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Being a parent is no walk in the park, but when you’re a stay at home mom, you may feel like you never get a break. It’s important to carve out time in your day to recharge and keep up with your own mental health.
Not only can the right stay at home mom schedule keep you and your kids busy all day, but it can help you prioritize what matters – spending time together and being happy about it.
After all, the reason you decided to be a stay at home mom was to spend more time raising your kids (and perhaps save money on skyrocketing daycare costs). However, you can’t do a very good job of that if you don’t have a plan.
Here are some tips for creating the right stay at home mom schedule for you so that you can stay sane, have fun, and watch your kids thrive.
Prioritize Sleep For Everyone
If you’re too tired to function, no one benefits from that. You might have a great stay at home mom routine and a schedule that works, but no one can function on too little sleep. Plus, it damages your child’s growth if they’re not getting the sleep they need.
If you’re tired, you could be angry and frustrated rather than calm and collected. If your kids are tired, they will be cranky and unable to focus. It doesn’t matter how fantastic your routine is, if no one is having a great day.
Prioritizing sleep as a part of your schedule is the best thing you can do for everyone’s physical, mental, and emotional health.
Putting it into action:
- Implement reasonable bedtimes for everyone. Adults should go to bed no later than 10pm and children’s bedtimes should be age appropriate.
- Create effective and calming bedtime routines.
- Keep rest times for older children who have already dropped their naps.
- Encourage children to sleep longer if they wake up too early.
Everyone will feel much better with the right amount of sleep, and you can create a loving, nurturing atmosphere at home if you are well rested.
Start Your Day Right
I enjoy waking up before my kids, but not by a huge margin. Let me tell you why.
If my kids wake me up, I get a little testy. I don’t like to be woken up, especially by someone who needs me right this second.
However, my kids are early risers. So I don’t want to wake up too long before them or I’ll be getting up way too early.
Plus, what you might find is that if you wake up too long before they do, you’ll find yourself engrossed in whatever task you started, whether it’s reading a book or digging into some work, and their interruptions will be no less than aggravating.
So, a good goal is to wake up roughly an hour before they do. You’ll feel like you’re getting a jump start on the day, but you won’t resent them for waking up and interrupting you.
You can have a cup of coffee, read a book, exercise, prep for breakfast, or go over the schedule for the day without really mentally commiting to something complex or time consuming.
It will give you a sense of accomplishment while avoiding leaving something unfinished that will have you unraveling the rest of the day from frustration at never getting any ‘me’ time.
Putting it into action:
- Create a wake up ritual. A cup of coffee or juice, a Bible verse, or anything else that is important to you can help you wake up excited to start the day.
- Get ready the night before. It can be hard to wake up and feel unprepared to start the day, so set out your coffee mug or clothes, and make sure you’re ready to hit the ground running (so to speak), that way you can maximize your alone time as much as possible.
- Set boundaries for wake up times. Kids have a tendency to wake up when they hear you moving about. Surely you know what I mean. I can hear you nodding emphatically from here. Older children may respond well to a digital or analog clock and a minimum wake up time. Younger children may need more encouragement to stay in bed, like quiet toys or a light on a timer that indicates when it’s fine to get up.
Add the Extras Last
Build your schedule, making sure you have time for all of the things that have to get done, then sprinkle in the fun extras that you want to get done. Your schedule needs a backbone, and those are all of the tasks that you need to do every day.
These items are fixed, like school drop off, lunch, afternoon naps, school pick up, and bedtime. Things like breakfast and dinner are, of course, necessary, but can float depending on what other activities you may have to do that day.
Every family is different, but you have the power to choose what to set in stone, leaving you with plenty of extra space to fill in the holes.
The main problem many stay at home moms struggle with is packing the schedule so full that they don’t get everything done.
This can leave you feeling discouraged because you didn’t accomplish everything. You’ll start thinking your schedule doesn’t work, when it would actually work well if it had a little more breathing room.
