Tips for the Beginning Homemaker

It’s been exactly one year since my official career change from full-time public school teacher to full-time homemaker. While I still VERY MUCH consider myself a beginning homemaker, I do want to share a few things that I’ve learned over the past year. These are not new ideas at all, and I probably could have easily come up with them if I’d sat down to make a list of guidelines on day one. However, it’s taken a year of really digging into the daily business of homemaking — especially after having my first baby — to really begin to understand how foundational these things are to my mental and spiritual health, as well as to my general success in homemaking.

This list is not exhaustive, and just because it’s on my list doesn’t mean I’m an expert at it. It just means that these are some of the most important lessons I’ve learned and am still learning. I mess up in some way every day, and it usually relates to one of these. And then the beauty of it is that, so far, God has given me another day to try again. Here is my “Top Ten List”:

Know your job title.
Isn’t it awkward when someone asks you, “What do you do?” and you’re like, “Oh, I just stay at home.” Why are we denigrating our worth and propagating the myth that we “just” remain in our houses? Oh my goodness! If I “just” stayed at home, a whole lot of things would go awry. So forget the “just.” Also forget the “stay at home.” Look at that verb! What is it that you do? You stay? Is that really an adequate description of the main business of your day? Not leaving your house? Pooh! As an extension of this idea, I have abandoned the term “stay-at-home-mom.” In its place, I have adopted the title of “Homemaker”! Now that’s a job with quite a description behind it, and a whole lot of worth attached to it. Although both terms are typically treated as synonymous, I just have a totally different image in my mind for each. While the “SAHM” watches TV, plays on the internet, and slowly loses muscle mass in her yoga pants that are really never used for yoga, the Homemaker is hard at work! In addition to the daily upkeep of her house, she’s looking for ways to make it a home. She’s raising children (That’s a tough job, by the way. Why else would daycare be expensive? Ever think about that? It’s physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually taxing. Don’t downplay that.). She’s learning how to be a better cook. Maybe she has a garden. Maybe she cans preserves. Maybe she sews. Maybe she homeschools. But the idea here is that she is busy with an important, lasting, and impactful work. She does not “just” stay at home. For me, calling myself a homemaker gives me something to live up to. It’s a difficult and meaningful job that I am constantly growing into. I do not have to learn how to stay in my house, nor is much skill or effort required to do so.

Have a schedule for your day.
Those who fail to plan, plan to fail, and they end up on the internet all day watching YouTube videos and clicking “refresh” on Facebook. Don’t do that. If you do, then call yourself a SAHM. Ha! Just kidding. But whether it’s a written and detailed schedule you follow, or general outlines in your mind for what you need to do in the morning and in the afternoon, have a plan. It’s like setting goals. You won’t reach them if you don’t set them. Also, establishing routines for my baby has been a lifesaver. He knows what to expect, his little body gets sleepy and hungry at exactly the right times, and it just makes life easier for both of us. I know when we can go out and when we can’t, which almost eliminates public meltdowns — mine or his!

Make Bible study and prayer a top priority. Like brushing your teeth.
Seriously. No matter what is happening, barring a natural disaster, there is never a day that I don’t brush my teeth. Ever. Isn’t spending time with God more important? (Don’t ask your dentist that question.) Seek the Lord every day with a whole heart. Maybe right before you brush your teeth.

Get up early.
This is not difficult if you have young kids, because they will probably wake you up. But if you’re in a situation where sleeping in is possible, don’t make it a practice. It may feel nice to get those extra hours of rest, but generally sleeping in is a recipe for a non-productive day.

Go to bed at the same time as your husband (assuming he has a regular daytime work schedule).
Some people may object to the previous point, saying that sometimes they’re up super-late doing whatever important thing it is that needed doing. My advice to you on that one is to go to bed. If something is undone, leave it that way. If you order your day so that the non-negotiable things get done, while the lesser things are left for free time, then you’re unlikely to be facing late nights with things you “have” to get done. And it’s better for your marriage if you go to bed at the same time. You know what I’m talking about.

