All of those images you see in commercials and movies - harried working moms, half-dressed for work, running around feeding the family and jumping out of the way of flying oatmeal - are inspired by truth. Most of us have at most two hours in the morning to get ourselves showered and dressed, the children dressed and fed, daycare bags or lunchboxes packed, and household chores handled. It's a lot to cram into a little window, and even if we wake up with the best of intentions, stress can lead to arguments and tension. Suddenly, everyone is heading off into the world without the support they need.
Is it possible to do things differently? Of course. But let's start with your attitude about the morning. First things first: Don't hold onto the hope that you will have any time, space, or peace to focus on your own needs once everyone is awake. Your children are going to need and want your full attention and they don't care if you are anxious about an upcoming review or situation. Instead of waking up at the first cry or tug at your bedcovers, set the alarm earlier. A half hour, an hour, whatever you need to take care of your needs, whether that means showering, ironing, running, meditating, or gathering your thoughts for the workday. Any bit of time that you carve out for yourself makes a huge difference in everyone's day. If you are collected while the chaos whirls around you, then you won't easily be thrown off your game in the likely event something goes wrong.
Here are a few additional tips - gathered from talking to working women like you - that may help you ease into the day:
- After you are showered, don't put on your work clothes. Change into sweats to buzz through breakfast and the morning list. Not having to worry about spilled orange juice on your suit or creases in the shirt you just ironed can reduce unnecessary stress.
- Pack lunch or snacks the night before and have everything ready to pop into a backpack. When you do the shopping, pick up things like juice boxes and small bottles of water in bulk so they will always be on hand to send off with your kids.
- Get an automatic coffeemaker so you can have that first cup seconds after opening your eyes. Okay, this one was from Caitlin who is admittedly a caffeine addict.
- Feed your kids while they are still in their pajamas so you don't care if (when) they spill their breakfast.
- Take five minutes each morning to review the running household list before you leave for work. It is helpful to know what errands you each have to take care of at lunch or on the way home.
- Eat something healthy with your kids. Too many of us grab something to eat while driving. It isn't good for you and you're missing quality time with your family.
- Don't expect anything to go smoothly and then be grateful when something does.
- Spend a few minutes every morning focused exclusively on your kids. No multi-tasking, putting away dishes while you are hurrying them along. If you give them your attention before they head off into the world, it will do wonders for their confidence and self-esteem.
Excerpted from Happy at Work, Happy at Home: The Girl's Guide to Being A Working Mom, by Caitlin Friedman and Kimberly Yorio. Copyright 2009 by Broadway Books. Reprinted by permission of Broadway Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.