With the end of the school year on hand and summer schedules changing, we are all adjusting to the new normal. Are mornings becoming tricky? Alethea Cheng Fitzpatrick from Photosanity shares some tips and tricks for surviving the morning rush.

When you’re a parent, the morning rush is totally crazy. When I worked in the corporate world, I would get to my desk and look around me at my coworkers and wonder if any of them realized the total insanity I had just been through just to get there at 9 am!

The mornings can be especially challenging if you have multiple kids that need to get dropped off at multiple locations. This past year my boys were in 2nd grade and kindergarten IN THE SAME SCHOOL. I cannot tell you what a huge difference it has made not to have to deal with a split drop-off (or, for that matter, pick-up). My youngest had tough transitions for most of last year, including through the summer, but for some reason started doing much better in the morning pretty much overnight with the start of kindergarten, so I think some of it is just a phase.

Here are the things that have helped our family get to a good routine that doesn’t drive us totally crazy:

1) I realized that it is unrealistic for me to expect the kids to get ready as quickly as I would like them to, so I allow time in our schedule for accidents, meltdowns, and other miscellaneous drama. And then I have milestones mapped out for myself – I know that I want them dressed by 7.15am, and I send them to brush their teeth, use the bathroom and get their shoes on at 7.20am. I know I’d like to leave the house at 7.40am, 7.45am at the absolute latest. Yes, that is 20 minutes to complete tasks that could be done in 5 minutes, but believe me, it is often needed! If they’re done early, they can read or play.

2) A big part of the above was getting on the same page as my husband. He is willing to cut it finer than me and run to the bus stop with one kid on his shoulders – something I am not willing to do! But I explained to him how stressed out it made me to run later than the schedule above, and so we work as the team to hit those milestones. If I’m not there and he’s doing drop-off, he can follow whatever schedule he likes!

3) At times, we’ve written out checklists for the kids as to what they need to get done in the morning. Also, the kids would moan and complain about having to brush their teeth, etc. so now we call them “The Terrible Tasks” and strange as it sounds, this has really helped because it acknowledges the terribleness of it, so they don’t need to reiterate it!

4) We moved bedtime earlier for a while, even though it meant very little time together in the evening. It was a worthwhile trade-off for quality over quantity so they could get more sleep. Lately, they haven’t seemed to need it as much, so it has moved a little later. Either way, we don’t usually get to eat dinner as a family, but we do get to eat breakfast together – that has become our family meal. This works for us in part because we are all pretty early risers – we are up at 6 am.

5) If your kids are in preschool or lower elementary and you are dropping them off, don’t stress out too much about being late, although I realize that being late for school sets you back for getting to work on time. When my oldest started K, everyone freaked out about the tardys but ultimately we had a few tardys and it was no big deal. If you’re in public school, I believe the tardys reflect more on the school than on your child. When it comes to middle school, my understanding is that they are not placing a lot of importance on your attendance record from the early grades.

The bottom line is: plan ahead and keep your cool if you can, but be gentle with yourself if you can’t: we’ve all been there.

Alethea Cheng Fitzpatrick is a family photographer turned photography coach for parents. She founded Photosanity to help parents find joy & connection through photographing their kids. Born and brought up in the UK, Alethea lives in Brooklyn with her husband and her two sons, Liam, age 8, and Jack, age 5.

Alethea has taught workshops at the Apple Store, Brooklyn Baby Expo, Brooklyn Babybites (now Mommybites) and online through Photosanity.com and other platforms. She has been interviewed on 1010WINS and featured in The Daily Mail, Cool Mom Picks, Apartment Therapy, Ask Moxie and Mom365.