My Housewife Routine in 5 Stages of Life

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It’s natural to be curious how other people manage their housewife routines, especially if you’re just starting out or are struggling.

Over the past 33 years, I’ve been through all the stages of it: starting as a new bride and growing through the roles of a mom with young kids then older ones, a cancer caregiver, and now where I am.

In that time, being a housewife went from fun to leaving me feeling inadequate, then in time to something entirely unexpected and different.

So, whatever stage you’re in, I’ve probably been there. Here’s the schedule that got me through it all, and some raw truths I learned along the way about being a housewife and being myself.

The Basics of My Housewife Routine

I have always been the type of person who thrives with routines so I don’t have to think about what I’m supposed to be doing or do next. (That probably should have been my first clue that I have ADHD, but it took decades to be diagnosed.)

So, throughout all these years, multiple military moves, two kids, and my husband’s passing, two things have been a consistent part of my housewife routine.

Daily tidying: Early on, I came up with a daily tidying routine. Initially, I did it first thing in the morning. Then, if I got distracted, the house would look presentable anyway.

One room a day: After I’d tidied everything, I’d go back and focus on a different room. This is such an important part of my approach — the key, really:

  • Monday: Kitchen (wash kitchen towels)
  • Tuesday: Bathrooms (wash bathroom towels)
  • Wednesday: Bedrooms (wash bedding)
  • Thursday: Laundry (wash clothing)
  • Friday: Living room (wash throw blankets and continue clothing)
  • Saturday: Laundry catch up and decluttering
  • Sunday: Relax

My Housewife Routine With Young Kids

When I first left my career to stay home and raise our kids, I did what many new stay-at-home moms do: I channeled all the ambition and competitiveness into being the best. housewife. ever. And, to be honest, I nearly drove my husband and I both nuts.

See, I felt like I had to prove to my husband that having me stay home with the kids was worth it. I also felt I needed to prove becoming a housewife wasn’t a waste of my years going to college then law school followed by building a small but busy practice.

So, my routine at that point was “simple”:

  • I’d get up at 5:30 AM and make breakfast from scratch.
  • While the kids took morning naps, I’d do my daily routine.
  • After lunch and playtime, I’d clean that day’s focus room during the afternoon nap.
  • Then I’d start making an elaborate dinner around 3 pm so it was ready when my husband got home at 6.
  • Finally, I’d do the whole book, bath, and bed routine with the kids while my husband relaxed.

Yes, I realize now how absolutely insane that was. At the time, I felt it was what housewives were supposed to do, and that it was expected of me.

What I did not expect was the little drinking problem it eventually led to, or how my marriage was about to start buckling.

Housewife Routine with School-Age Kids

When my youngest reached school age, it was the first time in my life I had complete say over how I’d spend my time during the day.

Naturally, I used the mornings clean even more thoroughly, then filled the afternoon with a series of brief but intense domestic-related hobbies: organic gardening, bread baking, cake decorating, sewing kids’ clothes, canning. (Also an ADHD thing.)

Who, me trying to prove something? Nah.

Also, I added making elaborate lunches featuring home-baked goods to prove I wasn’t slacking off while no one was around.

And another change? After I got the kids to bed, I’d walk past my husband’s den where he’d stay glued to his computer all night and I’d dive into a martini or three.

Wait, Let Me Explain

I don’t want to give the impression that I think this is how housewife routines should go. I don’t. Nor do I want to create the impression that my home was full of wrath and resentment. It wasn’t. The problem was that I didn’t know how else to be and there was a reason for my husband’s behavior, too.

For my part, I hadn’t grown up in a two-parent home. So, I modeled my housewife routine on the two most present role models I’d had: June Cleaver and Aunt Bea. (That’s Leave it to Beaver and The Andy Griffith Show for you youngsters.)

But I didn’t have a scriptwriter, and there wasn’t a cutaway scene when a room went from messy to immaculate in the blink of an eye.

I was a military wife and expected to appreciate the “privilege” of supporting my husband while he served. June and Bea would have, but I just felt alone.

So, I did what any woman in their right mind would do and started this blog so I could convince my husband, myself—and the world—that I was, indeed, the best. housewife. ever. and deserving of love and admiration for it. (And, yes, I now realize how ridiculous that sounds, too.)

My Housewife Routine as a Cancer Caregiver

In 2012, my husband was diagnosed with a lemon-sized, malignant tumor in the area of the brain that affects judgment, impulse control and emotions—all the things straining our marriage.

After the first brain surgery, the doctor said the tumor had likely been growing in there for years. Suddenly, a lot about our home life started making sense.

So much of this time in my life is a blur of grief and fear. I was doing triple duty taking care of the kids, the house, and my husband—whose radiation and chemo treatments were a 1-hour drive away. I did it all as well as I could at the time, but nothing as well as I wish.

