A Day in the Life: Work-At-Home Mom with 3 Kids (4.5, 3, 1 and pregnant)

Written by Kate Tietje, Contributing Writer

I’m a busy mom.

Obviously I’m not alone!  Is there really a way to be a mom and not be busy?  Probably not.  I guess if you’re rich and you can afford a live-in nanny…but how many of us are in that boat?  I know I’m not!

I am the owner of the Modern Alternative family of websites (there are now four — Modern Alternative Mama, Modern Alternative Kitchen, Modern Alternative Pregnancy, and Modern Alternative Health) as well as mommy to three, soon to be four children (ages 4.5, 3, 1, and due in Mar. 2013).  I also cook constantly and do lots of other homemaking tasks, and I homeschool my kids.  

I get asked all the time “how I do it.”  I assure you there’s no magic involved!  Nor do I really get it “all” done — impossible!  Today I’ll let you into our home to see just how it really goes down.

This is one way I get my kitchen chores done…the kids join me in The Learning Tower and “help”

Our Busy Mornings

We have two different “main” schedules in our home.  On Mondays, Wednesdays, and every other Friday, I don’t do any work and we don’t necessarily go anywhere.  We might have a playdate, but we don’t have anything regular scheduled.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays I work in the morning, and every other Friday we do our big shopping day.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we all get up around 7:30.  I usually sit with the kids for a half hour and wake up, snuggle, talk, etc.  Then I head into the kitchen to do my basic morning chores and make breakfast.  This includes things like emptying the dishwasher (and reloading as needed), filling my Berkey water filter, filling the ice trays, possibly mixing more ingredients into soaked dough so it can rise, getting meat out to thaw for lunch/dinner, maybe sweeping the floor, etc.

The kids sometimes help with these jobs but not always.  As they get older they’ll have more formal jobs.  Usually they are responsible for their clothes, their playroom, and a few other small things.  These jobs happen more randomly.  When we move into a new house in a few months hopefully, we’d like to get chickens and plant a big garden, and these things will be part of our morning chores and all the older children will help.

Typically I have finished up these chores and have gotten the kids settled at the table with their breakfast around the time the babysitter arrives, which is at 9 am.  I take my breakfast and head upstairs.  No one’s dressed, but the kids usually do some messy play in the mornings so I prefer they do this in their PJs anyway.  We get dressed usually in the early afternoon.  With the babysitter, they usually spend some time outside (often playing with water in the summer), maybe paint or do another art project, build Legos, etc.

I spend the next three hours answering emails, writing blog posts, checking in with my editors and contributors, scheduling Facebook posts for the rest of the day, and so on.

At noon, I head downstairs, pay the babysitter, and get the kids started on cleaning up their playroom, if needed.

On a non-work day, I usually spend much of the morning going back and forth between playing with the children and doing work in the kitchen (sometimes we get dressed early, sometimes not.  I don’t like to get us all dressed if I know we’ll be doing messy activities at home anyway — I’d rather mess up our “blah” clothes than our nice ones.  If we are going out, obviously we get dressed!).

I am spending more time in the kitchen than usual lately because it is preserving season.  I am constantly trying to cut up fruit or vegetables, boiling things down, and processing in the water bath.  I spend 3 – 4 hours a day many days working on this.

In a few weeks when this season is over, we will spend more mornings going on play dates or out to do fun activities as a family.  We’ll also do more homeschooling activities, but we are “unschoolers” so formal/planned activities aren’t as common as doing whatever interests us and learning as we live.

On Fridays, we have breakfast and then head out by 10 am and are usually out until 2 or so, hitting a variety of stores all over the city, then home for naps.

Calmer Afternoons

Either around noon or so on “off” days (except shopping Friday) or after I am done working, I head into the kitchen to quickly prepare lunch.  I try to keep a pre-made option on hand that can be reheated, or something I can make easily.  We like to do pita pizzas, meatballs, pigs-in-a-blanket, etc.  Lunch is usually ready around 12:45.  We eat, then if it’s nice, head outside for awhile.  If it’s not, we usually watch TV.

Around 1:30 – 2, it’s quiet time.  I watch the baby for signs of being tired, and when he is — I take everyone upstairs.

The kids typically all still sleep, although my oldest sometimes opts to read or color in her room instead.  They all must have quiet time, though!