Instead, give yourself a break. You don’t have to cram everything into one day.
Putting it into action:
- Make a list of the constants in your schedule. Look them over first and then place them where they make the most sense. If your kids need to be at school by 8:15am, that’s an easy one. Others, like dinner, might be more difficult based on when your husband gets home from work. Laying them all out in the open can help you better determine how to spread them out more evenly.
- Turn a fun thing into a constant. Do you absolutely have to go to the park every day? No. But you should sprinkle in plenty of fun and physical activity. While the thing you do every day may not be the same, put a placeholder in the schedule for something fun every day.
- Prioritize the extras. All of the things that need to be done won’t always fit in your schedule. For instance, you might have to go to the grocery store today for milk and diapers, but the dry cleaning can wait until tomorrow. Don’t stress yourself out about getting it all done immediately. Set aside some time Sunday night to make a list of everything that needs to get done this week and then sprinkle them into your schedule as they fit so that you have a laid back plan rather than one or two days of scrambling.
Plan Your Downtime
Everyone needs downtime in the afternoon. Younger kids still need naps while older kids can benefit from some independent play. And you definitely could use some alone time to gather your strength and make it to bedtime.
Put it on the schedule. This downtime really should be one of your constants.
If you enforce rest, your children will come to expect and even appreciate that time away from you, which means you can get something done, or you can nap, too!
You can’t fill every second of your schedule with doing. You shouldn’t feel guilty for prioritizing downtime.
Create these pockets in your day filled with nothing. You can have one in the morning and one in the afternoon if you like. Not only does it give you extra rest time on a day when you really need it, but it will give your schedule some wiggle room in case something comes up at the last minute.
Putting it into action:
- Use nap time for your own rest.
- Prioritize independent play daily so that you can rest, do chores, or work.
- Don’t delay your work (if you have it) until after bedtime. Use these downtimes to catch up so you can focus on your spouse or relax after the kids go to bed.
Create Home Systems
Part of finding success when you stay at home is creating home systems and finding a way to maintain them. That includes laundry, cooking, cleaning, organizing, and home maintenance.
Before planning these things into your schedule, you may want to take a step back and evaluate how often you find that they need to be done. It’s likely that the dishes need to be done daily, but you may prefer to do laundry once a week.
If you have a large house or family, it may be easier to tackle cleaning one room every day or doing one load of laundry every day rather than saving it all for once a week.
However, keep in mind that chores are a healthy part of everyone’s routine, so a chore chart could help you be more efficient as well. The point of these routines is to keep up with household chores without burning anyone out.
Here are some simple things I’ve found particularly helpful:
- Everyone helping to tidy up before naptime.
- A quick sweep after the kids are in bed.
- Dishes and chores after breakfast before anyone is allowed to play.
Your Schedule Should Serve Everyone
You can’t let your kids dictate routine, but you do need to create routines that will benefit everyone. For instance, you get to choose the appropriate wake times, but they can choose whether they want to play quietly or read if they wake up too early.
Independent play and rest times are other great ways to serve everyone, because everyone needs that downtime in one way or another. Older children can read or play with their favorite toys that they hate to share while you nurse the baby without interruptions.
Lunch and snack time is the same for everyone as well. If you do have activities that are specific to one or two children, like sports practices or piano lessons, make sure you bring something for the other children to do while you’re there.
You can maximize that time to get in some extra physical activity if there’s a park nearby or offer additional learning activities.
Remember to let the little things go. Encouraging independence by letting your children control the things they can is good. But ultimately, your schedule has to work for everyone, and most of all you, because you’re the one driving it.
Putting it into action:
- Stagger bedtimes, with the youngest child going to be the earliest, so that you can spend some individual time with each child. This will fill them up and make them feel like they have their own special connection with you, which is very valuable for a bedtime routine.
