Picture it. Loving the Northshore, new job, child in a great preschool program….but you have to commute for it. This is a reality for a lot of people on our side of the lake. My husband commutes from Slidell to the CBD daily and my 3 year old son and I commute from Slidell to Mandeville. Both of us spend about 45 minutes to an hour each way getting to work and home. So what do I do and how do we get out the door to make it to work on time? Here are some tips for getting it all together to leave on time and keep car ride meltdowns (Slim’s and mine!) at bay.
In order for my house to function- for the chickens to be feed, dog walked and fed, and us all out the door dressed and fed (often in the process of being fed), I have to have a routine. We leave the house around 7:10 at the latest, in order for me to get Slim to preschool and me to work by 8am. What time do I have to get up? 5:20am, folks! It’s no picnic but that’s the time I need. Up, shower, hair, dressed, face, coffee started, dog out. (The hubs is also up and at ‘em and managing the chickens.) Breakfast cooked and lunches packed. Slim up and dressed, and he feeds the dog. Out the door. We all have our jobs and have it down pat.
What to Wear?!
Unless you have a uniform, it takes 30 minutes to pick out clothes and then changing your mind adds even more! Well, here is a trick I use each week. On Sunday, I take my planner and check the weather for the week. Taking into consideration what I have to do at work (storytime = clothes and shoes I can move a lot in) and the weather, I chose my outfit for each day. I have clothespins with the day of the week and hang them up accordingly. Thinking is done. This also allows me to spend time mixing and matching for fun outfit ideas that I wouldn’t have time for during the week. I also pick out Slim’s clothes. Skeptical? Just try it. For two weeks. Trust me.
Breakfast on the Go
We have to. There is no other way around it. Easy omelets, scrambled eggs, yogurt with granola and fruit, or smoothies a la Husband. Anything Slim gets is “tidy” and finger food like toast and jam with some cheese and fruit. No cereal unless it’s the weekend! While I wish we could have the luxury of having breakfast at a table and together, it’s just not going to work with our schedule.
Music in the Car
So you just listen to Raffi the whole time? Oh, gosh, no. Commuting/car rides can be rough on adults, let alone children. We talk about what we see, play I Spy, listen to the radio, and listen to several Pandora stations and sing along (Caspar Babypants Radio or Family Road Trip Radio). Slim is allowed to bring a few of his cars and he plays with those, he also has some books to “read”. When I decided to go back to work, I was sad to not be able to be with him all the time, but I treasure our time in the car. We can talk about things, make up stories, and he’s a captured audience for me to test new storytime tunes!
Slim didn’t get milk in the car until he was about 3 and knew how to be careful enough. Prior to that, only water. After one spill on I-12 when we first started this adventure, no more, said I. I have two dish towels for major spills, a pack of wipes, box of tissues, he has spare clothes at school so if he does spill his milk/water, he can change there. Small crib quilt for the winter (no coats and car seats!), also. If he drops something he is playing with, he has finally learned, too bad. Pulling over to get the hot wheel that he dropped, on the side of the road, is not a priority. His hissyfit doesn’t outweigh safety. I usually have a water and some snacks for after school in my handbag. We can’t keep that stuff in our cars down here. Or crayons. He has some books, a magna doodle, and whatever toys he brings to occupy him in the car. My passenger seat is home to the wipes, towels, handbag, etc, so if you ride with me, sorry. Other things we have in my handbag because of the internal temp of the car during the day parked, are bug spray and sunscreen. And finally, the barf bag. Line a few doubled plastic grocery bags with paper towels. I fold them and keep them in the console. Sometimes you don’t get a warning, but if you do, they are there and can help with the mess. Came in handy during pregnancy, too!
Add in Some Side Trips
A car wash here, a grocery pick up there…anything to mix it up, is an added bonus. We’ve stopped at the La Provence property to look at the hogs and garden, gotten an ice-cream or other treat, or even gone to the library. On mornings he is up really early for any strange reason, we head straight out and go get donuts for breakfast. Slim never knows, and often I don’t either, when a pop-up adventure may happen. We piddle paddle down Hwy 190 so there is more opportunity for me to do that than if the bulk of our driving was the Causeway or Twin Span. But just helping me pump the gas is super fun for him.
Work-Work, Now Home-Work
With a commute you also lose about 10 hours or more a week in the car that could be used for play or chores at home or both. Easy dinners. There are millions of them on Pinterest. I also plan our menu for the week. I don’t “waste” my weekend precooking/prep cooking. I only get a full weekend every two weeks. Sorry, would rather be with my family hanging out. Kudos to you parents who do that. All my meals are quick 30 minute deals or quick prep and bake, which frees me up for playing with Slim, doing our daily chore, or just vegging on the couch watching..well, anything. I do grocery pick up for the majority of my needs which we grab on Mondays on the way home from work/school. We have a rotational cleaning schedule for our house.
Let it Go and Breathe
The dog barfs, spilt coffee on pants, son refuses to wear pants, gentleman going 34mph the whole way to Mandeville with no opportunity to pass….serenity now. Makes you need a mimosa before 8am. I am late for work sometimes. Not often, and not usually more than 10 min. The time can be made up. Even with a built in 10 minute buffer in my schedule, there will be things out of your control. My anxiety will be through the roof but I have to just breathe and remind myself that I have precious cargo in the back and to take my time. As my sweet Slim has told me before, “It’s okay, mama. It will be okay. We can be late sometimes.” I’d rather be late than risk our safety on the road.
These are things that work for us. I cannot start my day frantic, so I depend on routine in the morning. The evenings are less of a routine, but they can be more open ended since all that looms is bedtime. If you are struggling with the mornings and commute or just in general, I hope these help. If you are looking to change jobs and the idea of a commute with a family is freaking you out, I hope this also gives some ideas of what you can do to make the transition easier.