While they are sleeping, I usually start dinner, do more dishes, work on canning, laundry, or work on my blogs.  It depends on what most needs my attention at that time.  I usually do several different things, tying up any “loose ends” on my mental to-do list.

The kids get up around 4, give or take an hour (my oldest and youngest like to sleep a lot less than my middle son).  We usually have a snack, and often head outside for awhile.  Sometimes we play soccer together (my 3-year-old is doing his first sports ‘team’ this year!), take a walk, or just wander around doing whatever looks fun.  Often we are outside until Daddy gets home.

Once Daddy is home, the kids usually go play with him so I can work a little more while cooking dinner.  If it’s nice out, he will take them on a long walk and/or to a playground.  If it’s not, they’ll curl up and listen to music or watch movies together.  Sometimes they build forts or work on science projects.

One of our silly post-nap-time adventures: a toy bathtub full of water

Family Evenings

Dinner time is around 6 or so, possibly later if they’re out for a long walk.  By 7, they’re usually settling down for the night — taking baths, getting into PJs, listening to some more music with Daddy, etc. while I am usually in the kitchen, finishing up any last-minute chores: dishes, making a bedtime snack for us, setting dough to soak, etc.

Every other Monday I go out to a Toastmaster’s meeting from 7 – 9, and every Wednesday we have AWANA at church from 6:30 – 9, so the kids don’t have much Daddy time on Wed. and they go straight to bed when we get home.  I volunteer at AWANA so it’s a busy night for all of us! Sometimes we have an evening appointment with the midwives or the chiropractor too.

At 8 it’s bedtime (for the kids).  We take turns going into all the kids’ rooms and singing songs, giving snuggles, and I nurse the baby.  Then Daddy is the last one in each of their rooms before they are put down for the night.  Since we make a point to get them outside a lot they usually fall asleep quickly.

We finish up anything that’s left in the kitchen, then head upstairs to sit in our bed together, have a snack, and watch TV until around 10, when we go to bed.  The baby usually wakes once per night to nurse and needing a diaper change, but otherwise we all sleep.  Then we get up the next day and do it all over again!

Routines and Thoughts

Our days are very predictable and very busy.  The only somewhat frustrating thing is not being able to spend much time with friends.  Tuesdays and Thursdays are automatically out because I work in the mornings and afternoons are family/quiet time.  Every other Friday is out due to shopping.  Usually Mondays are out too because we need to rest from busy weekends and do several chores.  Wednesdays are our only opportunity and even then I hesitate since we’re out so late on Wednesday nights!  I wish our schedule were a little more open, but there’s no way that I could keep up with blogging and homeschooling (and homemaking, and…) if it were.

There are trade-offs.  I don’t do as much blogging work as I used to and I have more of it — which means I need to make some decisions there.  The house is often not as clean as I wish it were.  After canning season is done we’ll have a little more free time, at least.

I wish we did more formal Bible/Jesus time, but that doesn’t seem to be how we roll.  We talk about Jesus randomly throughout our days and pray when we feel the desire to do so.  He’s very much a part of our daily lives but not a scheduled, specific-study part.

I’m still struggling with this one, trying to figure out if we really ‘need’ scheduled Jesus time if He flows so naturally with our daily activities and thoughts anyway…for now I’ll leave it as it is.  (I always feel guilty when I read about families that specifically study the Bible multiple times a day and do devotions and first-thing-in-the-morning scheduled prayer time because that is just not what we do.  I often don’t feel like a very good Christian mom.  Though as I said, Jesus is alive and well in our home and frequently is a part of our conversations.)

That is what life looks like in our home!

And a sidenote… Kate’s awesome ebook Simply Summer, which has over 30 fresh, seasonal summer recipes is 50% off now through Sunday (Sept.23) with coupon code ENDOFSUMMER. 

Do you struggle to balance your schedule and fit in “all the good things?”

About Kate Tietje

Kate is a work-at-home mom to (almost) 4 kids -- Bekah, age 4.5; Daniel, age 3; Jacob, 1; and baby #4, due mid-March 2013. She is married to Ben, a wonderfully supportive husband! She blogs at Modern Alternative Mama, where she writes about natural health, real food, parenting, and all things “green.” She also recently launched Modern Alternative Kitchen, a site about traditional cooking, and is about to launch Modern Alternative Pregnancy. In her “free” time, she enjoys sewing, crafting, cooking, and playing with her children. Follow her on Facebook!

