UPDATE! (Scroll down if you want to read the results of my experiment…)
Do you remember that arcade game called “Whack-a-Mole”? Growing up, I loved it. The mole pops up, you WHACK it. Just as you’ve finished sinking that one back in its hole, another mole has popped up. WHACK. There’s no preparation, no time to think, it’s just one “WHACK!” after another for a solid frenzied minute. The timer goes off, and you drop the cartoonishly large mallet in a display of exhaustion.
I’ve figured out that my life has started to feel like Whack-A-Mole. I’m far too “reactive”. I move from one issue to the next, whacking each crisis back into its hole. And this reactive way of life causes STRESS…which in many cases is COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY. Why do I live like this? Day after day after day? At it’s core, that constant daily stress makes me unhappy.
Some struggle with paying their bills on time. Others put off school projects until the last minute. Maybe you can’t seem to get dinner on the table before soccer practice so your family stuffs their faces in the car. Me? It’s the mad dash to get the kids off to school in the morning.
So, like I do with nearly every other problem I’ve come across, I analyzed it.
It seems logical that stress first thing in the morning sets a bad tone for the entire day. And every morning that I get my kids ready and out the door to school, it’s a little bit chaotic. Why? How can I alleviate some or maybe (gasp!) ALL of the stress?
Here’s how my typical weekday morning looks:
The alarm clock goes off at 6:30am…I hit snooze twice until 6:48am…I finally pull myself out of bed…figure out my son’s clothes for school, crossing my fingers that there’s clean socks and underwear in his drawer…get breakfast on the table…make the kids lunches (x3)…get backpacks packed and zipped up…make sure at least an attempt occurs at toothbrushing…everyone in the car by 7:30am.
Making it in the car by 7:30am happens, but it’s a fly-around-the-house, nail-biting, non-stop-circus EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. As soon as the school taxi arrives back home, I flop on to the sofa in an exhausted heap for a few minutes before logging on to work.
Now that I (and you) can take a wide-angle look at my morning, the problems and points where stress could be alleviated are glaringly obvious.
(1) “I hit snooze twice”
If I’m hitting snooze, that means I’m not getting enough sleep.
START GOING TO BED BY 10PM
(2) “Figure out my son’s outfit”
Why am I waiting until that morning to figure this out? (More importantly, why isn’t HE figuring this out? He’s in 5th grade. But that’s a battle for another day. Sigh.)
CHECK THE CLOTHING SITUATION THE EVENING BEFORE AT 7PM; RUN A LOAD OF LAUNDRY IF NECESSARY
(3) “Get breakfast on the table”
This can’t be much more efficient, but with more time in the morning, my children will actually have time to CHEW their food, instead of inhaling it.
GET CEREAL / BAGELS / FRUIT OUT AND ON THE COUNTER THE NIGHT BEFORE AT 7PM
(4) “Make the kids lunches”
I don’t know why I don’t do at least some of this the night before. Well, actually I do know why. It’s because the night before I’m getting the kids through their bedtime routines, and then I don’t feel like doing things like “lunch prep”. So I browse other personal finance blogs. It’s my “me” time, okay? But this is going to change.
PACK ALL NON-PERISHABLE LUNCH ITEMS THE NIGHT BEFORE AT 7PM
(5) “Get backpacks pulled together”
This only takes me 5 or 6 minutes, but it’s just one more thing I can do the night before and get off the morning list.
PULL BACKPACKS TOGETHER THE NIGHT BEFORE AND SET THEM BY THE DOOR, AT 7PM
Now that I can see where the issues are, and most have to do with time management, I’m going to do a little experiment. Let’s put on our lab coat and goggles and get started.
For one week, starting tomorrow, I’m going to follow the 5 recommendations I listed above.
This means at 7pm each weeknight I will pull together my son’s clothes for the next day, do a load of laundry if I need to, get the breakfast items out on the counter, pack the non-perishable lunch items, pull together the kids backpacks and set them by the door, and be IN BED by 10pm.
My hypothesis is that getting to bed earlier will equate to more sleep at night, causing me to actually get up when my alarm goes off at 6:30am, instead of hitting snooze. At that point, I’ll already gain 18 minutes of time that I was previously snoozing away. That, along with the other time-saving measures, should provide for a relaxing morning routine.
The truth is, my family deserves the best from me. And if I’m spending my mornings yelling, “Where’s your left shoe?” from the back of the house, or giving a death stare when my son tells me he’s left his backpack at home, that’s not the mother I want them to remember when I pull up to the school and drop them at the curb. That’s not the mother I want them to remember when they’re waving goodbye as they head off to college.
I’ve only got so many years left in this stage of life; where I get to help them with their homework and hear about their day at the dinner table each night. Soon enough they’ll be gone and starting a new chapter in their own book. So here’s to making a life change for the better. Managing a part of my life that causes me to be a person I’m not proud of.
I already have a suspicion that by the end of this week, I’m going to feel FANTASTIC.
UPDATE! Tuesday May 6th
Monday morning went well. I didn’t snooze my alarm, and the morning was calm. I felt like June Cleaver. But…last night I couldn’t fall asleep. I was in bed at 9:50pm, and I laid there tossing and turning until after 11pm. Ugh. The longer I’m awake, the more frustrated I become, and the more frustrated I become, the longer I’m awake. So I ended up using BOTH snoozes this morning. I know, right?!? But, here’s the awesome thing. Because I had put so many other time-saving measures in place, we still had a leisurely morning and got off to school beautifully.
I’m hoping that as the week goes on, my brain will start to adjust towards going to sleep earlier, so I don’t have trouble every night. We’ll see…
ANOTHER UPDATE! Friday May 9th
What a difference a week makes. Last night I fell asleep at 9:20pm and got a full night’s rest. I’m not exaggerating when I say that managing just that one stressful area of my life, made a difference in the way I felt each day. I’m no longer starting my day in a stressful panic. Instead it was a calm, peaceful environment, moving from one task to the next, until everyone was ready for school, with time to spare. Which seemed to set the tone for the entire day. I think I’ll even start playing classical music; it would serve as a fitting backdrop to our now-pleasurable mornings.
This life change will definitely be integrated into my daily routine, and become my new normal. It’s almost sad when I look back and realize how comfortably miserable I was. Change is good.
Do you have anything that causes stress? Does it bring out the less-desirable sides of you? What can you do to change it?