True story – I have a neighbor who asked me if I have a job. I saw him on my way to throw the trash, said hi and without any preamble, he asked if I was working.
Which one, was very odd, because why the fuck do you care?
And two, insulting. It implies that I’m not doing anything productive as a stay-at-home mom.
Is he thinking about what do stay at home moms do all day? How do stay at home moms stay busy? How do stay at home moms stop being lazy?
I hope he gets reincarnated as a stay-at-home mom so he would know how I feel. But I digress.
Being a SAHM can get physically and emotionally exhausting, especially if you have multiple kids.
It can also get lonely at times and monotonous yet unpredictable and stressful.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and anxious and looking for ways on how to be a productive stay-at-home mom, then this article is for you.
I’ve listed here some daily hacks that can help you do your tasks efficiently.
I’m also sharing my mental tips here on how to overcome feeling overwhelmed and stressed when things don’t go your way.
Let’s start with 12 everyday productivity hacks for stay-at-home moms.
12 Every Day Hacks on How To Be a Productive Stay-at-Home Mom
Have a routine
Cleaning routine, laundry routine, errands routine, sleeping routine, even exercise, and skincare routine in the morning and night – just have a routine!
Routines are great as they can give you a sense of structure and control over your life.
Life with babies and toddlers can get pretty unpredictable. So routines and schedules can give you some sanity by knowing what to expect and what to do at a certain time of the day.
You can check out some stay-at-home mom schedules here for some ideas on how moms with 1 kid or more of various ages, have a routine and handle life daily.
Once you get into the habit of doing the same things over and over again, you will run on auto-pilot. This will give you more energy to do other tasks or activities and to be more productive.
My must-have app for practically anything is Notion and for work, Trello.
I can keep every goddamn thing in Notion – to-do lists, reminders, activities, grocery lists, plans, even files, documents, and pictures!
I use Trello for work as it’s like a project management app. I like how you can have a bunch of lists for different types of work activities and add a task under them.
So use apps, they will help you save time and the mental energy to list and track things down. Here’s a list of some must-have apps for moms and well, parents in general.
One important thing to take note though when creating a to-do list is not to overschedule.
Don’t cram everything in one day or one week and squeeze out every free time you have to get more things done.
You will get overwhelmed and burned out that way.
With that said, my next tip is…
List 3 important tasks for the day
List only 3. And when I say important, I mean things that are not in your daily routine, that you don’t do on auto-pilot and that can’t be postponed for any other day.
Laundry, cooking, cleaning – those are part of a daily house routine, so they don’t count. Laundry and cleaning can be done the next day and you can order takeout if you don’t feel like cooking.
Paying bills and insurance, repairing some stuff in the house, filing taxes, talking to a teacher about your kid – those are the kinds of things that are out of the ordinary and need to be taken care of asap.
So list those things down but list down only 3, so you don’t get overwhelmed. As you still need to do your daily routine of cleaning, taking care of kids, cooking, etc.
List it down the night before so you’re all prepared in the morning!
Set aside some time to plan meals for the week.
This will save you loads of time. So you can avoid going into a daily panic of thinking, “What the hell do I cook for dinner?!”
This is also the perfect time to list down all your grocery items. Items and ingredients you will need for the meals you’re going to prepare for the whole week.
You can download my sample one-month meal plan plus free printables by just subscribing to my enewsletter below.
Have a rest day
You need to take care of yourself and fill up your cup, so you can have enough physical and mental energy to take care of other things.
Doing so will not only relax you, but it will also make you less resentful (especially when your husband doesn’t help with chores), more fulfilled, and generally happier.
It will also help you rediscover yourself, instead of just being a butler/maid/nanny/cook/nurse/referee all day, every day.
Have a prep day
Set aside some time to prepare tasks and activities for the whole week.
You can do it on a nightly basis and just prepare what you need to do for the day.
But honestly, I’m more productive when I see my schedule for the week.
I set aside some time in my rest day to plan, create my grocery lists, take note of my important tasks, and spread them throughout the week.