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Comments

  1. I don’t spend the time teaching God’s Word with my youngest that I used to with my two oldest children. Life is certainly busier now. But like you, our faith permeates our day and certainly comes up in conversation, prayer, lifestyle choices, etc., throughout each day. I love Awana and feel like it picks up some of my slack in this regard. I am always amazed at how much scripture my kids memorize through this fun program.

  2. Joanna Drechsel says:

    Hi! I’m a mom of 1.5 yr old boy and 3.5 yr old girl and we are homeschooling her. I have to say, I do set aside morning reading and prayer for myself, but with the kids, Jesus is just with us always and every chance I get I talk about Him and relate any given situation to Him to my 3.5 yr old. I don’t think you have to have time specifically set aside, when He’s with you anyway, it shouldn’t matter if it were planned or not. My little girl loves Jesus and will often interupt our bedtime prayers (where I pray that she’s always love Jesus ect) and she says, mom why do you say that I DO love Jesus! So the little times throughout the day works for us too:)

  3. Very inspiring Kate. I know how it feels to be a work at home mom and it can be really difficult especially if you dont know how to manage time. Do you think being a work at home mom has some disadvantages too?

    • Sure it does. There are times I wish we had more free time. There are times the kids don’t want me to leave when the babysitter comes (and other days they’re like “Mom, leave, we’re having fun!”). It’s only 6 hours a week but still…. Plus I am ALWAYS busy. There’s really no ‘down’ time. I’m actively working, cooking, cleaning, or playing with the kids pretty much all the time. A slower pace isn’t really possible. I usually like it that way but not all women would. Plus, sometimes if something doesn’t get done or I’m on a deadline I have to work when the kids are around, which I don’t like to do, and that can be frustrating for all.

  4. I love to get a glimpse into other moms’ lives! God bless you all as you work throughout your busy days to get everything done that needs to get done and raise your kids “in the way that they should go.” I have older kids than most of you–9 1/2, 7 1/2, and then a little one, 2 1/2. My older girls have become such a help. They have a set daily chore chart that includes both work around the house and their nightly devotions/memory verse. My favorite verse for them right now is: “Kind words are like honey, sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” Proverbs 16:24. (I like to make them quote this scripture to me when they are fighting like cats and dogs!) I’ve also re-launched a Christian-themed blog, so it helps for them to see my personal commitment as well.

  5. Thanks for your honesty, as always…I, too, feel anxious about not having “Bible time” every day…we do read a Bible story and pray before bed, but it doesn’t feel like enough (especially as a more unschooling family) when you read so many families are doing morning devotions together and all Christian curricula all day long and evening Bible and prayer time and on and on…so easy to compare and feel “less than”. I appreciate you!

  6. Thanks so much for sharing your story. I have 3 boys (just turned 3, just turned 2, and an 8 1/2 month old). I work part-time from home and feel like I’m constantly on the computer checking e-mails or some other paperwork or just reading facebook posts. I don’t feel like the house is ever as clean as I want it to be, but I hate cleaning. I bought a bunch of materials to formally start homeschooling my 3 year old this year, but I quickly learned that formal school at this age is just not likely. He loves doing “school”, but I just don’t make the time to prepare and schedule it in. I love schedules, but actually following them is a different story. I bought a formal religion curriculum for pre-k and want to start doing it with him, but have not yet. We pray at meals (usually b/c my 2 year old reminds us) and at bed time and that’s about it. But we have a lot of social activities with a women’s group and a homeschool group that I’m involved in and so they get lots of socialization. I wish I could do better – clean the house, cook better food, do arts/crafts, but that’s just not me. I’m involved in a lot and my list seems to get longer, but I like the appreciation I get from my different involvements so I’m not ready to give anything up right now. I know when the boys get older and need more structured school I will have to back-off on some things, but I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who doesn’t do it all. I will definitely read more of your posts/sites. Thanks again.

