How I Transformed My Mornings
Patricia Lenkov, 47New York City
Married to Robert Hetu, 46; mother of Gabriella, 9; Brandon, 7 (in front); Ethan, 7 (seated)
Patricia Lenkov, chief executive officer of her own executive-search firm, and her husband, Robert Hetu, a banker, are in lines of work in which being late just isn’t an option. But with three kids who need to be dropped off at two schools on opposite sides of Manhattan―easily a 40-minute trek during rush hour―“our weekday mornings have the potential to become very chaotic,” she says. Her solution: “My husband and I oversee our morning with a firm hand. We liken it to a military mission.” Not because they don’t like to have any fun, she says, “but because every minute counts.”
Robert gets up at 6 a.m. with the children. (Patricia rises by seven.) While the kids play with Legos or read books, Patricia gets dressed and Robert makes coffee, cares for the family’s two pet finches, and takes orders for breakfast, which consists of two courses: a no-cook option (say, Cheerios), followed by a protein (like turkey meatballs). The kids can choose from a variety of foods “as long as there’s something in their stomachs,” Patricia says.
At exactly 7:25, the morning routine kicks into high gear. The kids must have their teeth brushed by 7:33. Shoes and jackets are on by 7:35, when Patricia makes one last run through the apartment, checking for any forgotten homework or wayward playdate notes. Everyone is ready to walk out the door at 7:40.
To keep the kids motivated, Patricia and Robert came up with a point system. Accomplishing each of the morning’s last three steps―brushing teeth; shoes and jackets on; waiting at the front door―in the allotted time earns one point, so three points are up for grabs every day. When one of the kids accumulates 50 points, he or she can choose an item at the toy store ($15 max). A tally sheet is taped to the front door, and initialing their points is the last thing the kids do before going to school. “Signing off on the points is almost as fun to them as ultimately getting the toy they want,” she says.
Eventually Patricia hopes to ease up on the strictness of the routine: “As the kids get older, our goal is to give them more responsibility, so they can micromanage themselves―and Robert and I can relax a little bit.”