I also write my daily routine, so I have an idea of what time I should be doing some tasks, and to give me more leeway and mental space when things don’t go as planned.
Say for eg., I would schedule to clean up the house for the entire day, but my kid will wake up with a fever so she can’t go to daycare.
So of course, my kid will always be my priority. I set aside any cleaning plans and take care of my kid first.
But I can look at my weekly schedule, look at some free time and try to break up my cleaning up tasks and spread them all over the week.
Clean bit by bit
I find myself getting irritated and stressed out when there’s a lot of clutter in the house.
Especially when it’s not in my schedule to clean up the house and I need to work.
Toys in practically every room, shoes were strewn by the door, dishes in the sink, clothes piling up, the cat litter box is starting to get disgusting – when I see these things, it makes me feel so overwhelmed!
So I lessen that stress by decluttering and cleaning bit by bit.
So what I do for example is the easiest thing first – put the shoes in the cabinet. Then I work.
Then I put the dirty clothes in the washing machine, clean up the cat litter box, then do 1 important task. Then I work.
Then I clear up the toys in one room. Then I work.
And so forth.
Doing so kills 2 birds with one stone. It gives me some breather from work and I also get to clean up the house bit by bit, without getting too tired or overwhelmed.
Let your kids help
I encourage my 4-year-old to help me out with some tasks.
Not just because it’ll save me more time, freeing me up to more tasks.
But also because I want her to become more responsible and be accountable.
So I encourage her to do some easy chores, like cleaning up her toys. Wiping the table. Feeding the cats. Putting her plates in the sink.
This also empowers her and makes her feel confident, allowing her to do more complicated tasks such as preparing her breakfast – spreading butter in her toasted bread, getting the milk, and filling up her cup on her own.
Allow yourself to scroll mindlessly on Instagram. Or play games, like below:
Or watch a tv show, read a book. Something that will take your mind off responsibilities and tasks for 30 minutes or an hour.
If white-collared workers are given a 1-hour lunch break to relax and eat, we stay-at-home moms deserve one too!
Encourage independent play
There are a lot of benefits to encouraging young kids to play on their own.
It can help them focus more, can boost their confidence, problem-solving skills, self-regulate and also enhance developmental skills.
And it can also help you have more time to do more adult stuff!
But it takes some time to learn how to encourage independent play. And it will also take some time for your kid to learn how to play independently.
I highly recommend checking out Jules’ Instagram and website for tips on independent play. They’ve helped me tremendously! She shares hacks and playtime tips, mindsets, looking out for opportunities to teach and learn, etc.
Check out also some open-ended toys that encourage independent play such as below:
Wake up earlier
I do this as it’s quite relaxing.
Just having a few minutes of peace, having some uninterrupted coffee time, is enough to give me the physical and mental energy to prepare me for the day.
So if you can, set up your alarm 30 minutes earlier than your kid’s usual waking time.
9 Mental Tips on How To Be a Productive Stay-at-Home Mom
You can create routines and schedules but there will always be something that’s out of control.
And for those days, you have to be flexible. Have a plan B. Or C if it doesn’t work.
What ultimately worked for me was just managing my expectations. In almost all aspects of my life, for that matter.
For example, if I can’t do my scheduled work and tasks for a few days, because my kid is sick, then so be it.
I can’t control my kid being sick. And plans go awry at times – most of the time if you think about it.
I’ve already managed my expectations that there will be days where I won’t be able to do the things I plan to do and that’s okay.
I’m mentally prepared for it so I’m less stressed and less panicky.
I just do whatever I can to survive for the day or days, when necessary.
In short, mentally hope for the best but prepare for the worse.
Dress up for the day
Some moms find it empowering to get dressed in clothes that are fancier than the usual PJs and sweatpants.
So if putting on some jeans and a nice shirt and make-up will subconsciously prepare you mentally for the day, then by all means – do it!
Think before reacting
We are quick to frustration and anger when we are tired.