  7. I was almost laughing when I read this post today in my inbox. It’s nearly identical to my Monday post!! We have just now begun a semi-structured Bible time with all our kids (7, 3, 2, 1 & pregnant!). The 7yr old has had Bible curriculum for several years, but we’ve just started doing daily devotions with the others. SHOWING them how to love and act like Jesus goes a long way! Keep it up!! Sounds like you’re doing GREAT!
    Blessings,
    Annette

  8. Hello – we dont have a scheduled bible time. I do always make sure we read the bible/have bible stories every day….er, well most days! I have 7 – from just turned 3 months to my oldest will be 8 in November and I homeschool & have a handmade home soap business and we have a small farm, and I sew, and….well you get the idea. I feel like they are only little once and you can only do so much. We go to church every time the doors are open and God has a presence in our home that is for sure. We just take one day at a time and do all we can :)

  9. I’m in a similar boat as you are it seems! I have a recently turned 5 year old, a just turned 4 year old, a just turned 2 year old and baby number 4 is due at the end of November! My hubby is a firefighter who works 24 hours on shift and then 48 hours home ( in a year round pattern ) I’m a SAHM and I just started unofficially homeschooling our oldest ( officially starting next school year ) My days seem to go pretty much identical to yours ( even same nap and bedtimes ) it is crazy, fun and stressful at times but I am just thankful and blessed to have this opportunity in life :) I am happy that I found your blog, it’s nice to know there’s more than one Mommy that really does know how I feel!

  10. This sounds so much like our days! I only have 2 kids for now, there will be more I”m sure. But we also have a laid back schedule, a routine we’re comfortable with. We love to be outdoors and I also work/blog from home, I’m a social media manager for a small business. We don’t have any structured Bible time either, but my toddler often asks to read the Bible before bed time, we pray with her, it just blends in with the every day. :)

  11. I bought a copy of your Real Food Basics a while ago and was just reading it this morning! I appreciate you taking the time to share your wisdom with us. I work full-time outside of the home and my preschooler is at school all day (until I get off of work at 6 pm), so we definitely are unable to fit in any formal Bible time. I’m glad you raised the issue though; I could at least pray with my kids or read them a bedtime Bible story. As for seeing friends, my preschooler sees her classmates every weekday, but we can only see our friends on weekends occasionally — everyone is so busy and we all live a bit far from each other.

  12. We do a family Bible time but it works for us. Sometimes that also becomes my own personal Bible time for that day. I wish that were different. No one does this perfectly!! As long as its a part of your day in some way I don’t think you need to worry about it. For us its only about 10 minutes and its nothing overly formal. We read the Bible, each prays if they want to, and we pick a song. We also talk about what we can be thankful for. Thats it. Every family is different you need to find what works for you.

  13. I am just echoing what has already been said… But don’t feel guilty one bit about not scheduling Bible time. When kids are all so young, it’s hard to do much of anything a schedule anyway. I am not diminishing the importance of teaching your children about the Lord, but just the opposite! The Bible says to talk about Him as you walk, as you go about your day, as you instruct your children, and as you lay them down for bed. You are loving them and He is flowing thru your family naturally, and not just compartmentalized to one part of your day. You ARE doing a great job! Keep it up. Thank you for the honesty of your post!

  14. Anything extra is hard in this season when your house is full of littles! As for scheduling Bible time, I would say you’re doing a good job. If you feel like you need more, there is an index card box tutorial….. I think it’s a Charlotte Mason thing, not sure. But it’s very easy to put together (although it takes a little time initially), and then you have a wonderful system used to memorize Scripture! We implemented this a few months ago and it has been great. We get it out at meal time (we shoot for breakfast but sometimes it doesn’t happen so we do it at lunch or dinner), so we don’t really have to add anything to our already packed day. It only takes 5 minutes per day, sometimes 10. We talk about what a verse means before we stay memorizing it and then we just say it together. Super simple. Wish I was on the computer to find a link but my phone does not have that capacity. But maybe there is a way to implement something like that?

    Also, I’ve heard that around age 5, kids become net assets (they are more helpful than they are work), and I am seeing this in my own house as my oldest recently turned 5 and it has been great! I say “Please do the laundry” and she does it, no supervision needed. Not all the laundry, but some aspects of it! So rest assured, it gets easier as they get older! You’re doing great!

  15. Just where does the homeschooling part come in? I don’t deny you’re a busy woman but I don’t think you can really claim to homeschool

    • We unschool. That means we don’t have scheduled homeschooling activities. We don’t do workbooks or curriculum. If we take a walk outside I’ll make a point to talk about the names of plants we see or how and why the trees are changing color. At different times the kids sit with me and “type” on my laptop and name their letters and sounds while they do it. We watch “How It’s Made” sometimes. We take field trips to farms or science museums locally and explore different things there.

