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What Do You Do All Day? Creating a Schedule for a Stay-At-Home Wife

I recently received the following comment:

I’ve been married for 2 years and have been a stay-at-home wife for about 5 months. I admit that I’m a little bummed out. I’m having a difficult time creating a schedule. I read blogs about SAHW’s and they all seem fulfilled, happy, and have things to do all the time. I live in an apartment in a city so I can’t plant a garden or tend to farm animals. I don’t have any children yet. We can’t move out of the city because then my husband would have a very long commute and I don’t want that. I’m literally stuck and boggled down with questions from people like, \What do you do all day?\. I don’t know how to answer them and I feel like a failure at times. I live in a big city where 90% of the women work, the other 10% are SAHM’s. But when I talk to SAHM’s, they pretty much tell me what they do with their children, which I don’t have. I don’t even know what time to wake-up in the morning? Or what to do first thing in the morning? I know that this sounds \crazy\. Does anyone have any advice or guidance on how I could create a schedule? Have any ideas of what you do with your time? Thanks in advance. Blessings to you!

Welcome to a rare and noble calling, a life of incredible freedom and nearly limitless potential for service, ministry, and the creation of order and beauty, and one that can sometimes cripple us with its never-ending choices. There you are, all day. You can do whatever you want. How do you make the most of it?

I was a stay-at-home-wife for three years before my first child was born. I remember the choices, the clueless questions from “normal” people, and the uneasy feelings of being directionless and not necessarily useful during that rough, initial-adjustment period. I didn’t get it “all figured out” back then, and I floundered around a lot. So much of what I’m about to share I learned later, after the transition from “stay-at-home wife” to “stay-at-home mom,” but I don’t think it necessarily has anything to do with having children. I think it’s much more about time in the trenches. And, take heart, five months really isn’t a very long time to find yourself when you’re doing something as radically countercultural as turning your back on the nine-to-five work world. You are doing something valuable and worthwhile that takes a long, long time to master. Be patient with yourself.

OK, so what do you do all day? Here are my two cents on navigating the possibilities. I hope others will have some ideas to suggest as well.

Step 1: Find your vision.

Why are you staying home? What’s your purpose? This forms the basis for evaluating your many options. It’s what gets you out of bed in the morning. And it becomes your “elevator speech,” the brief little life summary you can share cold turkey with people who ask about what you’re doing. It’s also deeply personal, something you may want to pray about and discuss with your husband. Here’s the sort of thing I’m talking about:

I am staying home because I feel called to serve my husband, family, church, and community through creating a beautiful, well-functioning home where my family can thrive and from which we can reach out to meet needs around us so that I can be the kind of woman outlined in 1 Timothy 5:9-10 (“well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work”).

Step 2: Make your goals.

Once you have your big vision, focus in on smaller goals to support that vision. Someone who had the vision I just gave above might have smaller goals such as keeping the apartment neat and clean and beautifully decorated, learning new skills (like interior decorating, quilting, flower arranging, etc.) to support the goal of keeping a beautiful home, studying to prepare for other seasons in life (parenting, elder care, home ownership, etc.), extending hospitality to new families at church, taking meals to families when someone is sick, helping with housework or taking care of children when new babies are born, helping elderly family members or neighbors get to doctors’ appointments or shopping, discipling younger women, and writing encouraging blog posts (I had to throw that one in). Goals, just like vision, are going to be deeply personal and based on each person’s individual talents and interests, as well as the needs around her.

Step 3: Work out the nitty-gritty.

Once you know what you want to do, you have to decide how much time to devote to each thing. Start with your own family’s physical needs and move outward. Figure out how much time it takes you to handle all your laundry, shopping, cooking, cleaning, and beautifying of your little nest, and then take a look at what you have left to devote to “washing the feet” of the needy people the Lord brings across your path.

Next you need to decide when and in what order to do everything. Here, you’ll want to start with your hard constraints like hours of sleep needed, mealtimes, and any regularly scheduled activities. Pencil all of those in first. If you have options about when to go to bed and/or get up in the morning, you may want to just adopt your husband’s timing. It maximizes time together, and gives a little nudge toward making sure there’s plenty of nonsleeping happening in bed, too. If you need more sleep than your husband, you may want to consider scheduling yourself a nap time. Also be sure to give some of your freshest and best time to the Lord.

When your “must do at such and so time” skeleton is made, you can start planning times to tackle your goals. For this, it can be helpful to take advantage of your body’s natural rhythms. I am a morning person. My big energy spurt is right after breakfast, and it gives me a great big boost to hit the ground running, getting my most important and most physical jobs done before lunch. That way, as my energy wanes through the afternoon, I don’t feel depressed about all that I still have to do.

All that’s left is trying your schedule for a while and tweaking as necessary.

You may also want to check out these related posts:
Ideas of Home by me, and Coming Back Home and Home, the Forgotten Realm both by Mrs. Anna T. (Actually, Anna’s entire blog is wonderful and has a strong homemaking focus.)

18 comments to What Do You Do All Day? Creating a Schedule for a Stay-At-Home Wife

  • Very well written. I might also recommend the book “Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House” by Cheryl Mendelson. There is a lot more to homemaking than many women today realize; it might give you some inspiration for taking care of your nest!

  • I don’t know if this is helpful or not, but an article that I always loved is called “I am a Stay-at-Home Wife”, found at http://www.ladiesagainstfeminism.com/artman/publish/Reader_Favorites_26/I_am_a_Stay-at-Home_Wife_12391001239.shtml. It’s been an encouragement to me often…

  • L.

    I was a reluctant stay-at-home wife after I quit my job to follow my husband to his new job posting in a strange city, and couldn’t find any work. In some ways, it was worse because I didn’t WANT to be at home, but in other ways, my wishes made it easier because I would devote time every day to looking for work and improving my skills. In other words, I never lost sight of what I considered my purpose.

    A big step in my adjustment was admitting that I was lonely, that one of the things I missed most about working was the daily interaction with others — and yet I knew there were many other people out there who were desperately lonelier than I was. So I started visiting old people in local nursing homes, which I found to be full of people whose families lived far away and who just wanted someone to listen to their stories. Before long, I was visiting three different homes! I met the most wonderful people, who enriched my life in ways I didn’t expect.

  • Lily

    Something that I found very helpful was having each day to have its own task. Monday was basic picking up and arranging after the weekend. Tuesday was laundry as was Friday. Wednesday was the nitty gritty cleaning and then I used Thursday for the special jobs like cleaning out the fridge or the stove. Jobs that take more time than the usual. This helped me free up my other time for pursuing quilting, volunteering at a Crisis Pregnancy Center and other church activities. This was all before I was a mother though and the schedule has changed a bit since then, but the other one served me fairly well for 6 years =)

  • I was not a stay-at-home wife for very long before I was expecting our first, so I don’t have much practical expirence here, but there is something I would suggest; think about your really long term goals. Where is it you and your husband want to be in 5, 10, or 15 yrs? Is there anything you could learn or any skill you could master now that would make your life easier then? Since I homeschool our children there are several things I have wanted to teach them that I have had to learn right along with them. Sometimes that’s fine, but there have been many times when I wished I had learned something before I had to teach it. Often there isn’t much time to do extra things once the children start comming, or a job would just be easier if you already had the skills mastered instead of trying to learn it with a couple of todlers demanding your attention.

  • Mrs. P, your advice was so good!! I can relate to the general feeling of adjustments that your reader expressed. But here’s a thought. I remember thinking “visiting fatherless and widows in their affliction” was my theme verse during this time. I looked for others to love. I didn’t know any fatherless, but I knew plenty of widows. I worked that into my goals and schedule. But your advice is great!! There’s no reason to be “home” all the time! Let’s work for the Lord, as much as possible whether we are at home with children or not.

  • Absolutely! I was a SAHW before becoming pregnant, and I really regret not making more use of my time. Of course, I *thought* I was doing an ok job, but now that I have a little one, I wish I made time to learn how to sew, knit, become more organized (with my home and my time), and other homemakerly duties we don’t really think about.

    Being a SAHW or SAHM can be challenging because we have so much time at our disposals. When we’re in school or have a paid job, we know our expectations. Here, we set our own. It’s a challenge.

  • What a blessing to be in her situation…I pray that she (and others) will be able to take this great advice and do what the Lord calls her to do!

  • Dear Mrs P, I recommend the book ‘nourishing traditions’ to any sahw who has liitle to do this, will keep her busy for months. Also knitting, sewing and if anything piano lessons- you’ll save a fortune paying lessons for your kids later, teach them yourself.Oh and that’s right german, spanish, french , latin, greek, hebrew plus reading 100′s of classic novels, maybe an indoor tunnel house, the world’s your oyster, go for it!Welcome to the world of homekeeping and homeschooling. From Linda.Plus all those books on right parenting etc etc- good fellowship is the key in the end really.

