At various points in my life, I’ve been a stay-at-home mom and a work-at-home mom. I was also a single WAH mom for many years. And, after getting remarried, did stints as both a SAH and WAH mom – this time with two children. So, I feel like I am qualified to talk about the difference between a SAH mom and WAH mom schedule!
I Use the Word “Schedule” Loosely
Before I share my advice, tips, and own SAHM and WAHM schedules, I want to be clear: “schedule” is a term I use very loosely.
Yes, I know this will go against all the other WAH/SAH mom schedule advice. Most will tell you that you’ve got to make a schedule, write it out (or even use fancy visual charting systems!), and stick to it.
But you WILL GO CRAZY if you try to stick to a strict schedule!
For example, a schedule is virtually impossible with a newborn because they change so quickly. By the time you get a schedule figured out, they have started sleeping X hours longer and eating Y times fewer…
Or your toddler starts potty training and all of a sudden you’ve got to factor in constant bathroom trips and cleanups into your schedule.
Or there is a cool new exhibit opening at a local museum, so you throw out your schedule completely to take your 5 year old (Even if it means having nap time in the car. Oh, the horror!).
But a Schedule Is Still Necessary!
I had absolutely no schedule when my first daughter was born. Life was hectic without a schedule! As a WAH mom, I ended up working in short bouts for the entire day and often till the crack of dawn. There was no agreement about chores, so things like grocery shopping never got done until the fridge was empty (is it any surprise that my first marriage fell apart???).
A schedule will bring calm to your life. It also helps hold every member of the family accountable, because everyone is responsible for their own tasks on the schedule.
Differences between SAHM and WAHM Schedule
I personally enjoy being a WAH mom much more than a SAH mom. It helps me balance family and career – I get to spend a lot of time with my daughters but not be with them all the time (you have to leave in order to miss your kids, haha!).
It also takes stress off of my husband because he isn’t the sole financial provider. That means he can work less and spend more time with the kids – something most fathers want but aren't getting.
Of course, this is all contingent on the fact that I love my job and I’ve got a husband with a flexible schedule and I can afford a part-time nanny for when I’m working.
I’ve got mad respect for stay-at-home moms because it is very demanding to care for children all day, every day plus be expected to keep the household running on top of it! As much as I love my girls, I don’t have the patience to be with them all the time. Housework I definitely don't love.
If you aren’t sure which is right for you, here are some of the differences between a SAH and WAH mom schedule:
- SAH moms don’t get nearly enough respect for the incredibly tough job they have!
- A SAH mom schedule is a lot more flexible. Being a WAH mom requires a much stricter schedule.
- As a WAH mom, any “me” time will come before or after your kids go to bed, or when your partner comes home. As a SAH mom, you can utilize naps for me time.
- As a SAH mom, you are pretty much expected to do ALL the household chores!
- It is very difficult to be a fulltime WAH mom without a nanny or other childcare.
- Regardless of whether you are SAH or WAH, something as benign as a cold can put your entire schedule into disarray – but it’s a lot more stressful if you have work deadlines to meet.
My Stay-At-Home Mom Schedule (7yo plus newborn)
My second daughter was born when my first was 7 years old and in 1st grade. I’m lucky that my husband has a very flexible schedule and we were able to make a schedule without making too many concessions.
I’ll share what my exact SAHM schedule looks like below. But, since every family is so different, I’d rather tell you how I made this schedule.
1. Start by filling in the necessities.
These are the things that have to be done at an exact time. For example:
8:00 – School drop off
12:00 – Lunch
3:30 – School pickup
6:00 – Dinner
8:30 – Bedtime for older daughter
Once you’ve got these scheduled, think about what needs to be done for them to happen. For example, it takes my older daughter 45 minutes to eat breakfast and get dressed for school. It takes 15 minutes for her to get to school. This gets put in the schedule.
2. Schedule Tasks Which Must Be Done
Think about the tasks which absolutely have to be done. AND the tasks which you really want to be done. For example, I can’t stand having an unmade bed. It gives me anxiety to walk into the bedroom and see it unmade! So, that is a “must-do” for me.
Some of my other “must-do” tasks include:
- Making dinner
- Checking homework
- Unloading dishwasher
- Cleaning dishes
- Doing laundry/folding diapers (we cloth diaper)
3. Plan for One or Two Chores Per Day
Here is where a lot of stay-at-home moms go wrong with their schedule. They overshoot and think they’ll be able to do zillions of chores per day.
Then they end up frazzled with a house full of dirty laundry and eating takeout for dinner!
I only try to do one chore per day. Sometimes I have to do two, but try to piggyback these chores on each other to maximize productivity – such as doing the grocery shopping while my daughter is having a playdate with a friend.
