Many years ago, before I quit my job to become a stay at home mom to my first child, I had visions of leisurely days at home. Sure, I’d spend a little time cleaning the house, but I’d have plenty of time for playing with my baby, reading good books, and making beautiful meals for my family. That was the dream.
Fourteen years later, I’m living the reality of stay at home motherhood. I’m the parent of a busy, homeschooled, high schooler, and equally busy grade schooler, and an off the chart busy two year old. In addition I work from home freelancing. These days I don’t know the meaning of free time.
How do I stay on top of things? Well, the truth is, I don’t always have life under control. But I do have a few tips for those looking to stay productive while balancing the demands of a stay at home mom.
How to Stay Productive
Develop a Routine
The most important productivity tip I could possibly give you is to develop a routine. Tasks take twice as long when you have to think about them. So don’t think. I have a morning routine that I follow every single morning. It’s automatic now. I get up, get dressed, do my hair and makeup, make the bed, make breakfast, and wake the kids.
In the evening, I pick up the clutter that’s found it’s way into the living room, make sure the kitchen is clean, and then I allow myself to take a shower and relax. By following these two routines, I keep my house in decent shape.
For some great ideas on routines that work, check out FlyLady.net. I borrowed some of her routines and tweaked them until they worked for my home.
Teach Kids to do Chores
When kids are young, sometimes it’s hard for us moms to teach them to do chores. After all, a two year old can’t fold towels as quickly or as well as we can. But take advantage of a young child’s willingness to help by teaching him to do chores. Yes, it takes longer to do the work. No, the work will not be done as well as you can do it. But as a mom of older kids, I can tell you that your investment of time will pay off.
When kids get older and start getting busy with soccer, band, youth group, and all their other activities, you’ll be short of time, too. After all, who drives the kids around? Mom!
But when the kids are older, if you’ve taught them well, you can divvy up the chores, so you’re not responsible for them all. This is a good thing, because you won’t have time to do them all!
I use the Motivated Moms chore calendar to make sure our house stays relatively clean. At the beginning of each month I highlight the different tasks in different colors. My 14 year old is responsible for the purple tasks, my 9 year old is responsible for the green tasks, and I get the yellow tasks. If the tasks don’t get done, they don’t get their allowances.
Utilize a Family Calendar
My family lives by our calendar. I’ve used different paper calendars over the years, but I’ve recently switched to Cozi, which is a free web-based calendar. Each member of the family has an assigned color, and we can assign appointments to one or more family members.
We plug in the soccer schedule, the school schedule, the band schedule, and our church schedule. We can access the calendar from home, work, or smartphone. In addition, I send reminders to my husband and oldest daughter via text messages. Cozi also emails us our schedule for the week, so we don’t forget appointments.
Whether you use Cozi or a wall calendar, keeping track of activities and appointments is a must for a stay at home mom.
Plan Your Meals
One of the most difficult things to stay on top of is meals. I don’t know how many times I’ve sent my husband out to pick up dinner, because four o’clock came and I didn’t have a dinner plan. That’s not a good use of money, and it’s generally not the healthiest way to feed your family.
Make a meal plan. It will save you money, and it will save you time, as you won’t constantly be wondering what you should make for dinner.
Some of you may be like me. I absolutely stink at making meal plans. I hate to do it, and I’m not a very creative cook, so my children frequently complain at the meals I plan. I finally admitted my weakness and joined e-mealz. For $5 a month I get 7 days worth of dinners (recipes included) and a shopping list each week. The shopping lists is generally under $100 worth of food a week, keeping my grocery budget on track.
I like it, because meal planning used to take me 1-2 hours a week, and now it takes no time at all!
Finally, the best tip I can give you as a stay at home mom is to relax. Remember the reasons you chose to be a stay at home mom. You want to spend time with your children. It’s OK if your house isn’t spotless all the time. It’s OK if you forgot to defrost the meat and you have to eat out occasionally. And it’s OK to give the kids a break on the chores once in a while.
Your home will never be perfect. Set your standards at “good enough” and enjoy your family.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons.