Morning Challenges: Anecdotes of Mom Life Getting a Toddler Ready


I dedicate this post to moms who are surviving morning challenges while getting their toddler ready.  

Welcome to mom life – you’re certainly in it and are well on your way to earning your mom badge. And sorry, you’ll never arrive anywhere on time again. Why? Because morning challenges get the best of us.

I am speaking from the experience of solo-parenting a 2.5 year- old boy half of the time, but I know that we all struggle to get out the door on time with our children. So, no matter what kind of mom you are, how many children you have or their ages, or even if you’ve got a partner to struggle alongside you, you’ll find something you can relate to here. Morning challenges happen for all of us. Or to all of us, however, you want to look at it.

Here is a fairly extensive list of morning challenges you may face while getting your toddler ready and you can guess how many of those listed happened to me in just one morning fairly recently.

(I’ve used letters because I loathe numbers. It’s a writers’ thing.) When more than one challenge happens in a single morning between 6 and 8 am, I feel like I should get a badge for either winning at mom life simply because I finally did get my son into the car and where he needed to go (albeit late) without totally losing my mind or my cool; or for having the most mom fails because I completely lost my mind and my cool. Sometimes, it’s a win, other times its a fail… but mostly it’s a combination of both. I’m human after all.

Morning challenges getting your toddler ready include but are not limited to the following:

A. They are awake before you’ve finished showering.

I make an attempt – and I won’t qualify how serious it is (somewhere equal to hitting the snooze button repeatedly when the alarm goes off) to get up before my son wakes up so I can get my shower done before he needs anything from me. That often fails. I blame myself, of course, for not trying harder.

crumpled bed sheets

Most mornings, an episode of one of his favorite TV shows holds his attention long enough for me to enjoy a lightning-fast shower. But then there are those mornings where the sound of the water has him so excited, he just has to be in the bathroom with me. With the curtain pulled open and the water spraying out everywhere and the cold air coming in. And he looks up at me and points at all my body parts and asks me what they are. He sometimes attempts to undress and get in because he, “Wants a bath, too.” Now, instead of just scrubbing up and rinsing off quickly, I’m answering twenty questions, trying to keep the curtain closed, convincing him to keep his clothes on, and wondering the whole time if I’ve scarred him for life because he’s seen my naked mom-bod.

B. They insist on helping you with your hair and makeup.

Lately, he has been particularly interested in my primping. I’m not really much of a primper. I don’t blow dry my hair thoroughly and I only wear eye makeup. Then my son gets involved, my routine doubles in length and effort. He wants to hold the blow dryer himself which means it is often pointed to the ground and nowhere near my head. I try to hold it with him and he has a meltdown because, “I do it!” I offer him extra brushes to encourage him to do his own hair, but nothing is ever as cool as the thing that mom is doing. Right? You all know what I’m talking about. With my makeup, I try to guide his hand but inevitably eyeshadow ends up smeared across my eye, nose, or forehead. Now I have to take the time to scrub it away and restart. I know. I could say no, right? Yes. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don’t. We all know how each day we have to choose our battles. And some mornings, eyeshadow isn’t one of them.

C. They do not want to get dressed.

One morning, he’s totally cooperative in getting changed- even to the point of wanting to pick out his own clothes. Other mornings, you would think there were sharks swimming around in his pants or snakes lurking in the sleeves of his shirts. He kicks, punches, and bites while I dress him. He’s likened to a wild animal and I don’t even know him anymore. Some mornings, I send him to daycare half dressed – fresh pants but pajama top, or vice versa – just to get out the door. (See above regarding choosing battles.) Really, all I want is to make sure he has a clean diaper and a guilt-free drop- off, knowing he showed up with a clean bottom and some attempt on my part to change him.

D. They got dressed but then managed to fill a diaper and then some.

(“Then some” being their entire left pant leg and all the way up their back which requires an outfit change and possibly a bath.) I don’t even understand this, honestly. Clean diaper. Then the child is totally covered in urine. This elicits a look of amazement on my part followed by a palm to the face when it sinks in that I have to change him again. (See letter C for why this is extra problematic.)

E. They want to wander around in the parking lot and avoid your car while also being completely oblivious to the fact that other cars could be in motion and therefore this is unsafe behavior.