Here are some examples of chores I might do in a day:
- Grocery shopping
- Other shopping
- Taking daughter to playdate
- Fixing whatever has broken in the house (toys, a leaky sink, hanging shelves…)
- Scrubbing floors
- Cleaning pet cage
4. Factor in Relaxing and Down Time
I repeat: Don’t make the mistake of scheduling too much stuff to do! Leave a lot of wiggle room, down time, and time for relaxing.
The end result is a daily stay-at-home mom schedule which looks like this:
Wake up routine (breakfast, getting dressed, packing school lunch)
Hubby leaves; drops off daughter at school on his way to work
Unload dishwasher, clean up breakfast, make bed, drink coffee
Baby wake up routine (open curtains, diaper change, nursing, getting dressed).
*My newborn obviously wakes up for feedings before this (usually around 6 or 7am), but always goes back to sleep. I open the curtains at 9am to signal that the day has begun.
- Baby time (playtime, breastfeeding again, putting down for nap…)
- Make lunch and dinner while baby naps so I don’t have to deal with making dinner later
- During one of baby’s naps, I also take a nap
- Go for walk, meet a friend for coffee, or read
- Do one or two chores
- Playdate with friend, go to park, or independent play for older daughter
Homework plus checking homework. If she doesn’t have homework, she practices her reading for 20 minutes and can play the rest of the time.
Dinner (this is a bit hectic with the newborn; sometimes my hubby and I take turns eating dinner if the baby is fussy and insists on being held)
Two times per week I go to the gym to exercise
Bedtime routine for older daughter (teeth, PJs, bedtime stories)
Hubby time (the baby is usually fussy now and falls asleep for the night around 10pm)
Tips for a Successful SAHM Schedule
1. Prioritize Yourself in the Schedule
There are plenty of examples of stay-at-home mom schedules and work-at-home mom schedules online. But you’ll notice that pretty much all of these include virtually no time for relaxing. If they do, it is usually as an afterthought – 15 minutes before going to bed. Or, worse, they tell you to take up at the crack of dawn so you can drink your coffee in peace.
I’m a big proponent of the “put your oxygen mask on first” mentality.
If you don’t help yourself (i.e. keep yourself sane), you won’t be able to be a good mom to your kids. Before I started working again, I went to the gym 2x a week and went out with friends at least once. Sometimes I felt so exhausted that I want to skip out on the “me time.”
But, after forcing myself out, I always felt refreshed. I felt calmer and my kids were much better off for it. So, DO NOT FEEL GUILTY for doing things for yourself instead of always trying to be a supermom!
2. Make Dinner during the Day
It might seem weird, but make dinner during the day. The same goes for any household chores. That means I can actually relax when my husband comes home. It means the difference between doing baby and housework stuff all day versus actually having some time for yourself.
3. Don’t Undervalue Your Work
Being a stay-at-home mom is probably the most undervalued job in our society. We get no pay for it, no 401k, and not much respect – often from our own spouses!
Because of this attitude, a lot of SAH moms start undervaluing all the work they do. This makes them less likely to ask their partners to pitch in because “he’s been at work all day.” Well, you have been working all day too! So make sure your partner is also helping with the housework and childrearing and it doesn’t become a 24-hour job that falls entirely on you!
My Work-At-Home Mom Schedule (Single mom of a 1yo)
My daughter was 1 year old when I separated from my ex husband. Before this, there was no schedule to our life and everything was hectic. As a single mom though, I had no choice but to get on a schedule.
Surprisingly, I found that being a single mom was actually easier – mostly because of the schedule!
I was lucky to find an awesome, affordable babysitter. An energetic 55-year old retired woman from the neighborhood would come over and watch my daughter for 5 hours per day.
Because I only had childcare for a limited timeframe, I had to be super productive during that time. The pressure was good for me. In those 5 hours, I accomplished more than what I’d done when I was work all day long.
Later, my daughter finally got accepted into the affordable daycare located nearby. This gave me more than 5 hours per day to work, but I used daycare time to fit in tasks like grocery shopping (it’s a lot faster to do shopping without a toddler in tow!).
Here is what my work-at-home single mom schedule looked like:
Wake up together, eat breakfast, get dressed, make monster cup of coffee
- Babysitter comes to pick up daughter; takes her to her home
- Go to home office
- Respond to emails
- Update daily work plan
- Start working on tasks
- Make lunch
- Continue working
- Make work plan for next day
- Babysitter brings back my daughter
- Put her down for nap (my girl always took one longer nap instead of two daily naps)
- Depending on my level of tiredness, take a nap with my daughter, finish up work, or take a shower
- Snack time
- Independent play while I make dinner
- Winding down time
Bedtime routine for my daughter (brushing teeth, PJs, story time)
UNWIND! This is when I’d enjoy “me” time. I’d watch a movie (often while folding laundry), read a book, call friends…
*This WAHM schedule stayed relatively the same after my daughter started going to preschool. The difference is that I’d work until 3:30, then pick her up from preschool, and we’d have more playtime.
