How to Be a Stay-at-Home Mom When Your Husband Doesn’t Work 9-5

Let me start this post by explaining that it is hard for me to say I’m a stay-at-home-mom.

When we first had Madeline, I knew I wanted to be home with her, rather than work outside the home, but that wasn’t possible for a few months after she was born.  I was a working momma.

Being a working mother is difficult.  It’s stressful, especially if you are the only breadwinner like I was, and it can be exhausting.

But it can also be very satisfying in a way that staying at home with your children is not.

(Seriously, this is an awful way to start this post, but just follow along and it will redeem itself.  I hope.)

For those of you who have never been a stay-at-home parent, the job feels an awful lot like a wedding or other large event:  there is a lot of “hurrying up to wait”.  Being a stay-at-home parent can often be frustrating and unproductive if you haven’t found yourself a good schedule to work with.

I knew that early on, so once I quit my day job and stayed home with my sweet Madeline, I began researching and planning for what my days would look like with her.  The problem I found, though, is that most blog posts and other websites give great insight and instruction on how to create a Monday through Friday, 9-5 ish schedule for being a stay-at-home parent.  And that is certainly not what I have ever been.

My husband works long shifts (12 hours) plus has a half hour commute each way, which means he is gone for 13 hours on work days.  He only works seven days out of every two weeks, though:  three one week and four the following week.

How did this affect my work at home?

Oh boy.

It is difficult to get work done at home with my husband home.  I don’t think this is particular to him; I have heard it from other stay-at-home moms, as well.  The home has a certain vibe when “daddy is at work” and a very different vibe when “daddy is home”.  I know it, Beard knows it, and the girls know it.

It took me several months, but I realized I had to alter my schedule to suite our needs and my husband’s unique work schedule.  I still wanted to be the one cleaning, doing laundry, washing dishes, and doing other general home upkeep.  My husband still works a 40 hour week, after all, and it is only fair that I keep up with home maintenance.

How did I work this?  I’d like to give you a few tips:

  1. Take a Sabbath.  With Your Husband.  Why?  Because God said we should, and He knows us better than we could ever know ourselves.  We try to take one day a week when my husband is off to do no work.  This means no cooking, no cleaning, no dishes, no laundry, no house projects, no mowing the lawn, and definitely no grocery shopping.  When we declare a family day of rest, the tone of our week is much better.  After having rested a full day, both my husband and I are better able to tackle the week ahead and the tasks that lie before us.  Our girls also get a lot more mommy and daddy time on sabbaths, making them want some more independent playtime on days when I have chores to do.
  2. Clean Your House in One Day.  For a long season I would do all of my home maintenance chores on a day when my husband was home.  Both girls were hungry for some daddy time, and Beard was happy to oblige.  My normal home maintenance chores take me just about an hour if uninterrupted, so doing them on one day was no big deal, really.  Plus, it got those chores out of the way so the rest of the week I could focus on daily tasks (dishes, laundry, etc.) and bigger projects.
  3. Or Don’t.  More recently I have split my chores to do one or two each day.  Now that both girls take a very reliable, long afternoon nap I have plenty of time each day to tackle some house cleaning plus a project or two.  I do, however, choose carefully which chores to do on each day.  My oldest, for example, used to be terrified of the vacuum cleaner, and I had to vacuum only on days when my husband was home to comfort her in another room.  (This sounds ridiculous, I understand, but the poor girl neared a panic attack anytime I took the vacuum out of the closet.)  Now, however, Madeline is no longer afraid of the vacuum, and this more lengthy chore can be done on one of my husband’s work days.
  4. Prioritize Couple Time.  My husband works every Friday and Saturday night until very late, so we have had to choose an unusual date night.  Fortunately, we have family in town who are happy to trade babysitting and watch our girls for our weeknight date.  Since we are not able to go to bed at the same time when my husband is working, we miss out on a lot of one-on-one time.  Our date nights are crucial to us staying connected.\
  5. Know When You Need a Break and Build One in For Yourself.  Saturdays can be exhausting around here.  Since I usually have had the girls to myself for the past two or three days, my energy is usually waning by Saturday.  That’s when I know I need a bit of a break.  What do I do?  After nap time, the girls and I usually take Bruno for a walk or play outside.  On any other day, when we get back in I start cooking dinner while the girls play in the living room.  Not on a Saturday, though.  On Saturday I take the night off from “real cooking”.  I’ll pop popcorn, cut some fruit and carrot sticks, slice some cheese, and lay it all on a plate.  I’ll turn on a children’s movie and sit with the girls having a “snack-y dinner”.  The girls love it.  They don’t watch much television, so one movie a week is a big deal to them.  And the ability to eat in the living room is a treat.  All of which means they are fairly pleasant for the remainder of the evening and go to bed without a fuss.
  6. Know When You Need a Break and Ask for Help.  After Clara was born I felt like I had crawled into my own little hole and couldn’t come out.  I wasn’t sleeping well, and the constant demands of feeding Clara every 3-4 hours plus entertaining Madeline got quite overwhelming.  It was at that point that my husband (sweet, considerate man that he is) suggested that I take a “sane moment”.  What is a “sane moment” you ask?  It is an afternoon I take either once a week or once every two weeks when I can do whatever I please.  Sometimes I take a book and sit in a coffee shop and read for a few hours.  Sometimes I’ll do my grocery shopping for the week with the pleasure of being able to focus on my list, my coupons, and the experience.  One time I asked my husband to take the girls out so I could clean and declutter at home without them around.  This time is really crucial to my sanity.  (For those of you wondering, my husband gets a similar day each week or two, which he often uses to go hang out with friends or go shooting.  It’s important for daddies to get breaks, too!)

This are some of the main points that I have learned in tailoring my homemaking to my husband’s work schedule.  I hope it is helpful information.  I would be interested to hear any other tips for making homemaking work in non “textbook” situations.

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