My son is a wanderer. To some extent, I think all toddlers are. They are like little intoxicated people, not walking straight lines, not paying attention, grinning for no reason one moment and then screaming at the top of their lungs the next. They are curious and have no schedule and no sense of urgency. In some ways, I want to be just like them. But not when it’s time to get somewhere. My son is famous for getting out into the parking lot and wanting to just meander, checking out every blade of grass, every tire on every car, every puddle of water, and sometimes all the mailboxes (which is a habit I need to break so he’s not someday charged with tampering with the mail).

little boy smelling grass

I follow behind, coax, prod, and bribe him to get into the car. I don’t want to discourage his curiosity or focus solely on our schedule. I try to leave the house early so there’s extra time for this kind of exploration while not being late (but see the first four listed morning challenges.)

Because I’m by myself, I have to carry everything we need out with us which doesn’t necessarily leave a hand free to carry my son. And I don’t want to put him in the car and then run back into the house for everything I need. So, everytime we leave, I just hope that we don’t explore for too long. The wandering is inevitable, but the amount of time is unpredictable. And when it’s really bad, I’m left with no choice but to put down whatever else I’ve got (even if that means leaving it in the middle of the parking lot), hoist him over my shoulder and get him in the car, kicking and screaming.

F. They want to scratch your eyes out because you’re trying to put them in the car seat- you know, for their safety.

Regardless of the wandering and how it ends – by choice or force – there is always the possibility that he just doesn’t want to sit in his car seat. The front seat is way more fun. Lately, he makes a break for it as soon as he’s in the back seat and attempts to climb over the armrest and into the front. Remember when I said he could be like a wild animal… well… enough said.

G. They vomit all over you.

True story: One morning he slipped on some ice. No injury, so don’t panic. He ended up with all kinds of ice crystals and whatnot on his pants and the bottom of his boots. Because he’s two and this is another thing toddlers do, he swiped some of that nice, icy, brown I-don’t-know-what onto his finger and stuck it in his mouth. Given its color and the look on his face, I decided I needed to get that out of his mouth, so instinctively I stuck my finger in to get it out. Well, I didn’t mean to, but I ended up gagging him and you already know what happened. (Vomit is my least favorite of the bodily fluids that plague mom life.)

H. The car is in motion and they want all the things they just finished throwing or dropping purposely (which is close to throwing but less violent and may not have happened in the direction of your face).

My son loves to throw things. Mostly his cups. For longer car trips, I bring a cup of water and a cup of milk for him. I also let him bring a toy or a book even though I know he’ll ask for music and these things won’t end up mattering. We won’t get out of the house if we don’t take at least one of these tools of distraction. (See the notes about ‘wild animal’ in C and F.) For whatever reason, moments after we reverse out of the carport, he’s thrown or dropped one or several of these items and begins immediately to demand them back. My rule: once the car is in motion, momma doesn’t stop. “You’re out of luck, kid.”

jeep driving away in snow

I probably have just made my son sound like a terror. I assure you he’s not. For 2.5 years old, he’s pretty mild really. But we’re all moms here, so I know you’re not judging and I don’t have to defend him. This is all just a part of real mom life. Your kids have all done these things. And I know there are plenty of ideas for trying to make the morning routine better. (But this post isn’t about solutions. This is about venting. Moms need that, too.)

Honestly, when one or two of these happen it just feels like a normal part of the day. Maybe a stressful part of the day, but pretty normal. And when they are mild episodes of these common morning challenges, it’s no sweat. But once we exceed two challenges and/or they are also extreme, that is when you’re like, okay, I’m earning a mom badge this morning.

So, “How many of these morning challenges happened to me all in one morning while getting my toddler ready?”

Answer: 6. Letters C-H but not necessarily in the order that they appear above. Yes, mom life was real that day. Real and badge-worthy.

Let’s finish the alphabet with morning challenges. Tell me what your morning challenges are with your kids and we’ll build the I-Z to create a hilarious but real A-Z account of what real mom life is like in the morning getting our kids ready. I could use this for my next post.

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A. Y. Berthiaume
A.Y. Berthiaume is a native Vermonter, writer, feminist, recovering middle child, hobby junkie, and a mom who’s just winging it most of the time. None of these things pay the bills so by day she’s an admin assistant and hides her cape under her cardigans. If she could conjure her own Patronus, it would be a heron. Once voted as most likely to star in a romantic comedy, people generally find her amusing and her laugh is the loudest you can hear in a movie theater. You can find some of her other writing on her blog, Berthiaume holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the Northeast Ohio Masters of Fine Arts Program. She would like the record to state: A. Y. Berthiaume is a just a regular mom and real person figuring it out with everyone else.


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