“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise,” Benjamin Franklin once said, but I should have known better than to take advice from the guy who messes up my kids’ schedules twice a year with Daylight Saving Time. Clearly, this Founding Father never had to get up in the middle of the night to feed a baby or he would know that rising early just makes a person emotionally unstable.
Still, there’s something noble and industrious about getting up and out the door at the crack of dawn. It feels very adult, very grown-up. The responsible me used to drag myself out of bed at 5:45 am, bleary-eyed and comatose, in order to get myself and the kids ready for the day. We were out the door by 7:15 where we joined the rush of the chronically cranky. It was a parenting nightmare.
Then I discovered the single greatest child-rearing tip of all time: The 10 AM Rule. It is brilliantly simple. If you want to be a good parent, nay, a good human being, don’t leave the house before 10 am. Ever. No really—just don’t do it. Personally, I haven’t left the house before 10 am in years, except for really good Black Friday sales and once, childbirth. Okay, there’s church too, but that hardly counts because they serve doughnuts.
It’s like being a vampire, only in reverse. Things go better for me if I stay behind closed doors until the morning is safely underway. 10 am is the safety zone. If I try to leave the house any earlier than that, you might see my fangs.
Think about it: 7:00 am is disastrous. Children are genetically programed to move slower at this absurd time of the day, unless it’s Christmas or Saturday. Your child will die if he has to get out from under the covers before 7. He will die if he has to walk across the floor and put on his own shoes. He will die if his sister looks as him funny. He will die if he has to eat breakfast, and he will die if he doesn’t.
At 7 am, “right now” is nearly 50% of your word content. As in, “Get dressed right now!” “Eat your breakfast right now!” “Stop dawdling right now!” Your child is 10 times more likely to look at you with a face that says, “Make me,” and you are 100% more likely to do exactly that.
It’s hard to be holy at 7 am.
But 8 am is different, and you think, “Any reasonable person should be able to get out the door by 8 am.” But by now, the children are moving faster, and they are bored. In the time it took you to find something in your closet that doesn’t make you look pregnant, they turned your calm morning shower into a spectator event, and asked for no less than five Band-Aids. The older kids found a cable channel that necessitated an immediate family meeting while the younger ones smeared toothpaste all over the bathroom floor.
At 8 am, you will forget to use your inside voice.
But 9:00 am is worst of all. It is sneaky like a toddler with scissors. By then, you’ve had time to wrestle yourself into a pair of extra-strength Spanx and fished your missing earring out of the Lego bin. You have cancelled cable and issued several murderous threats to the next little person who barges in on you in the bathroom.
You’ve had time to drink any coffee the kids haven’t spilled, and with caffeine coursing through your veins, you dominate the to-do list. At 9 am, you are the master of the morning routine!
Ah…but that is the trap. Disillusioned by your own awesomeness and feeling a little lightheaded from the lack of oxygen to the Spanxed region, you begin to think, “I am so with it this morning! I think I have time to mop the floor and make cookies for the kids!”
Blissfully unaware of the danger, you skip happily toward the tasks that will lead to your undoing. Suddenly, you look up and it’s 8:45. 8:45 and you smell like Pine Sol and snickerdoodles. The dog is wearing your daughter’s back pack and you are pretty sure their bus driver was serious when she said she expected your kindergartener to be wearing pants before he got on the bus.
9 am is the Siren song of the morning. You may as well just take the rest of the day off for an awkward yearly physical because things are not going to get any better.
But by 10 am, Morning has begun to slither slowly toward another time zone. The Sirens stop singing. No one is crying. The caffeine is in full-effect. At 10 am, we can walk out the door for church and all the kids will have their hair brushed and their faces wiped clean of the breakfast I had to force-feed them. Everyone has shoes on the right feet and I do not look like I need Botox for my premature frown lines. By 10 am, I could write the book on parenting.
Just don’t ask me to do it at 9:45.