News Flash: It's Possible To Be A Parent Who's On Time, And This Is How

by Christine Burke
Originally Published: 
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“If you are on time, you are late” was my father’s credo. From the time I was small, I can remember him herding the family to church or other activities long before the start time. In fact, it became a running joke that my father sat in airport terminals sometimes longer than his actual flight because he not only allotted plenty of time to get to the airport, he was also punctual AF. On the morning his body was flown home to be buried, our family laughed through our tears when the funeral director told us that he’d be arriving at the airport three hours early for the flight.

I have inherited my father’s punctuality and I, too, have taken a fair amount of teasing over the years. Even when my kids came along, I was (and am) rarely, if ever, late to playgroups, preschool or pretty much any activity where my family has to arrive at an appointed time. And yes, I know you just rolled your eyes. I get it. I’m that mom who’s always on time — but I’m done apologizing for it. I’m not trying to show off, I promise.

My friends roll their eyes when they arrive late to a lunch or workout date and they realize I arrived at the agreed upon time. Some friends have even made me feel bad about my punctuality. “Can’t you just be late like the rest of us? You are a show off,” they’ll jab.

And, the truth is, no, I can’t “just be late” because, it turns out, people like me have a different internal clock than those who are perpetually tardy.

Yes, really.

And, while there’s no “secret” or magic trick that will suddenly allow you to always show up to “Mommy and Me” class on time, I do have a few tips:

Skip the “snooze” button. Yes, really.

Yup, I know, this makes me sound like a monster, but when my alarm goes off, I get up. Period. When I set my alarm the night before, I know I’ve allowed plenty of time to herd my kids out the door and get a sip of coffee or two in the process. While it feels cozy and warm and altogether delightful to laze in bed for an extra 20 minutes, I know that it will lead to meltdowns and being under-caffeinated for the day. So, heed your alarm and give up the snooze button to stay on track.

Plan as though it’s the first day of school every day.

We’ve all seen the back-to-school pictures and jokes from parents saying, “This is the most organized I’ll be all year!” I’m here to tell you that people who tend to be on time treat every day like tomorrow is the first day of school. I know, it’s super annoying, but making sure everyone’s back packs are in order, shoes are located, and breakfast and lunches are planned out the night before goes a long way towards helping you be more punctual. While it will feel foreign at first, you’ll come to appreciate never having to scream, “Where are your shoes???” at the top of your lungs when the bus is five minutes away.

Start on time, leave on time.

Admittedly, I’m a little fanatical about leaving events on time, but it really helps keep my day in check. Though I’d love to spend 15 extra minutes gossiping by the treadmills at the gym, the fact is, if I didn’t build time into my day to kibitz with my friends, I stick to my departure time like glue. I’m not being rude, I’m just trying to stay on schedule, ladies.

If something makes you late, change it.

When I start to notice that we are always late to dance class or another activity, I’ll take a look at our process and figure out how to make our exit move more quickly. Often, it’s something as simple as not putting my keys where they belong or not having our dance bag packed before leaving. Usually, small details lead to big time errors.

It’s okay to have downtime.

I used to struggle with downtime when I was a stay at home mom. If I found myself with a few extra minutes before naptime ended, I felt obligated to squeeze in one more task. But often, that “one more thing” put me behind the eight ball for the rest of the afternoon and we all suffered as a consequence. Resist the urge to do all the things and to fill every minute of your day. You’ll find that embracing downtime will actually lead to more time in your day. And less stress, too.

People who are always on time have certain habits and ways that we structure our days that make it possible for us to not be the mom running into a PTA meeting, harried and out of breath. Sure, we get teased for being organized and structured, but the truth is, structuring my day in a way that allows me to be on time works for me and for a lot of other parents.

And, don’t worry, I’ll gladly wait patiently if you are running late. That just means a few extra minutes of scrolling social media and sitting still during my busy day. In fact, I’m happy to wait all day for you, come to think of it.

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