keep a consistently clean house at any given time. We all know that kids, by definition, means chaos, and with chaos comes mess. It’s the natural order of things. On any given day, my home looks like a cross between a war zone where fingerpaints, markers and crayons are the weapon of choice, ground zero of a brazen attack by angry toys and a twisted dystopia of food stuffs, where remnants of last night’s dinner can (embarrassingly) be found in bedrooms, bathrooms and basements. Ugh.

For these reasons alone, the sheer embarrassment of this chaos being revealed to those fortunate souls who are child-free, or have grown children (or perhaps just a housecleaner) is not to be underestimated. No, as much as people say that they understand that the house is a complete disaster, they really don’t and, don’t kid yourselves, they will go away, shaking their heads and wonder incredulously how you, yes you could be such a slob. Oh, yes – you’re a bad parent, to boot.

It’s just plain humiliating and not worth the stress. Accordingly, I’ve come up with some ways to mitigate the madness and make the impromptu visit by unexpected guests occur without you having to crawl into a hole from embarrassment. Following are some simple tips on how to clean your house in 15 minutes or less:

1)   Time Management – You have 15 minutes so make it good. You don’t have a lot of time so here’s what I suggest: three blocks of 5 minutes for each area and no more. It may seem impossible but you can do it. The finite time period will get you going in no time. Nothing like a tight deadline to light a fire under us, right?

2)   Main Area – This is the first thing they’re going to see when they walk in the door so make sure that your guest doesn’t have such a horrifying first impression that they’ll never forget and will, similarly, never stop talking about what a slob you are to anyone who will listen. Kids have toys, and many of these toys have millions of little pieces, much to our irritation. Ditto for Lego which, when stepped on, is a painful reminder of how many little pieces there are on the floor and otherwise. Be prepared and always have a few storage bins or boxes in your main area (living room, dining room, etc.) where you can throw errant toys in a frantic hurry. Chuck them in, and call it a day. If the bin is overflowing and can’t be covered, that’s okay. At least the mess is centralized instead of scattered all over the floor. Give yourself 1 minute to do a really quick sweep and if you’re really on a roll, do a quick Swifter to make the floor look a bit better. Only if you have time, of course.

3)   Kitchen – You have five minutes so do the basics: any dirty dishes need to be put in the sink. Make sure there are none on the counters or tables – it makes everything look a lot messier. If the dish count isn’t too horrendous, take a couple of minutes and power-wash a few dishes. If you’re fortunate enough to have a dishwasher, load it up and close the door. Out of sight and out of mind. The less items that there are piled in the sink the better.

4)   Bathrooms – This is one of the most important areas to focus on and here’s why: it’s really gross to go into someone’s bathroom and it’s kind of unclean. Toothpaste globs in the sink and a toilet that hasn’t been cleaned very recently is nasty, even in your own home. In someone else’s, it’s hard to forget. The plan of attack in the wake of your “15-minute warning” from your guest should be this: one minute to dump some bleach or cleaner in your toilet and to scrub like you mean it, one minute to add spray clean your sink, on the faucets and on any obvious areas of dirt that need to be scrubbed and one minute to do a really quick once-over with a sponge on all of the main counters and walls. Take one to two minutes to sweep and you’re done.

5)   Assign Jobs – Your kids are part of making the mess; why not make them part of the frantic clean-up? As soon as you know that you’ve got 15 minutes, give them a job or two to tackle. Kids who are aged 5 and up love to use a Dustbuster or similar Handy-Vac type vacuum. Get them to do a quick once-over of the stairs or rugs so that there are no dust-bunnies or balls of dust in the corner. Similarly, get them to do some quick dusting of the furniture and areas where dust collects so that your house guests are not horrified by the dust bowl in which you live.

So as you can see, you can get quite a bit done in a short period of time. The key is to get your motor running, get into the cleaning grove and to power clean like there’s no tomorrow  - just for 15 minutes or so.

*To read this article on Huffington Post, CLICK HERE*

Do you have any quick tips about how to get the house clean in a hurry? Leave me your ideas in the comments section below!

Want more parenting advice and tips? Click on the image below to get your copy of my eBook today!

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This is Not My Beautiful House

by Samantha on December 1, 2012

How clean is your house? Could it withstand a visit from an unexpected guest?

How clean is your house? Could it pass the test that we all dread: unexpected guests?

I pose the question because a friend of mine relayed an irritating scenario to me that I just had to write about.

A friend of hers had been surprised by the friend’s mother-in-law (MIL) at her home. Apparently the MIL was horrified by the state of the house because the kids had (surprise, surprise) made a mess. The mother-in-law expected the house to be perfectly clean and in good shape at all times. Now here’s the kicker: the MIL insists that other people with kids have perfect houses that don’t look like a bomb went off in every room.

For the record, I think this MIL is insane.

On any given day, my house looks like both a tornado and tsunami have simultaneously crossed the threshold with a force that only Mother Nature could create. Toys abound, laundry baskets (full, of course) are plentiful and there may even be some scribbles and various “art” pieces that adorn my walls, courtesy of my twin boys. So??

I HAVE KIDS! Small kids at that! And like the mom who was berated by her oh-so-perfect mother-in-law, my house is not perfect. It is, however, in perfect disarray. As it should be. Kids, by definition, mean chaos. We love them, sure, but let’s face it: raising them on any given day, is chaotic, to say the least. There are soccer games to shepherd them to, and of course there’s the requisite soiled laundry pile that never seems to get done. There are playdates and birthday parties, homework assignments yet to be completed and class projects that require the full use of the dining room table. There are dishes in the sink, the dishwasher and, sometimes, in the kids rooms. Yes, the kids’ rooms (I may or may not have agreed to this, but it’s irrelevant). Regardless of where these dishes are found, they all need to be cleaned. My point is that some level of “mess” is part and parcel of having children. It’s a package deal, folks.