For eg., a simple request to play from your child, who doesn’t care that you’re knee-deep in work and chores, might easily trigger you.
It can lead you to unnecessarily scold them, causing them to cry, have a tantrum, which can leave you more distracted, guilty, and overwhelmed.
So if possible, if you’re starting to feel frustrated and angry, pause and think if getting worked up on something is worth it.
It’s also important to take note of your time when taking a break or having some “me-time.”
We can easily lose a couple of hours going down the rabbit hole of Instagram, Tiktok, Youtube, etc.
Or watching a tv show and getting addicted for the next episodes that you’re not getting any decent sleep.
So remember to time yourself when taking a break.
Tell yourself that you will only use social media for 30 minutes.
Or eat while watching your fave show and tell yourself, once you’re finished with your lunch, you’ll stop watching.
It’s okay to relax, do social media and watch every now and then. Just don’t use up so many precious hours of your time to do those activities.
You’ll regret it eventually and wish you used up that time to do more productive things.
Have a productive hobby
If you want to find a more meaningful way to spend your free time, then choose a productive hobby!
You can learn new things while relaxing at the same time!
You can choose something that’s in line with your skills and interests. You may even consider studying something online, like TSA’s diploma of mental health. Or something that you’ve never tried but that looks exciting.
Or something that will make you healthier.
Or something that will help you earn some cash.
Any productive hobby will always trump Netflix and social media.
Some moms can do a lot of things in just a few hours.
Some moms have 1 kid, 3 kids, a mix of babies and toddlers, and older kids.
Some moms are suffering from depression, anxiety, marital problems, financial issues, work-related stress, etc.
So if you start comparing yourself to other moms that are seemingly more productive and better than you, just remember that they might be having some problems you don’t know about.
That Instagram mom that you follow that has the best clothes and makeup might be suffering from body issues.
Your mom friend with a maid, nanny, and driver might be having some marital problems.
That Type-A mom who seems to have everything might be experiencing a lot of guilt and confidence issues.
People don’t openly discuss and share their problems unless they want to.
So don’t compare yourself, your progress, your life to others. You never know what they might be going through.
Just think of how to improve your life. This leads me to my next tip.
Listen to inspiring podcasts
Whatever you put in is what you get out.
So for example, if you keep focusing on the negative, keep hanging out with pessimists, keep negative thoughts, you will become a negative person.
So be careful of what you immerse yourself in – what you listen to, what you watch, the people you regularly talk to, etc.
I used to be a very negative person. I used to focus on the negative things in life and just think of more negative stuff.
Listening to them every day really helped me overcome all the negative talks I’ve been having forever.
It also helped me focus on doing things that can improve my life and my family’s life.
So try looking for inspiring podcasts that would suit you.
Getting cooped up the whole day in the house can get pretty depressing so try to get more sunlight and get out of the house as much as possible.
You can walk to a nearby park with your kids, eat out, walk the dogs, go hiking, exercise, etc.
That will make you feel refreshed and reinvigorated. It will give you enough energy to power through the day.
Mom life can get lonely at times and if you’re an extrovert, this can become an issue.
So try to reach out and interact with other people. Join Facebook groups, online forums, online or face-to-face parenting classes, do volunteer work, get in touch with old friends.
Or just talk to your neighbor!
Hopefully, they’re not a-holes like mine.
Takeaway on How To Be a Productive Stay-at-Home Mom
I have to admit, I had a hard time staying productive for the first 18 months with my child.
I had no “day off,” my kid was so clingy, I didn’t have a solid routine yet, I didn’t have any productive hobbies, I kept thinking negative thoughts and I always compare myself to other moms.
Eventually, I found my rhythm, I found a schedule that works for us, I worked on overcoming my mental issues and now, I’m at my most productive phase. Hopefully, this will last – for good.
So it’s okay to struggle initially, all moms – parents do.
You just need to find the initiative to improve, work through your issues, apply whatever productivity hack you learned every day until it becomes a habit, and do what works best for your family.