- Develop mini routines. This makes it easier on you. You may be in charge of when these mini routines take place, but you can coach your children to take charge of the doing. Toddlers learn well if you make routines visual, but they’ll catch on quickly if they know they pick up their toys after play time every day or they can get their own snack after watching cartoons. This is where individual-sized pre-packaged snacks on a shelf they can reach come in handy.
- Help children memorize sequential activities. You’ll run on autopilot (most of the time) if you help your children remember the order in which activities on the schedule happen. For instance, chores immediately after breakfast, snacks immediately after naptime, or doing the dishes right after dinner.
Reap the Benefits of Having a Schedule
A schedule is more than just knowing what in the world is even going on in your busy life (amirite?). It’s about so many more existential benefits than that.
You may feel like making a schedule is so much more hassle than it’s worth, but it’s really not. It’s worth every minute (or hour) you spend getting it just right.
It’s going to take some tweaking, so don’t think you’ll have it all right the first week. But after you live it, you’ll see what needs to change, and you’ll fall into a routine that works.
What happens if you suffer through the occasional day (or week) of it not working? Don’t give up!
We all have off days. Some seasons of life require a complete overhaul to the schedule. If your child is teething and not sleeping well, those bedtime routines and wake up limitations you put in place may simply not be working right now.
But the beauty of having a schedule is that it’s always there for you to fall back on when you’re ready. You can take comfort in knowing that even if there’s a day when you don’t get anything accomplished, tomorrow is a brand new opportunity to get it right.
Here are some of the great benefits of having a schedule that works for you:
- You’ll save your sanity. A schedule can help you feel more at ease, more accomplished, and less stressed. Your home will thrive, even if you’re busy.
- It increases your focus. If you know you only have an hour to get something done, you’ll be able to focus more intently on completing it. This is also beneficial when it’s not something you look forward to. You know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel in an hour when the kids go down for their nap.
- It promotes self care. Waking up an hour before the kids or using their independent play time to do something for you means you get a little bit of ‘me time’ every day. Just 15 minutes a day can help rejuvenate you and help you feel less overwhelmed.
- You’ll be more intentional. When you allot time to take care of yourself and get things done around the house, you can be more intentional with the fun things. It helps you enjoy life more and feel fulfilled. You’ll also be so much more relaxed.
When you can feel the chaos of the day rolling over you, your schedule will bring you back. It centers you, keeps you focused, and helps you remember that you can do what you never thought you were capable of.
So, while this schedule won’t work for everyone, this is the schedule I’ve found that works really well for my family of six. We both work remotely full-time and we homeschool our kids, so we’re together all of the time.
It’s chaotic, but it’s our favorite version of life.
6:00am: Mom and Dad wake up, walk for 30 minutes together, and make coffee
7:00am: Kids begin to stir, come out of their rooms, and crawl into our laps for cuddles
7:15am: Eat breakfast, my two oldest are old enough to make it for everyone
7:30am: Catch up on our daily Bible reading while we finish breakfast
8:00am: Dishes, chores
9:00am: Mom gets to work and Dad begins homeschool activities
12:00pm: Lunch, again, the two oldest make it for everyone
12:30pm: What we call ‘recess’ could be playing outside or playing with toys
1:00pm: Meander down the long driveway to check the mail
1:15pm: Resume school and work
2:30pm: Independent play for older kids, naptime for younger kids
4:00pm: Tidy up and prep dinner
5:00pm: Dinner and family time
7:00pm: Begin bedtime routine
8:00-10:00pm: Mom and Dad spend time together relaxing
Sometimes school activities and work is completed before lunch, and we reserve those days for running any errands we need to run. We also split our time after the kids go to bed between working and watching shows. We don’t really care what we do, as long as we’re together.
If you have younger children who still take two naps, you’ll have more downtime than we do. If you have a working spouse, you may be juggling quite a bit more than we do.
It may take you some time to get it right, but it’s never too late to build a schedule that will work for everyone. If you’ve chosen to stay at home, it may not pay, but it’s still one of the most rewarding things that you can do.