Perhaps this MIL is “old school,” and perhaps she ran her house like an army barracks when her kids were young. Everything had it’s place, I’m sure, and she may very well have raised her kids (and spouse, no doubt) with an iron fist. I know the type. Nothing less than perfection in housekeeping is acceptable. While this may work on the surface of things (the house is always clean when folks come over, unannounced or not), the reality that belies this type of scenario is less-than-perfect. Because, let’s face it: keeping a house in order at all times takes work, even if you don’t have kids. Add even one little rug rat to the equation and you will gain more than a few grey hairs and your blood pressure will likely skyrocket. It’s just the way things go. Add two or more to the mix and…well, I don’t have to go on. As far as I’m concerned, we parents need a break and a pass from the prying eyes and subsequent criticism of those who feel holier-than-thou. Mother-in-law or not, unless you’re also dealing with the perpetual laundry hell borne of a family of active children, you have no right to comment.

Judge lest not ye be judged. Remember?

So back to this friend of a friend and her prying mother-in-law. Here’s what I would suggest to her:

1) Tell the mother-in-law to back off and mind her own business. Difficult to do, I know, but oh, so cathartic when done.

2) Refuse to answer the door when MIL (or anyone else) drops in unannounced. It’s your house, after all, and you should be the one who dictates when someone crosses the threshold to your comfortably messy house.

3) Enlist the support of her spouse (MIL’s son) in getting the message across that insults and criticisms are not welcome. It is his mother so he should take the lead in speaking to her and supporting his wife. He’s wise to remember that old but  very truthful expression: “When mom’s not happy, NO ONE is happy!

So let me pose this question to you: Is your home ready for unexpected guests? How would you deal with this mother-in-law in this situation?


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Socks and Lids

by Samantha on November 11, 2012

Embrace the fact that socks and lids keep disappearing...

Socks and lids - they’ve both gone the way of the Dodo in my household.

Socks disappear into the apparent abyss that is also known as a dryer.

Lids for Tupperware-type plastic storage containers like the one below, disappear into the secondary abyss that is my kitchen drawer.

Who would have known that two seemingly similar items would share a common trait: the ability to behave like Houdini and make an incredible escape right under my nose?

We’ve all heard the complaint about socks being eaten in the dryer. “Sure,” we would say to those who professed such nonsense. That is, until the first time that you yourself were frantically trying to find a matching pair of these items for your child minutes before you were to transport them to school in time for the first schoolyard bell. In my case, my kids regularly end up at school with mismatched socks all to often and much to my embarrassment. It’s that blasted dryer, I tell you.

Lids - now there’s a new phenomenon. In the early days of plastic containers, I can’t recall ever having to hunt down the two pieces of this convenient puzzle in order to store my leftovers, cereal and otherwise. These days, however, it seems that there is some kind of container conspiracy at play and I’m left with a mismatched array of useless plastic.

I guess I should be thankful about this situation as, with everything, things could be worse. For example, in addition to socks going astray, how much worse would it be if my Spanx disappeared as well? Yup - things could be worse.

I should also find solace in the fact that the current Tupperware-type container of choice is in fact a cheap knockoff, one of many that I have and will continue to buy at my local dollar store. Heck, if I’m going to lose them on a regular basis, they might as well be cheap. However, the fact that I’m continually replacing them and perhaps paying more than I ever would if the lids didn’t disappear is not lost on me. Oh, the irony.

The solution? Here’s how I’m going to address these irritations head-on:

Socks - I will be actively supporting a push towards a fashion statement that embraces mismatched socks. Let’s go along with the idea that there’s a new fad amongst the kiddie set and I’m the one who’s started it. It’s cool to wear mismatched socks. After all - conformity is for nerds, isn’t it? Teaching your child to think outside the box can only be good thing. It gives them the confidence at a young age that they will need later on (think Frosh Week). Yes - nonconformity can work, especially when the ones doing the non-conforming are too young to really object to whatever ridiculous premise (and clothing) that their parents inflict upon them. As well, refusing to go along with the crowd is what all of us should strive to do because it shows strength of character (and in this case: strength of parent).

Lids -Who knew that there were so many uses for plastic food storage container lids? Sure, we’ve all been “had” by the powers that be who want to keep us ignorant to the uses of this common item. Now that I’ve learned about the various ways that we can all use these lids, I feel morally obliged to share. So here goes. Plastic food storage container lids can be used in the following ways:

  • As super-sized coasters and conversation starters at dinner parties. Think of how you will be the envy of your friends and extended social groups when you whip these babies out during cocktail hour at your home. The buzz about your hipster status will reach far and wide and you will likely be approached by would-be hipster mavens and fashion gurus who want to emulate and copy your personal sense of style.
  • As an arts and craft project with your kids and modern take on stain glass windows. Think about it: what other child can say that they “let the sun shine in” via high-density polyethylene (HDPE/plastic #2), low-density polyethylene (LDPE/plastic #4) and polypropylene (PP/plastic #5)? Probably very few, if any.
  • As toys! Why pay money for expensive toys that your kids will just break anyway? By taking advantage of the tough and durable nature of the various plastics (see point above), you will not only be saving the environment through recycling the lids, but you will be fostering your child’s creativity as well! Think about it: lids as Frisbees. Lids as game boards. Lids as - well, anything! With kids’ imaginations, the possibilities are endless.

So as you can see, all hope is not lost regarding the problem of errant socks and lids. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. After all

 Do you have this problem of missing socks and lids? How do you deal with it? Answer in the comments below :)

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Image of storage containers courtesy of; image of socks courtesy of

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