My New Work-At-Home Mom Schedule (7yo + baby)
I’m very lucky that my new husband has a very flexible schedule. He can also work from home, and can work anytime or day he wants. So, we had a lot of leeway in making a schedule when I decided to go back to work. It was still hard to make a schedule though!
Here are some schedule ideas we considered:
- He works 8-12 and 3-5 during which I watch the baby; I work 12-3 during which time he watches the baby
- He works 4 days per week and I work 2 days per week (alternating who works on a weekend)
- We hire a nanny for 3 days per week, 3 hours per day (11am-2pm). He works 4 or 5 days per week and I work 2 of the days while the nanny is there. On the 3rd day, I don’t work while the nanny is there. Rather, I use it to get stuff done without the baby in tow (such as grocery shopping). Or I use the time for me (such as to go to the gym).
We ultimately decided to go with the last option. It isn’t a lot of time to work, but working fewer hours means I’m super productive. And I’ve got plenty of time to get housework done and still spend quality time with my girls.
Tips for a Successful WAHM Schedule
1. Enlist Help
Back when I was a single mom, I was lucky to find an affordable babysitter to help out. Now that I’ve got a contributing partner, I don’t have to work as much so only need childcare for 9 hours per week.
This help is the only thing that makes my work-at-home mom schedule possible.
Yet, for whatever reason, there is a stigma to hiring a nanny. Don’t fall into this trap! There is nothing wrong with hiring help and it doesn’t make you less of a supermom!
If you can’t afford a nanny, then reach out to other WAH moms. Watch their kids for a few hours per week in exchange for them watching yours.
2. Take a Nap
Forget those stupid “productivity” gurus who tell you to fill your every waking moment with activities and self-improvement. If you don't slow down, you WILL burn out.
I like to slow down so much that I actually fall asleep 😉
I try to take a 20 minute nap every day. This is enough time to recharge myself. Afterwards, I feel refreshed and my productivity increases. Try not to nap longer than 20 minutes though or you’ll feel groggy instead of refreshed.
3. Don’t Try to Do (Much) Work While Your Kids Are Awake
I’ve read a lot of work-at-home mom schedule examples. A lot of them (like this one) schedule 1+ hours of work while their kids are doing independent play.
With older kids, this might work. But I could never get my daughter to play by herself for more than 15 minutes at a time until she was 4 years old.
I would sometimes do small, mindless tasks while my daughter was playing by herself. But save any real work for naptime or after bedtime. Otherwise YOU WILL GO CRAZY trying to work while your kids are awake. Worse, you’ll lose the energy needed to go into hyper-productive mode while they sleep.
4. Don’t Try to Get Work Done before the Kids Wake Up
This WAHM schedule advice I got from A Mother Far From Home. (I’m not a morning person so I would never try this anyway).
She used to try waking up 2 ½ hours before the kids to get work done. But then the kids would wake up right when she was getting into the flow of things, making her feel RESENTFUL when they woke.
It’s much smarter to wake up a bit earlier than the kids to enjoy some “me” time. Save work for after the kids go to bed so you can actually finish whatever work you start.
5. GET OUT OF THE HOUSE!
As a WAH mom, the boundaries between home and work can blur…
You get distracted by dirty clothes and start doing laundry when you should be working…
And then you can’t stop checking your emails when you should be focusing on your kids…
What works for me is to leave the house to work. I’m lucky enough to live in a city with a zillion cafes around the corner from my apartment. I consider these cafes my “offices.”
In the 3 hours I spend in a café, I get done 5x the amount of work I would if I stayed at home (I guess I’m actually a “work-at-a-café mom” instead of a WAH mom!).
If you don’t have a café to go to, then at least make a dedicated work area in your home which is off-limits to kids (and preferably has no view of laundry waiting to be done!).
Whether you are a SAHM or a WAHM, remember: Don't try to be supermom! Make a realistic schedule for yourself and be proud of everything that you accomplish in a day.
“Post-party mess” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by janetmck
“Day 22/365 Breakfast” (CC BY-NC 2.0) by texasgurl
“Happy Homemaker” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by navvywavvy
“Working mom” (CC BY 2.0) by rankun76
“Winter Day 10 – Seeking balance” (CC BY-ND 2.0) by lisaclarke
“Scheduling.” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by John K. Zacherle
“My Mom Wonder Woman” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by a4gpa