By Kristin van Ogtrop
Updated January 26, 2015
Kids' backpack and school supplies on a bench
When we're all rushing to get out of the house in the morning, we don't crowd into the same corner of the house. Each night, the kids pack their backpacks and put them by the front door along with any musical instruments or sports equipment that they'll need for the next day. My purse and things that I'll need for work are placed on a chair in the dining room. My husband puts his laptop and backpack in the kitchen. Having our own "staging" areas saves time and eases morning stress.—Anne H.
| Credit: Mark Lund

In order to get Middle to school on time*, we need to leave home by 8:10. School is four and a half long blocks away, and we can walk it in 10 minutes if we don’t have any sort of shoe or backpack malfunction. I prefer to walk, unless it’s pouring or below 20 degrees, because sometimes that’s my only outdoor time of the day. (Sniff.) Nevertheless, at 8:10 I am invariably upstairs brushing my teeth while Middle is downstairs pretending to tie his shoes but more often than not trying to watch five more minutes of ESPN before I hit the roof.

Every morning I marvel anew at how I am constitutionally unable to get out the door on time, even though by 8:10 I’ve usually been awake for more than two hours. That’s right, folks, a two-hour lead time and I’m still late. And so the walk to school is not the leisurely bonding time that I fantasize about, but rather a grumbling, tense exercise in which Middle is usually about 10 steps behind me. This morning I mumbled to my husband, toothbrush in mouth at 8:11: “If I die prematurely, it’s going to be the stress of getting out the door in the morning while our kids were in elementary school that kills me.”

In answer to your question, yes, I do all of the things magazines (including magazines like Real Simple) recommend: –plan my outfit the night before
–shower at night when possible
–pack snack/lunch/whatever in advance (well, at least sometimes)
–have all school forms filled out and on the counter
–write my note to our babysitter Christina, when needed, with details for the day

However, as the saying goes, there’s always something. I have found that there’s just no way to anticipate certain situations that just throw everything off-kilter, no matter how many helpful magazine articles you read:

–the cat throws up, twice, once in the dining room and once in the kitchen
–Middle breaks the shoelace on his only pair of sneakers that fit, and wearing church shoes to school is absolutely out of the question
–Eldest sleeps until 6:50, even though you woke him at 6:15, and then needs a ride to school
–Baby woke up grumpy and must be held
–hair problems. And anybody’s hair is potentially problematic
–that field trip that everybody forgot about is today, and Middle suddenly needs snack and lunch in a labeled Ziploc bag

I ask you, dear readers: do I need to add an extra half hour to allow for any of the above, just in case?

*that is, without excessive yelling or having to sprint half the way