      So while our homeschooling day may not look like others’ days — we don’t have “circle time” or scheduled lessons or workbooks — that does not mean that we don’t homeschool. Besides that, my kids are young and formal lessons are neither necessary nor beneficial at this point in time, in my opinion.

      Everyone’s education journey looks different. Just because someone’s doesn’t look like you think it should doesn’t mean it isn’t legitimate.

  16. God said “Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”-Deuteronomy 6:7 (HCSB). It sounds like you’re doing that. It doesn’t say anything about a specific scheduled Bible time. Most of the time my kids won’t sit still or listen anyway. It’s a joke. So we just look for teachable moments and try to read books that encourage certain character traits and go over Awana stuff when we can. Heck, I can’t sit still and have someone read from the Bible to me, so I can’t expect my kids to sit. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t spend time with Jesus.

  17. This question is for anyone to answer: how much do you pay a babysitter? I’m in the Midwest in a medium-sized city. I am much to embarassed to ask a potential babysitter how much she would charge. I did have a mom babysit for us back in 2008 and 2009 and we paid her $9 per hour but my husband thought that that was too much.

    So, anyone who pays a babysitter please answer.

    • Typically when my babysitter is here (I am in central OH), I am just upstairs working. Since she is not “fully” responsible for the kids, if something were to happen I’d be able to jump in at a moment’s notice, I pay $5 an hour. If I am out, though, and she is “fully” responsible for them, I pay $10 an hour. I have a homeschooled 15-year-old and this has worked out well for us.

    • I have occasionally hired someone during difficult life seasons (not on a regular basis as I don’t blog etc) and it depends on a few things. It depends on if I am home, or not, and it depends on if I am feeding them or not, and it depends on what we can afford at the time or if its also a way to bless that person. I am in Canada. I pay between $8-10 an hour. Usually $8. $10 seems to be average around here but if I am home and its only the older kids being looked after then I pay less. I don’t think I’ve gone below $7. I think it also depends on how many children are being looked after and their ages- the younger they are the more I might consider and the increased # of children especially young ones the more money I would consider. I don’t think I’d ever go above $10 though. Yesterday I paid $8 for two kids (3, 6) with me home and me looking after the baby. But I really needed her so I felt that was worth it to me.

    • I work two afternoons a week outside of my home. We have three children (5.5, 3.5, and 18 mo). We have a homeschooling family of girls who take turns (in pairs) watching our kids (they were hesitant to go it alone when they first started working for us, back when then youngest was only a few months old). Two of the daughters will come one day, then the other day the mom and a third daughter will come. We pay $15 an hour, but we are in the DC/Baltimore area, and it is worth it to us to pay that much even though the kids are napping/resting for 2+ of the 5.5 hrs that the sitters are there. They also almost always bring a craft project for the kids to do after nap time and frequently do dishes, general tidying, and sweeping (which I’ve never asked them to do, I think they just get bored during nap time). Theoretically, they eat from our pantry for lunch/snacks, but I’ve found enough trash/recycling to know that they bring some of their own as well.

      I think we are on the upper end of the curve in our area (although that depends on who you’re talking to), but it’s worth it to give me a little time in the office each week.

      When we’re gone in the evening (which is rare), we’ll usually do a slightly lower rate (probably $10-12/hr), primarily because they go to bed pretty soon after we’re gone, leaving the babysitter to just watch movies or whatever.

    • My almost 13 year old daughter gets paid about $9/hour for babysitting. We live in Alberta, Canada. This is just for one child although she wouldn’t expect any more if the family had two or three children.

  18. Oh, Kate, don’t feel bad about not having scheduled “God time” if it is already a natural part of your life. Especially in this season of a lot of littles. As they get older, you may decide to do a “circle time” in the mornings and/or evenings where all the kiddos sit at your feet and you tell them stories from the Bible, stories from your own walk with the Lord, memorize verses together, sing songs about Jesus, etc. But, for now, don’t worry. It’s more important for kids to see that Jesus is a part of every part of our lives, every day of our lives, versus just someone who gets fifteen minutes here and fifteen minutes there. Ya know?

    • I agree with Alana. We just naturally talk about life and Jesus throughout our day. I’m sure that when it’s time for a more structured Bible study that you will be able to include that and hopefully still keep the “Jesus flow” that you already have :)

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