Drop-off hell: Why school mornings are killing me

Kinderling News & Features

Once upon a time, long, long ago, in order to get to work I would wake up, have a shower, get dressed, eat breakfast and leave the house.

Pre-children this was a normal, everyday part of life. Post-children that kind of morning has me skipping to the car like someone who’s just won the lottery.

Sometimes I lie in bed on a Sunday night, my body already tense in preparation for the morning to come.

Most mornings I wake with a small human curled up against me, which in itself is delightful. That is until that soft creature won’t let me get out of bed, even though the alarm has gone off and the clock is ticking. (Side note: interesting how this is reversed on the weekend, when I want to stay in bed and said little human wants me to get out of bed with the rising sun).

Listen to Kinderling Conversation:

Once awake it’s tag teaming with my husband; making breakfast, packing lunches, having showers, getting dressed, doing hair; all of this for ourselves and our children. While these things tend to happen in the same order every morning, they are always interrupted with a million incidental events.

The breakfast could be the wrong type, or in the wrong bowl. We’ve run out of bread for lunches, a child spills the breakfast right on the floor. While in the shower there’s a holler from the bedroom like someone has broken a limb, but it turns out that someone can’t find their favourite blue car. Building a cubby in the loungeroom is more important than eating breakfast. The pants you chose are simply wrong wrong wrong!

There is plenty of advice to be found on how to make your mornings easier. I’m just not buying it. Yes, it would make things run smoother if I packed the lunches the night before, laid out the clothes and made sure all the right coloured bowls were available and ready to use. I’ve tried all of these things, but it’s still a stressful affair.

Children just aren’t wired to run like clockwork, and I wouldn’t want them to be. In the mornings, I feel guilty every time I refuse to help with the cubby, find the missing toy car or participate in any other play, because that’s what kids should be doing. That’s why I love weekends and holidays when we hang out in our PJs and there’s no pressure to be anywhere.

But the fact is that both my husband and I need to work, and we both need to get to that employment on time.

Recently, my mother-in-law was in town to help out during the school holidays. She made dinner for us every night. There were days when I would do what I used to; wake up, have a shower, get dressed, eat breakfast and leave the house.

Wow. What a revelation.

But here’s the thing. Not every Grandparent can (or wants) to help out this way. Not everyone can afford a live-in au pair.

It makes me think that humans have evolved in a perverse way.

Apparently we used to live in tribes. We used to have our “village”. In these cultural settings other family members would look after the kids while parents did their hunting/ gathering/ farming. The world, as we all know, just doesn’t work that way anymore.

Shevonne with her family in happier, non-morning times

We don’t all live close to our parents. The parents who do live close by may already be looking after other grandkids. Many of our friends have children and are trying to work out the whole confusing juggle themselves.

And so. Mornings are stressful. Sometimes I forget to breathe, and by the time I get to work every muscle is tense.

I’m really not sure what the answer is. I try not to stop breathing (very handy life skill to have) and occasionally I’ll be organised enough to pack lunches the night before. But mostly I try to stop and enjoy the small moments I have with my kids when I’m not asking them to eat, dress or clean their teeth.

It might be stopping for five minutes when they’re asking for something, and looking them in their eyes and really listening. It may be when I’m strapping them in the car, and we can have a joke and I give them a kiss. It’s often after they are in the car and I’m walking to the driver’s seat that I’ll look up and notice the day (which is often beautiful).

Ultimately, with small children, it’s looking at the bigger picture, one that has stressful mornings, but also funny conversations, cuddles, giggles and lullabies at bed time. This part of their life will be over in a flash and I will have more care-free mornings to enjoy.

For now, I’ll just keep breathing.