I kept up with my daily tidying routine most days, but the focused cleaning often got pushed to the weekend when my husband would mostly sleep to recover from chemo or radiation and the kids caught up on homework and fun.

Within a year, of his first brain surgery, the tumor returned. It was joined by another. And that began one of the hardest, darkest parts of our lives as we battled against the inevitable.

The Widowed Housewife

In the two years we teamed up to fight his brain cancer, my husband and I grew close again. I’d come to realize the unrealistic expectations I’d placed on myself, and he’d come to see how much of my life I’d given to taking care of him and our kids.

Then one day, just after Thanksgiving, he paused a show we were watching and called a home hospice company to have them bring a hospital bed.

A week later, he sat up in that bed and blew out the 56 candles on his birthday cake. It took him four tries, and he never got out of the bed after that.

A week later, he was gone.

When I say that I kept up with my routines throughout this phase, I hope you don’t judge me too harshly. I was terrified, and I clung hard to the only familiar thing I had at that time. Writing this blog had become part of that routine, so I threw myself into it while my son was at school.

The Housewife Entrepreneur

With my husband’s death, I was no longer a housewife, yet caring for my home had never felt more important to me. Or more rewarding.

I helped my son navigate his grief, and I processed my own—not just over my husband’s death, but also the inadequacy and brokenness I’d felt all those years.

Soon, I started branching out on social media. I wrote a book. I began systematizing all the knowledge I’d picked up during a decade of reading every book and magazine I could find about I could find on household management, old or new. (For once, that competitiveness paid off in a healthy way.)

Most importantly, I learned to clean just enough for comfort, and to be not just okay with that but to understand that is all I had ever needed to do.

Closing that Chapter

Now, in my mid-50s, I’ve navigated every chapter of a housewife’s life. I have incredible adult children who amaze me with their inner strength and grandchildren whose futures are full of promise.

One thing I no longer have? A drinking problem.

It turns out, the more authentic I became with myself and with others, the less broken I felt. That gave me the confidence to seek help to understand myself further, which led to the ADHD diagnosis that unlocked all the shame I’d been hiding behind.

When I was young, I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. I became an attorney because my mother always said I’d make a good one. Now, thanks to readers like you, I have become the woman I always wanted to be—and yes, I still follow my daily routines.

I’m certain none of this would have happened if life hadn’t happened exactly as it did. I gave up the future I’d trained for to get the future I needed, and then I was blessed to get the future I’d wanted all along. Thank you.

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7 Comments

  1. I’m just so glad to read this! I read about being dressed by 6 a.m., working out at 4 or whatever and I think oh my gosh I’m a mess! I do things very differently! I always run ds6 to kindergarten in my workout clothes (pre-workout), come home and exercise then do my daily room. I like doing my whole house tidy at like 9 pm. when he is in bed and dd12 is doing her own nighttime routine (shower etc…). I think I’m just a night person! Then I wake up and it’s pretty tidy and I can focus on it at night without all the daily distractions. I always felt that was “weird” since I”m a SAHM who has all school day but does it at night. It just works for me!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      That’s the important thing, Brenda: doing what works for us! I really need to get in the habit of wearing workout clothes for the school run and actually working out when I get home. I keep telling myself that once the weather warms up, I’ll get home and go for a walk (there’s a nice trail not too far from our house). But for now? Brrrr!

  2. Jade Marie says:

    I have good days and bad days. I have a printable schedule that has certain tasks/rooms on certain days. But instead of hold myself to that, I make it a game of sorts. I framed it and I use dry erase markers to make off the days I have completed. I don’t erase them until I go to start the next week, so on Sunday when nothing is left to do, I have a fully checked (on a good week) checklist for a whole day. 🙂 When it comes to my work week, my days don’t go in order. Today, feels like a Monday. It’s a down day for me, so I will do Mondays work, which is sort of light. I find that I typically get all tasks done within a week, at worst two. 🙂 this week has been all sorts of hectic though, so hopefully I will catch it all up again next week. 🙂

  3. I really enjoyed your article! It made me feel better about myself and our routines are very similar! I used to try and make a weekly schedule but it never worked out. The only weekly lists I keep are appointments, meals for the week, && grocery. I do make daily to do lists and it seems to help keep me on track if I find myself getting bored or sitting around doing nothing. 🙂

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Glad you enjoyed it, Nikki!

  4. I been house wife for about 6 years. I have my routine. But my husband and his family don’t like it that much. He complained I been spend way more time for my hobby. And I’m not spend enough time to cook or clean. I’m young. And really active person. I don’t like stay home all day with our pets. It’s so hard to find the balance.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      It definitely is difficult to find the balance. And the balance can shift a lot, too, as we go through different seasons in life.

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