Do laundry and dishes every day.
I used to get SO MAD at laundry and dishes, and consequently, at the people who dirtied them. What the heck? Why is ____ wearing 72 articles of clothing in a day? Why did ____ use three different glasses today for water? I JUST washed the darks. I JUST emptied the sink. AAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHH! Okay, and so I was in a constant state of frustration and resentment over people simply living life. Clothes get dirty. Dishes get used. Every day. Multiple times a day. Treat laundry and dishes like showering. It’s fairly non-negotiable. You can skip a day, sure. But skip two… oh man. Now it’s smelly. Just stay on top of it and do laundry and dishes every day. Only the size of your family will determine how many loads per day are necessary to stay on top of it; start with one or two and see how it goes. And skip Sundays. No one should do laundry on Sundays. It’s in the Bible.

Start thinking about dinner around lunch time.
Many, many nights in my house have gone down like this:

Him: (around 6 p.m.) Hey, honey, what’s for dinner?
Me: (responding defensively, wondering why everyone always looks at me asking for food) I don’t know. Do you have a plan?
Him: (responding carefully) Well, do we have anything to cook? Do you want to order pizza? Chinese?

I’m left feeling lousy for not having my act together and shifting the responsibility onto my unsuspecting husband, and he’s left frustrated that the responsibility has been shifted to him at the last minute, but trying to figure out how to balance that frustration with being an understanding and helpful husband. No one wins, and we end up overpaying for delivery and eating too much grease. Ugh. Solution? Make a decision about what dinner is going to be while you’re eating lunch. That gives you time to run to the store for an ingredient, if necessary, or to defrost the chicken, or to do some prep-work during nap time so you’re not so rushed and flustered come early evening. It just keeps everybody sane, and a bit healthier. (As an extension to this idea, it REALLY helps to meal plan for the week and go shopping all at once. Saves gas and time, too.)

Have a schedule for household chores.
So you may have gathered by now that I’m a schedule person. Why yes, I am; nice to meet you! I have lists and charts and calendars, and I love it! Otherwise, I feel like I’m just ambling along, letting circumstances dictate my day, and I end up getting nothing that is very important done. To help with this, and to aid in learning hospitality, I developed a schedule for always keeping my home at an acceptable level of cleanliness. I am not a clean freak, but I am when I have people coming over. So, my early years of marriage were spent in a messy apartment, with a husband who wanted to invite people over, but with me refusing because it was so stressful to clean the whole place at once AND figure out food. Forget it! Let’s meet them at Chili’s! Now, I’ve learned to keep my house generally (but certainly not perfectly) clean all the time by keeping a schedule. Then if we want to invite people over, it’s only a few minutes of extra tidying that needs doing. And besides, we’re just all more comfortable in a clean space.

Be frugal.
Only purchase things you need, and evaluate your definition of “need.” Shop the ads for your groceries — you don’t have to go all over town; Walmart price-matches all local ads — and clip coupons. Look on the discount racks first at department stores, and seriously consider thrift stores and garage sales when you need clothes or household goods. For most of us, the choice to give up a paying job to be a full-time homemaker is a sacrifice, so keep that in mind. No matter how united you and your husband are on the idea that the money he makes is “our” money, he’s human. If you are not making money, but you’re spending the money he makes like nobody’s business on things you don’t need and/or can’t afford, it will be very difficult for him to not resent you. His resentment is his issue, sure, but your wastefulness and disrespect is yours.

Accept that this season of life will be different.
I am a writer. I thought, when I was pregnant and wearing rose-colored glasses, that I would be able to finish my novels while my baby slept. I mean, babies sleep a lot, right?! Ha! I was nuts. What a completely unrealistic plan I had. Maybe if I had a maid, and a nanny… Alas, this is life with little ones. Life will change; babies will grow up, (oh I have a lump in my throat at the thought!), and there will be new opportunities to more fully pursue personal dreams. Right now, my highest calling is to pour into my little one and constantly whisper the love of Jesus to him. And to talk sweetly to him when he accidentally leaks poop down his leg. What better job is there? Oh, but it’s just for a season.

Those are the biggest lessons that I’ve learned, and that I have to remind myself to keep learning very frequently. Tomorrow, I’ll share some of the things that I really still suck at, but I wanted today — my one-year homemaking anniversary — to be positive! What are some lessons you’ve learned as a homemaker?