Juggling work and kids can be slightly stressful but we always try to find ways to make the parenting partnership work in our favor.
What about when you work totally different schedules?
Like ships passing in the night.
My parents had a relationship like that for years when they both traveled. They would leave sticky notes on bathroom mirrors when they wouldn’t see each other for days, sometimes weeks. They made it work.
Now, my wife and I are somewhat in the same routine.
I am working close to home in an 8 am – 6 pm M-F job. We are excited that after almost 8 years of long commutes, I now can be door-to-door in 6 minutes. When I was unemployed, Lo took a retail job with great family benefits. She loves the job and we need her to keep it due to the benefits and the income. With the boys not year in school full-time, she can’t work the day shift. So, she works “nights.”
She leaves for work at 4:30 pm and I’m home at 6 pm. She’ll get home at 12:20 am and I’ll be up by 6:30 am.
The weekend schedule varies but the majority of the time, she has to work both weekend days.
Making sure the boys have someone with them is one thing. Then, there’s the errands, the house stuff, the bills, etc. We cannot sit together and do bills together.
We miss dinner together and I feel like a single mom on those nights. It’s never “easy” but it’s “easier” to do dinner, homework, baths and bedtime for two little boys when you have 2 parental units tackling it all.
And I’m sure Lo wishes she wasn’t the only doing the daytime stuff either.
And when you do get to see each other and talk, the conversation starts out like “oh, there was something I had to tell you a day or so ago, but I forgot what it was.”
On the occasions when the boys spend the night at their grandparents’ house and Lo gets out early from work, we get excited about being able to clean, rearrange something or, God forbid, sleep.
I know there are millions of families that are working opposite schedules, partners of military personnel, and millions of single parents out there. I have the utmost respect for them. Raising kids is hard, really, really hard. And it’s a teeny, tiny bit less stressful when you have 2 parents working well together. (I guess if you don’t work well together, maybe it could be more stressful having 2 parents than one).
We really have the best of the opposite schedule situation in our house. Lo sometimes has stuff ready to make for dinner when I get home, she does the bills and shopping, the laundry, and all of the stuff that single parents have to do all on their own in addition to work and transporting children around.
I think we are doing well with the current situation. We are a good team and we’re trying to keep the communication going as much as possible. We both admit it’s not perfect or ideal, but we cannot complain, especially since we are both very, very thankful to have good jobs right now.
Hopefully, it won’t be forever and once the boys are in school full-time, we can make some adjustments.
But I have learned a few things lately about being an adult in this scenario and I’m sure the learning curve will continue. Here’s what I’ve learned (at it doesn’t mean that we are good at actually sticking to this, but we try):
- Sticky notes are a good thing. Not always for reminders or communicating something practical, they work for saying “I miss you. I love you”
- When in-person and phone conversations are infrequent, try to make them not ALL about the kids. Stick some personal checking in questions in there as well.
- Even if you are trying to cover more than one parental role, don’t make yourself crazy if you don’t master a task that’s not normally “yours.” For example, when I am solo with the kids on a weeknight, the dinner may consist of chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese and the bath time may involve a longer and messier bath. It’s all good.
- Know when it’s more important to answer your child’s needs for attention versus finishing the dishes in the sink. When time is crunched and you really want to go to bed, you want to multi-task. Plus, most 5 and 3 year olds constantly want their parents’ attention, you can’t always accommodate them. But know when you can let a dish soak, change out of your work clothes later and sit to help with a Lego project for however long is necessary.
- Don’t lose focus on the little things in the adult relationship (no, not that – that’s an entirely different post), i.e. a kiss on your sleeping partner’s cheek when you leave or arrive home
- Sometimes, it’s okay to put off one errand to have lunch together on a random Thursday when the kids are in school. Even if it means eating a homemade sandwich in a running car outside the office.
- When you have a night together (with or without the kids), enjoy each other’s company. It doesn’t need to involve going out to a restaurant for a romantic date night, it can be just making nachos for dinner and watching an awful movie together on the couch.
- You need a few extra car seats. To avoid a big problem (it’s happened), when one parent drops the kids somewhere and another picks them up, you don’t want to constantly remove seats for various reasons and let’s be honest, it’s easy to forgot to leave one. We have 2 kids. We have 4 car seats. And occasionally, when we have an extra child or two for a day and all 4 are in the minivan, my after-work routine will involve driving to Lois’ job to bust into her car and get 2 car seats back. Maybe we need 6.
- Keep it fun for the kids. I’m sure they’d love to have both of us around all of the time, but we’ve made a routine out of some of the craziness.
- Try to do things all together when you can. When we are both off from work, we want to have dinner all together or do something where all four of us are participating. Family game night works wonders!
For some research and opinions on the effect of parents’ shift schedules on kids, see: