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It was nearly 11 years ago that my husband and I made the decision for me to be a stay-at-home mom to our son.
Our situation was a bit unique in that my husband owns his own business… and I had been working for him for a little over a year before we got pregnant.
So staying home with our son actually meant bringing him to the office or taking some work home to keep me busy while he napped.
Keep me busy?
That seems funny now.
Was I ever really that naive?
I guess I was.
I mean, our son was a great baby.
And so I followed no stay at home mom schedule!
He was content playing by himself for an hour… or just staring out the window at the trees and birds.
He enjoyed sitting in his stroller outside while I sipped coffee and read magazines.
We went for walks to the market.
He slept normal for a baby too… waking up just once each night for his feeding.
Yes, he was chill.
I could write my articles while he catnapped and “cooed” happily in his bassinet.
In fact, you’d hardly even know he was there… for the four months.
Then he started to become very aware.
Aware of himself. Aware of me. Aware of his environment.
He began standing in a walker.
And he was walking and talking before he was 1 year old… at which point I was already pregnant again. This time with a daughter.
I was on the move and having to keep an eye on him constantly.
Thankfully he napped once or twice during the day… but that didn’t mean I suddenly earned free time.
Getting work done was not in the cards for me, as that time was quickly usurped by laundry that was waiting to be done. Or meals that needed to be prepped. Dusting or vacuuming. Putting my feet up for 10 minutes because my sciatica was flaring up.
I quickly realized that I needed the aforementioned stay at home mom schedule. And I needed it bad!
Not just to keep things in order, but for my sanity.
So if that meant penciling in a nap for myself or prenatal yoga class online… so be it.
Now, more than a decade later, my husband and I are the proud (and very tired) parents of four amazing kids ages 6-10.
While my stay at home mom schedule has changed over the years, it has been a lifesaver… and one I wish someone had shared with me when my parenting journey first began.
And with that, I will provide you with 7 steps to structure your day. Hopefully some, or all, of them will work for you. Feel free to tweak them here and there to your specific situation, but in general they will prove to be a good starting point for creating your rockstar stay at home mom schedule.
1. Get A Healthy Dose of Vitamin Zzzz’s
Getting enough sleep is crucial in staying healthy and alert… not to mention you’ll be in a more pleasant mood if you’re not overtired.
Same goes for your kids.
Kids should be napping during the day… at least until they reach the age where they are attending school full-time.
I’ll be the first to admit that I dropped the ball when it came to enforcing this with our youngest daughter and son. The older two stopped napping by age 5 or 6, and so the different schedules proved to be more of a headache for me than anything else.
Trying to keep two kids quiet while the other two slept was easier said than done.
It became a daily battle and scream fest… and it didn’t have to be. I should have just stood my ground.
Also, if you have the luxury, I highly recommend napping with your child (or children) to get them on board. I rarely could because I didn’t want to leave the other two kids unsupervised… but whenever my husband was around, or one of the grandparents, I took advantage of cuddle time.
It recharged everyone’s batteries.
And just like napping, bedtimes need to be on your stay at home mom schedule too.
While every family will have their different routines… I prefer to incorporate a wind down period. This basically involves shutting down all technology at least 30 minutes before bed. Sooner would be more ideal, as it gives the brain a chance to prepare itself for sleep.
We play a board game, charades or read books. You can even work a bath into things, if you have more time.
Since we have older kids that get to stay up a bit later, we still make them all follow this routine. When the younger two turn out the lights, the older two are allowed to continue reading or drawing in their room if they wish.
And on that note, the recommended amount of sleep varies by age… which should be a factor when establishing bedtimes. On average, a school age child (age 5-17) would benefit from somewhere between 9-13 hours of sleep per night. The amount goes down a bit as the child gets older.
Regardless of how close in age your children are, you should consider implementing a “no tech” plan to get them in the right mindset for bed.
2. Choose Your Wake-Up Times Wisely
Similar to establishing a nap and bedtime routine with your kids, it would behoove you to set your children’s wake-up times as well.
And while you’re at it, set one for yourself.
To clarify, this is more than just setting an alarm. It’s about putting you all in a good mindset to welcome the day.
It is certainly ok to have two different wake-up routines for weekdays and weekends. These wake-up times can also be individualized, given one child may start school sooner than the other.
So rather than fixate on the actual wake-up time, you should be focusing on the “leave your room” time.
Let me explain.
Similarly to winding down before bed, if you give your kids the opportunity to wake up slowly and focus on their day ahead, they will be in a better mood than if they were just woken out of sound sleep by the buzzing of an alarm..
Add to that, the feeling of being rushed to get ready and out the door.
These are stressors neither we or our children need.
My suggestion is to establish a time when your children are allowed to leave their rooms. Simply let them know that it’s ok to wake up earlier than that, but that they should remain quietly in their room until the time you agreed upon.
This will force them to stay away from the technology and overall chaos of the morning routine to follow. Maybe they will even pick up a book or color.
As for you, try setting an alarm for 30-60 minutes earlier than your kids will be unleashed. This can always be adjusted.
Then use this time to get yourself a cup of coffee. Read the newspaper. Prep breakfast in peace. Take a shower.
Whatever you need to do in order to get your day started on a positive note… now is the time.
3. Prioritize The Items On Your Calendar
No matter how old our children are, they keep us busy.
Doctor appointments, extra curricular activities, homework, volunteer work… playdates.
Try as we might, it’s important to realize that some things just can’t be rearranged on our stay at home mom schedule.
The trick is to start your day (or week) by looking at your calendar and prioritizing the items on it.
You can’t change the time of a soccer game, piano lesson or girl scout meeting.
You also can’t control the amount of homework your child may get one night.
But some of the things you can control are socializing with friends, housework, meals and working out.
If you go through your calendar and color code the things that aren’t able to or easily be changed.. you can then fill in the rest of your day around it. Just be sure to not stress yourself out by filling it up too much.
And be sure to schedule free time for yourself, family time and time to prep meals.
4. Make Everyone Accountable With A Daily Chore Chart
Many parents, myself included, will often make the mistake of confusing chores with being helpful.
In other words, chores may include things like emptying the dishwasher or taking the dog for a walk.
Whereas things such as clearing their place after meals, or picking up toys when done playing, are more about them being courteous.
Explain to your kids that less work for you means more time to spend with them. Then proceed to explain the difference between a task that’s expected of them versus being polite.
Chore charts are a great way for your kids to visualize the concept… and can also be attached to a rewards incentive in order to promote cooperation.
5. Establish No-Brainer Routines
We just talked about the importance of assigning chores for kids on the stay at home mom schedule.
It teaches them accountability and respect.
I also touched upon things your kids could do just to help out. Things that weren’t necessarily expected, but appreciated.
These are routines and they differ from chores.
Things such as throwing dirty clothes in the laundry basket or sweeping crumbs they dropped on the kitchen floor.
Remember: you are not a slave, you’re their mom. And you are happy to help and do all of the things expected of you as a full-time mom… but that does not mean you need to be at their beck and call.
You will start to feel unappreciated, burnt out and resentful if that happens… none of which are healthy.
6. Get Your Kids On The Same Page
Irregardless of how close in age your kids are, you should still be able to schedule an hour or two into your day to accommodate all of them at once… thus, freeing up time for yourself to get certain things done.
Poof! It’s magic.
Well, not really.
You see, after more than a year of experience virtual schooling all four kids at the elementary level… I finally see the importance of grouping certain activities so that I'm not being pulled in a million different directions all day long.
The big ones for me are:
While there may not be time in one day to fit all of these things in, these are my go-to’s for creating a bit of breathing room in my stay at home mom schedule.
Whether I’m trying to finish up an article, or just need to catch up on laundry and prep dinner, I can give myself a good 1.5-2 hours of semi-uninterrupted time by making them a healthy snack… followed by sending them outside and then allowing them to watch a bit of tv afterwards.
Barring an accidental injury or quarrel, I can almost guarantee my kids won’t bother me (much) for that time. And that’s a win/win situation.
7. Create A Work Space For Yourself
Whether you work from home, or motherhood is your job, if you’re visible to your kids… chances are they will expect you to drop everything and pay attention to them.
No matter how old they get, they aren’t easily able to grasp the concept that you being present doesn’t always mean you’re free.
Sure, you are home because you’ve made a commitment to raising them. Being there for the important stuff.
But you are also a wife. A friend. A daughter, sister or cousin. A woman.
You had an identity before kids.
So that can’t just suddenly vanish when you choose to become a stay at home mom. Or at least, it shouldn’t.
It is perfectly normal to give yourself some space.
A no kid zone.
This can be a home office. A sewing room. A workout space.
It can be anything you need it to be in order to be productive… because being productive will make you feel accomplished.
Be very clear with your children, that when you are in that space, you are “not there”. It’s as if you were at work or at the food store.
Obviously, emergencies are a different story… but point out that you’d prefer to not be interrupted and that they should try and work things out on their own.
You can even make it easier on them by having an allocated snack drawer that they can help themselves to. Or perhaps you can set up a craft for them to do independently… they will be so proud when they show you the finished masterpiece!
Think outside the box.
Again, age will play a factor. Afterall, it’s not so easy to tell a toddler they can’t barge in to give mommy a hug.
I get it. You’re not alone.
But conditioning them to respect boundaries is a good life lesson… and one that’s worth a try at any age.
PS, video monitors can still allow you to keep tabs on them from behind closed doors.
Final Thoughts On The Stay At Home Mom Schedule
Look. Nobody can ever really understand what’s like to be a stay at home parent until they’ve done it.
It’s a labor of love and one that often goes unnoticed… especially by our kids.
The little things we do every day, tirelessly molding our children into the adults they will become, is more often than not lost on them. And to our spouses who work outside the home.
The stay at home mom schedule operates 24/7. You are never off the clock and never get sick leave. You rarely get vacation time.
But here’s the catch.
In order to be the best mom you can to these kids, you have to run a well-oiled machine.
You need a schedule that is not only meant to keep you all on point, but to also keep you from becoming overwhelmed.
For the most part… kids won’t break. They are more resilient than you know.
Do not feel guilty about making them accountable.
Or giving them responsibilities.
Be honest with them.
And, above all, carve out a bit of time for yourself to catch your breath.
It will all be ok.
If you are a visual person and would benefit from a stay at home mom schedule template, or chart, check out these sites. You can even sort by age of child on a few of them.
Stay At Home Mom Templates
Work from Home Mom Templates
Finally, if you want to level up your parenting skills, then check out this resource that will show you how to get your kids to listen WITHOUT yelling, nagging, or losing control.
Nicole Krause has been writing both personally and professionally for over 20 years. She holds a dual B.A. in English and Film Studies. Her work has appeared in some of the country’s top publications, major news outlets, online publications, and blogs. As a happily married (and extremely busy) mother of four… her articles primarily focus on parenting, marriage, family, finance, organization, and product reviews.