The a.m. can be chaotic for any number of reasons, and getting you and your family out the door is no easy task. Let these expert fixes for five real women's struggles guide you closer to pre-nine 'o-clock bliss. By Jane Bianchi, REDBOOK.
Cut out the breakfast bustle
The problem: "My husband has to travel sometimes, and when he's not around to cook breakfast, our routine falls apart," says Cheri, 34, a mother of two. "I need to figure out how to make nutritious breakfasts quickly-ones that I can take with me on the go."
The solution: "Each Sunday, Cheri should use a loaf of whole-wheat bread to make 16 slices of French toast with nonfat milk, eggs, and cinnamon, and then freeze them in zipped plastic bags," says registered dietitian Joan Salge Blake. "The egg provides protein, the bread contains filling whole grains, and flavorful cinnamon cuts the need for sugary syrup overload. Each weekday morning, pop a couple of slices in the toaster to heat them. She could even use the French toast as a base for a peanut butter sandwich." Another option that contains whole grains and protein: Buy a week's worth of whole-wheat pitas and a bag of shredded, reduced-fat cheese. Each morning, put the cheese in the pita pocket and microwave it for a minute, and voilà-instant grilled cheese. Remember, lunch foods can work well as breakfast fare, too.
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Get dressed faster
The problem: "My big hurdle is putting together an outfit that works each morning," says Elizabeth, 44. "Sometimes my skirt isn't ironed, my shirt isn't clean, or I can't track down my rain boots. I know I should think about all of this the night before, but I get up so early that by the evening I'm exhausted!"
The solution: Elizabeth should plan out a week's worth of outfits every weekend, says Susan Fox, a life coach with A.I.M. High Coaching. "Each Sunday, take a look at the five-day forecast, open your closet, and lay out five full outfits-including shoes and accessories. If your bedroom is too crowded to lay out the outfits, use a guest room, the basement, or the attic. This way, you'll notice if any pieces of clothing are dirty or wrinkled in advance, so you can take the time to wash or iron whatever you need-or choose a different outfit." The payoff: no-think weekday mornings where you can cruise on autopilot.
Balance work and working out
The problem: "At 8 a.m. I'm supposed to go to the gym, but by the time I get there, warm up, take a class, cool down, shower, and change clothes, I lose three hours," says Carrie, 38. "I'm tempted to skip the workout and get three more hours of work done-I'm a food and health blogger and could work 24/7 if I didn't stop myself. But if I do that, I feel guilty for neglecting my physical health."
The solution: "Like someone who feels compelled to eat an entire box of cookies or watch 12 consecutive episodes of Breaking Bad, Carrie has a compulsion to work," says Samantha Sutton, president of Handel Group Life Coaching in New York City. "It's time for her to take back some ownership and learn how to be more disciplined about finding a balance. For one thing, she can make the gym a phone-free zone. She can also limit her workout time more by say, going for a half-hour walk around the block instead of taking a spinning class, so she's giving up less work time but still being active. She might also try rewarding herself for each gym session clocked, whether that's with a piece of dark chocolate, a manicure, or lunch at her favorite café."
Related: 25 Little Life Hacks to Make Life Simpler, Saner and More Fun
Give up helicopter parenting
The problem: "It is really, really hard for my teen girls to get out of bed in the morning," says Nicole, 40. "When the girls get up late, it's difficult to stick to our schedule and get out the door on time."
The solution: That's not really Nicole's problem, says Fox. The girls will soon be on their own in college, and will need to learn that their actions have consequences. "If I were Nicole, first I'd have a conversation and say, 'Going forward, I'm not going to scream my head off trying to wake you up. If you're going to be late for school, it will be your problem. I'm not doing this to punish you-I'm doing this to teach you how to take responsibility for your actions.' If you try to force a teen to follow strict rules and treat her like a little kid, she may rebel, and you don't want to have to be micromanaging her nighttime schedule too. Instead of telling her daughters what they can and can't do, she should treat them like adults and ask them to come up with their own solution."
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Get up and out faster
The problem: "My kids both wake up with no problem, but then they seem to dawdle and move in slow motion," says Lauren, 29, of her 2- and 4-year-olds. "When I tell my daughter to wash her hands, she pumps out soap from the dispenser 20 times. When I tell my son to get dressed, he gets fussy and refuses to wear shorts with buttons or socks with bumpy seams. I try to stress how we need to get to school on time, but it doesn't register."
The solution: "Every mother I know says exactly what Lauren is saying: How does such a simple task take 20 minutes?" says Sutton. "Since Lauren's kids are so young, she can't really reason with them or let them take responsibility for their actions, so she needs to restructure her schedule to allow for more getting-ready time in the morning. For instance, she could try putting the kids to bed a half-hour earlier each evening and waking them up a half-hour earlier each morning." Another strategy is to take note of common problems and try to prevent them from happening in the first place, says Fox. For example, if Lauren's son is always fussy with clothes, it may be time to donate any shorts with buttons and any socks with bumpy seams to charity so he doesn't find them in his dresser and start crying. And if her daughter always becomes obsessed with the soap dispenser, give her bar soap only.
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