How our family gets out the door without being late.
Large family, Parenting

How our Family of Ten is (hardly ever) Late


No, really!

Okay, the “hardly ever” is important. We’re late now and then (sorry, Becky). But we’ve developed a routine that seems to work for getting us most of the places most of the time. I can’t remember the last time we were late for church or a doctor’s appointment.

This is not from some personal virtue. It’s more because we all get cranky when we’re late, and we got tired of that, so we thought out a method and tried things till they worked.



Ten people is something of a production to get out the door. If we are going to all have to be someplace in the morning hours, I need to know about it at least the night before or it’s not happening.

I take travel time, plus time to get in the car (at least 10 minutes), plus time to get myself and everyone else fed and ready, which varies depending on where we are going. Going to church? Time for dress clothes, fixing hair, scrubbing faces, buckling shoes, eating breakfast early enough before Mass…all that.

Going to the zoo? We’ll need to leave time to pack lunches, plus making sure kids are wearing sensible clothes and shoes.

Going to an early morning Irish dance thing? Don’t bother going to bed. Just start getting ready at 11 pm the night before. I’m kidding. Kind of.

I then add about 15 minutes into that time for shenanigans. It’s going to happen. Just plan on it.

That gives me our start time, which hopefully agrees with my waking time, or we’ll need even more time for an extra cup of coffee.



The night before, I make sure everyone has clean clothes, and that they know where their shoes and coats are. If they don’t, now is the time to hunt some up. Not in the morning.

If it’s to be an early event, I will also make sure that any packing is done – diapers, dance equipment, stuff for church, whatever.

Alarm is set for whenever I have to get up to get the ball rolling, and older kids are reminded to set theirs too.


Have a morning routine.

At our house, we’ve established pretty much who does what when we are trying to get ready to go. Through trial and error, we’ve learned that unless I shower first thing when I get up, we’ll never make it anywhere without either being late, or being angry. Or, likely, both. I don’t know why, but it’s true. While I’m showering, Mark will get the kids breakfast. Then I get them dressed and iron out all the details while he showers.

During that time, the older kids attend to their own needs. When they are done, they pitch in with the breakfast cleanup, dealing with sibling mischief, and being an extra pair of hands.


Say no.

On a normal day, I am pretty laid back. I will usually take reasonable requests for breakfast, allow multiple clothing changes, not worry about little girls playing under blankets and messing up their hair. No problem.

On Sunday morning? Nope. We keep things streamlined, and since I’m looser on the days we stay home, I don’t even feel guilty about it. Which is an accomplishment all by itself.

“Can I have a dippy egg?”

No, we’re having cereal or yogurt.

“I don’t like this dress!”

Sorry, that’s what’s clean. Let’s try to find something different for next week.

“Can I build a mud fortress in the backyard?”

Not today, dear.


Have a loading routine.

When it’s time to go, I can just yell, “Time to get in the car!” a few times, and most kids will go out and get buckled in. This is also effective for lighting a fire under any dawdlers. It’s harder when it’s winter and I don’t want them to have to sit out in the cold; I usually will have the car warming up for that.

I have several older kids who can take the littlest ones out and get them buckled for me if time is getting tight. While they do that, I can lock up the house, grab some water, put on lipstick – whatever. I try to avoid roaming the house soaking up the peace and quiet and shoving cookies in my mouth when they are all out waiting in the car.

(But, sometimes it happens.)


Split up.

If there are two carloads going, sometimes if things are getting pinched, the first load will leave the second behind. That actually helps all of us get there faster. It shaves off precious minutes of entering and exiting house, car, and destination by letting some people do that while others are still getting ready or traveling.

And, if it’s one of those times when we just aren’t going to make it on time, at least some of us aren’t late.


Now, arriving?

We don’t have a routine for that. We just kind of all tumble out of the Tahoe and hope for the best.

It seems to work. Most of the time.

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13 thoughts on “How our Family of Ten is (hardly ever) Late”

  1. This is awesome! We are a family of 8 and (hardly ever) late also. Where we live, being on time is an anomaly among families large and small. It’s gotten so that it doesn’t bother me when others are late anymore, but being late really bothers me personally- probably because my parents told me that being late is telling others that your time is more important than theirs. Of course, we also lived on a military base, so “Five minutes early is ten minutes late!”

    I’ve decided that being on time or is sort of like having your house clean or exercising. It’s an internal thing, only altered by extreme circumstances (or intentional change). For the record my house isn’t terribly clean and I only exercise sporadically!

    Also, the end of #5 made me laugh at loud in a guilty way while making sure my kids weren’t around!

    1. Yes, I’m the same – I don’t mind others being late, but I don’t like to be, myself, and my husband is even more concerned about it than I am.

      I think you’re right about it being an internal thing, and I am right there with you on the house and exercise! I’ll have weeks and months where I work out consistently, and then I will mysteriously just…stop. I don’t even notice it happening until my jeans get a little snug!

  2. ” I try to avoid roaming the house soaking up the peace and quiet and shoving cookies in my mouth when they are all out waiting in the car.” laughed so hard I almost spit my coffee out! You all have been such a blessing to our church, school and small town 🙂

  3. Have to share this with my husband. We only have two kids but getting them ready before school almost always amounts to yelling about lost shoes, changing clothes and running late. More prep at night would make things go much smoother in the morning. Great advice!

    1. It was the inevitable Sunday morning yelling that got us to sit down and find some solutions. It’s funny how the really small adjustments can make a big difference!

  4. I am impressed. We try to have our kids prep the night before too. It save a lot of hassle in the morning, but I only have 3 kids to get our the door. We also try to keep the aware of the time with count down, “we have to leave in 30 mins, we have to leave in 15 mins” I find that helpful I think if you can get it under control with 8 children anyone can. Thank you for sharing this post in the All For Mamas Link Party Week 4 #allformamas I will share this on the facebook group page, my facebook page, google +, pinterest and twitter.

  5. Wow, I’m impressed! It seems like planning and prepping the night before is key. I only have two little guys, but I find having a plan really useful in helping us to make it places on time. Thanks for sharing your story and tips!!

  6. Wow. I felt anxious reading this! I hate being late.. I hate rushing.. I hate yelling ‘let’s go’. I gotta applaud you for getting it all together! I mean, yeah no, it’s not always perfect and you’re not always on time.. but the fact that you found what works for your family of 10! Ok, wow! You’re an amazing team! I definitely feel silly thinking my family of 5 is chaotic for running out of the house.

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