  • Mrs. P, this was a great post, and I was so flattered when you referenced me in the end. :o)

  • Step No. 1 is so helpful to remember. Everyday it seems “something” comes up to throw my detailed schedule off balance – but when I come back to The Vision, I am able to have a better attitude and do things to the glory of God. Thank you for the reminder. Also, thank you for your visit and comments at my blog. It was so nice to have you stop by. :)

  • Renee

    I really appreciate this blog! I had no intentions on becoming a house wife after many years of working. I recently relocated in order to remarry. I was a single, divorced mother of 3 for several years. I was so used to an overloaded schedule it became the “Norm” juggling work, school, kids activities, church activities.. I never had to enough time. Now, it is complete opposite. The tips everyone has provided has truly lifted my spirits. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed doing “nothing”…lol I thank the Lord for you ladies and your comments.

  • Ariel

    I do apreciate all the tips posted but I do not have a vehicle of my own and we are tight on money right now. So I was wondering if there were any sugestions on what to do with practicly no budget for “hobbys” and no transportation? At times I feel trapped in my house and sooo bored. Once I clean the house and cook meals thats all I have, nothing in between.

  • Ariel,

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. Here’s a little brainstorming for you: read the Bible, memorize favorite passages (or whole books even–when I was first married and didn’t have children, I was able to spend more than an hour a day memorizing and learned half of the book of Proverbs), pray (for missionaries, for crisis pregnancy centers, for the families in your church, etc.) go for long walks (you may even be able to build up the stamina to actually get places on foot depending on where you live), try new recipes, learn money-saving cooking skills (e.g. making your own broth, bread, pasta, salsa, freezer meals for “convenience food”), take advantage of Pinterest and learn to “upcycle” stuff you already have into useful items (like making a bag out of old jeans), learn a foreign language (many libraries have free online programs you can access from home), in fact, learn *anything*–the Internet makes it possible to study virtually anything from home for free, make a game out of saving money (how many pennies can you shave off your electric bill?).

    The key really is to get a vision for what you want to do, not just now, but with your whole life, and then look for ways to move toward that. It’s less about hobbies and more about growth. And growth doesn’t have to cost money.

  • This was such a blessing to read and it felt as if I was lead to read this the reference to God and his word has been my objective. Thank you

  • C.

    I appreciate the tips too. I followed my husband to a new city and am looking for work. Its taking a bit longer than expected, so I’m trying to figure out how to best make use of this time while also enjoying this gift. It gets hard sometimes, and I often feel like I’m not good enough because I feel aimless at home some days. Thanks for the article and the comments here. I’m gonna write down a vision and talk to my husband to find more structure and purpose during this time. :-)

  • MuddPie

    I’ve been a SAHW for a few years now. I also suffer from endometriosis, and i am an unusual case of endometriosis due to the location. Which is part of the reason i stay at home. Because of my condition i could only work effectively part time, though i am not worst enough to be considered disabled. When my husband and i looked closely at our finances we discovered that it would be cheaper and less stress for us to downsize to one car (at least temporarily), and for me to stay at home and manage the house rather then try to bring in a paycheck. For a while i found great energy and passion in it. I started cooking from scratch, budgeting, couponing, canning, and other things to keep our finances in order and our home comfortable. As my disease has progressed i have lost focus. Its hard to be passionate about something when you hurt physically a lot of the time. We have been open to having children, which the doctor has said may improve my condition a bit, but have none so far. Being childless and unable sometimes to do some of the simple, yet more physical tasks, of homemaking has left me feeling depressed. I often wonder what purpose God has for me being a SAHW who struggles with her daily tasks. I found your article encouraging. Even though my house is not perfectly clean, and i can’t cook every meal from scratch, the idea of praying for a “vision” and taking on smaller yet meaningful tasks is inspiring. Also i have overlooked the importance of being in community and serving, something that generally has a flexible schedule. After all, my husband continues to tell me that he thing he loves most about me being at home, is that i am here smiling when he gets here. Its funny and tragic how we often find our identities in the tasks and things we think it should be, instead of where God always intended it.

  • MuddPie,

    Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and taking the time to comment. May the Lord richly bless you as you seek to follow Him. I know He has many ways for you to glorify Him!

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