Getting ready in the morning used to be so simple – stumble out of bed, pour a leisurely cup of coffee, peruse the newspaper before slipping into your clothes and heading to work with time to spare. Fast-forward to life with children and you might be faced with tanties over clothes, spilt cereal and mislaid school books. Jessica Shirvington, author of Embrace (Hachette), wife of former Olympic sprinter Matt Shirvington and mum of two, offers 10 tips to getting out of the house on time:
Get yourself ready first
Although you might be desperate for some extra shut-eye in the morning, getting up first can really pay dividends. "I try to shower and dress before the kids get up," says Jessica. "It's a bit manic, but we get there – kind of like organised chaos. On an especially good morning, Matt will be around and can help get the kids get ready."
Work with your partner
Jessica says one of the key aspects to having a calm morning is working with your partner, rather than barking orders at each other. "Sienna, our four-year-old goes to preschool from 9am till 12pm every day, which is great, but it also means a lot of to-ing and fro-ing. It often feels like the moment I get her there, I'm turning around to bring her home," she says, explaining that they adjust their schedules so one parent is always a bit less frantic than the other. "Matt and I tag team a lot," she explains. "We try to make sure if one of us is snowed under the other is free to spend extra time with the kids."
Get a good night's sleep
Another key element to getting out of the door on time is you and your kids having enough sleep – the average amount of Zzzs for pre-schoolers is around 10-12 hours, dropping to ten hours as they enter their tweens, according to modern day experts. "The girls go to bed at 7pm every night and wake up at 7am," confirms Jessica. "If they wake during the night, they come into bed with us and, apart from the odd crazy night, it's pretty smooth sailing."
If you're stressed, your kids will be too
As hard as it sometimes seems, try not lose it if your toddler wants to change her clothes for the third time in half an hour. If Matt and I are freaking out about a million different things the kids will naturally react. If we're letting things get on top of us, the girls are pretty quick to let us know, explains Jessica. "At times like this, we take the foot off the gas and bring everything back to ground level. You have to remember, we are doing all of this work for our families, so if it gets in the way something has to give – and that can never be the kids."
Keep a bag packed by the door
While bags are packed somewhere between brushing hair and putting on shoes, keeping a ready-to-go school/kindy/swimming bag hanging by the door will save frayed nerves when you're almost ready to leave. "My biggest tip would be to keep it to a minimum," advises Jessica.
Get kids to help themselves
Half the morning battle is feeding/brushing/dressing your kids so teaching them how to do it themselves is essential. "Sienna goes to a Montessori preschool and part of the program is to encourage the kids to be active in processes from start to finish," reveals Jessica. "In the morning they go and get their fruit snack, get a plate and cutlery, wash their hands, set it up at the snack table, enjoy their fruit, throw out the rubbish then clean and put away their plate and utensils – this is just for a snack! Needless to say, we try and encourage the same at home."
Keep hair and make-up simple
Amidst getting kids ready for the morning, how does mum find time for herself? "Have your favourites and stick to them," advises Jessica. "I have a fairly run of the mill beauty regime – a great moisturiser, foundation, eye shadow and eye liner – from there anything else is a bonus. Hair involves using good products, which mean you need less time with the hairdryer. My main hair tip when pressed for time, is forget about it – tie it up!"
Keep a trick up your sleeve
Every on-time mum has a trick up her sleeve when her kids really won't get moving. "My kids will move at lightening speed if they think I'm not going to wait around," says Jessica. "If I just grab my bag and walk out the door into the front yard they will be in tow in a nanosecond and off we go. Sometimes all they want is to get a rise out of you – when they realise this isn't going to happen, they can change tact pretty quickly."
Have a healthy breakfast
Nutritionists recommend kids should eat three of the five food groups for breakfast for optimum energy, mood and performance – meaning a piece of toast and Vegemite won't really cut it. "Generally we stick to cereal, fruit and toast," confirms Jessica. "Starting the day with a good breakfast always sets them up well."
Move fast (and change their focus)
Of course, when you're in a hurry, a tantrum is inevitable and Jessica believes you just have to rip the plaster and go. "My approach is get out quick – the less time spent focusing on the drama, the quicker they are to move on to happier things."