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My friends call me the Schedule Nazi, and I’m not even offended by it. After all, I go to great lengths to make sure my kids have a consistent routine and that, more importantly, we stick to it. So you can imagine my frustration, here in this first week back at school after the long holiday break, to discover that the whole thing has gone to hell in the proverbial hand basket.
The crazy part is, with the singular exception of New Year's Eve (when the kids were allowed to stay up until the wee hour of 9:30 p.m. -- yes, I’m that cool), we barely veered from the pre-holiday schedule. Nevertheless, for the past few nights, no one under the age of 40 has been able to fall asleep before 10 p.m., and I’ve had to drag every last REM-infused limb from its cozy sleep den in the morning and rush the entire house through an abbreviated version of the morning routine.
It’s enough to make a mom go postal.
So I asked (OK, there may have been some begging) two of my favorite parenting experts to hook a sister up already. Here’s their combined get-back-on-track advice.
Give it time. Make an effort to back to the normal, early-to-bed routine immediately, but expect a few "I can't sleep" visits, says Elizabeth Lyons, author of You Cannot Be Serious: and 32 Other Rules that Sustain a (Mostly) Balanced Mom. Try to stay consistent over the weekend too, and by next week everyone should be mostly back to his or her normal sleep schedule.
Map it out. Announce the next day’s schedule at dinnertime, recommends Jen Singer, creator of MommaSaid.net and author of You’re a Good Mom (and Your Kids Aren’t So Bad Either). It can be hard for everyone to get back into the groove when there's been no firm house schedule. Get out your calendar and remind everyone of practices, games, carpools and everything else that is once again clogging your calendar.
Take advantage of the morning sun. Lyons offers this stealth move we love: Leave the kids' blinds open at night when you put them to bed. The extra early light exposure may help energize them in the morning. Also, try waking them up five or 10 minutes earlier than normal -- it won’t be fun in the moment but it may stave off a few of those miserable "hurry up and brush your teeth we have to leave in 30 seconds" moments.
Create a staging area, advises Singer. It's amazing how quickly our minds go to mush over a break from school. Gather the backpacks, restock the lunch bags, and find the clarinet or the overdue library books or whatever else the kids need to go back to school. Doing this in advance can lessen the morning madness considerably.
Embrace the chaos. (This is Lyons' suggestion -- the woman has five kids, okay? If she can do it, so can we.) Know that there will be some wild and crazy moments but don't let them stress you out just because you got used to less-stressful mornings over the break. Few children (or parents) wake up the week back to school thrilled about the early alarm and looking forward to a day of work instead of play. If you anticipate some grumbling (or a few outright whine-fests), you'll react to it more positively. Or so Lyons swears.
I plan on implementing all of their suggestions immediately. If finding some sanity was on your new year’s resolution list, I’d suggest following suit.
How do you get back to routine once your family has been on vacation? Chime in below!