My name is Lindsay Emmerson and I am a mother of 4 young children: Colin (8), Robin (6), Logan (nearly 4), and Soren (approaching 2). This is the first bit of information I include when I tell you about myself because my identity is pretty entwined with my parental role being a stay-at-home mom. I actually have a Ph.D. in clinical psychology which probably makes me one of the most over-educated stay-at-home moms around but I’m certainly using aspects of my training in my daily life. I also took a brief foray into being a fitness coach in my early years of motherhood but that is a story for another day.
The quick back-story on why I’m starting a blog today…when people ask me what I’m going to do when all the kids are in school, I usually reply that first I will get caught-up on a 10-year-long To Do list. Then I’m planning to write a book on psychology and parenting. I’ve kept notes through the years and have a treasure chest of case points for the book from raising my own children. One day I just need time to sit down with my psychology textbooks and merge the two into a handbook for new parents. Last weekend a friend in a similar situation (who is writing an exciting book on intimacy and family relationships) told me her agent said she needs to have a social media platform with at least 5,000 followers before the publisher will seriously consider her work. To put this in perspective, I log onto Facebook about 7 times a year and I joined Instagram just last week. So, self-publishing started sounding like a good idea. But today I woke up and had an idea about something to blog about and thought I might as well try it out and see where it takes me.
Today I have one tid-bit of advice to share with mothers, fathers, caregivers, etc. that came about from using basic problem solving skills, a core component of cognitive behavioral psychology. Has your morning with your munchkin(s) ever seemed rushed? My husband leaves for work around 6am which coincides with 4 munchkins waking up hungry, needing to get dressed, needing to brush teeth and hair, needing to put on sunscreen (since we are so fortunate to live in Santa Barbara, CA), needing to do homework, needing to pack up their lunches for school, and all the while just wanting to play with (or harass) their siblings – not to mention that I should at least get myself dressed and brush my teeth before leaving the house. We need to leave the house by 8:15 to make it to the first school drop-off which is enough time to do all this, except when it’s not – when there’s a huge diaper blow-out, a sick child, when the kids or I wake up in a particularly grumpy mood, when we can’t find a library book that’s due that day, etc. So, we are often scurrying out the door.
In trying to simplify my morning routine, I came up with an organizational strategy that has greatly helped easy mornings. Imagine that four kids are asking you to make four different breakfasts. Sounds a bit chaotic, right? It hit me one day that I should have a set meal plan so I thought up five breakfast for Monday through Friday, each of which include a fruit and a protein, and told the kids this was the new plan:
Monday: muffins (a real treat to get everyone excited about Mondays), chopped fruit, and a glass of milk
Tuesday: cereal (because Tuesday I do all of my laundry and need every second in the morning to get the second load in before we head out for the morning), chopped fruit, and milk either in the cereal or in a glass
Wednesday: bagel with cream cheese and either fruit on the side or orange juice since the bagel and cream cheese have the protein covered
Thursday: oatmeal with dried fruit and nuts – option of juice if they have nuts for protein, otherwise milk
Friday: primevil bars (which are these yummy bar-shaped baked good that resembles a cinnamon-raisin bagel made by Trader Joe’s) with jam, honey, or peanut butter on top, shopped fruit, and milk on the side
This may be way healthier or way less healthy than you’re used to and your own munchkins might love or despise these items; the menu can obviously be varied tremendously to meet your family needs but the routine in the real triumph. Such a simple strategy made mornings so much easier. After a short period, the kids were totally into the routine and started asking, “What day is it? So what do we eat today?” A wonderful mother friend of mine with 3 children saw my menu printed out and posted on our refrigerator one day and loved the idea so much she adapted it to her family to simplify their mornings. You may have already thought of this technique on your own but if not, give it a try and hopefully it will make your parenting morning just a little bit easier. By the way, as the kids get older, I let them choose a different meal than the daily special if they can make the entire meal themselves. My 8 year-old and 6-year-old love oatmeal so last year they learned how to microwave it themselves and some weeks they have that on several mornings with the fruit I have prepared. Similarly, my 3 year-old just learned how to prepare his own primeval bars.
I don’t know when I’ll get around to writing my next entry in this blog. So far while writing this one I have retrieved my 8 year-old’s homework from my 1 year-old, wiped watermelon juice off my 3 year-old, been asked about 10 questions, and been pleasantly interrupted by about 30 comments just beseeching praise and affirmation. But I’ll try to fit them in here and there!