Patience, planning help parents overcome lateness

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

If you have kids, it's happened to you.

The baby messes his or her diaper as you're walking out the door. With the precision and skill of a NASCAR pit crew, you begin a race against the clock to undress, change and re-dress the baby.

Still, despite your best efforts, any chance of arriving at your destination on time is lost.

For many parents, a great deal of time each day is spent battling the clock. And it's not just messy diapers that conspire against them. It's missing backpacks, lost sports equipment and spilled snacks.

With two kids under 3, Kate likens preparing to leave the house to "readying to perform surgery." The diaper bag has to be fully stocked, said the Sunbury mother, who asked that her last name not be used. "That makes us late all the time."

Running late never used to be a problem for her. "I was always on time before I had kids," she said.

Becoming a parent can definitely impact one's ability to arrive places on time, said Pamela Hatch, a life coach in Worthington. People who had punctuality issues before children will find it exacerbates their problems, she said.

Hatch typically counsels people who are chronically late to make a list of what they need to do before they leave the house and to allow an adequate amount of time to perform those tasks.

Lateness often stems from "unrealistic ideas about how much time it really takes you to do [those tasks]," she said. "People who are chronically late have a habit of glossing over the amount of time it takes to get each of these things done," she said. She recommends seriously considering how long it will take to feed and dress children, pack a diaper or book bag and load everyone into the car.

Planning is essential, Lacie Shipman said. The Mount Gilead mom of two said her husband Shawn jokingly likens her morning manner to that of a drill sergeant. "That's the only way to get out the door on time," she said.

In addition to keeping her 5-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son on track in the morning, she tries to take care of some tasks in the evening. She packs lunches, lays out clothes and readies book bags. She also tries to do all of her laundry over the weekend so no one is searching for a particular item of clothing in the morning. She gives herself an extra five to 10 minutes in the morning to handle any unexpected chores or mini-crises.

Shipman needs to have a good morning routine because she has to be to work on time. But she also tries to be punctual in other areas of her life. "Some people don't realize how it makes other people feel when you are always late," she said.

People who are chronically late often frustrate those around them, Hatch said. "It's going to make a difference in how much those other people are going to respond to them and how much people want to include them."

Running late also makes life more complicated for you and your children, she said. If you're yelling at your kids as you're leaving the house, everyone is going to be stressed out, Hatch said.

"If you start screaming, that creates a lot of bad feelings," she added.

Kate, who always tells her kids to "practice their patience," follows her own advice when running late. She also calls friends or family if she's going to be more than 15 minutes late.

"It does not ever bother me how long it takes to get out the door because there's nothing I ever wanted to be more than a mom," she said. "If I'm frustrated with them as we're getting ready to go out the door, it's not good for them."

As a stay-at-home mom, Kate finds that her parents, in-laws and friends understand her situation. "I have a pretty laid-back life," she said. "We all have grace for one another. I would never be upset with someone for being even a half hour late."

And while Hatch counsels clients to improve their punctuality, she also recommends that people be understanding of one another's life circumstances and overlook the occasional lateness.

"It's so important to accept that some things do happen beyond [a person's] control," she said. "Keep the bigger picture in mind."

Melissa Kossler Dutton has worked as a reporter for more than a decade. She's a frequent contributor to a variety of Ohio publications. She lives in Bexley with her husband and two sons.

Avoid being late

  1. Make lists so you're aware of what needs to be done before you can leave the house.
  2. Time yourself doing various tasks so you have an accurate perception of how long they take.
  3. Lay out clothes or pack lunches at night to save time in the morning.
  4. Consider showering before bed.
  5. Locate items you will need before it's time to leave to avoid rushing around the house looking for keys, backpacks or sports equipment.
  6. Allow time for unexpected events to happen.
  7. Don't overschedule yourself or your family. A tightly packed day lends itself to getting off schedule.
  8. When making a commitment, consider the time the event starts, where it's taking place and whether it's truly feasible for you to make it on time.