Time with your kids without sacrificing the income

Split-Shift Parenting

by Deidra Ramirez

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For a dual income home, the arrival of a child leads to one unavoidable question: "Who's going to watch baby?" Many parents automatically turn to daycare, others to family members, and some simply forego their careers for the chance to raise their children themselves. For those families who aren't fortunate enough to be able to have one parent stay at home full time, there is an alternative. It's "Split-Shift Parenting." A split-shift parenting arrangement allows for children to reap the benefit of having a stay-at-home parent at all times. Yet the dual income they have become accustomed to is not sacrificed.

Children seem to thrive in a split-shift parenting household for a variety of reasons directly related to parental availability and involvement. These aspects are key in children's lives, no matter what age they are. With split-shift parenting, someone is always there to drive the kids to school, attend school plays, and take the kids to soccer practice. Neither parent has to miss work when a child is ill, and both parents get quality time alone with the children.

In terms of education, children also benefit from the one-on-one homework assistance that at-home parents can give, primarily at the elementary level, as opposed to attempting to complete homework on their own in a childcare setting. Children get more out of their homework when they do it with an adult because they can correct their answers immediately and learn why they were wrong. For most children who complete their homework alone, in an after-school childcare facility, it is an exercise in futility. Children tend to rush through the homework in order to be able to play with their friends, thus not paying full attention to the task at hand. While a child can complete an assignment alone, having a parent there to check over it will benefit the child in the long run.

When a child is in daycare 40+ hours per week, parents soon realize that their youngster's impressionable life is being molded by someone other than themselves. In a split-shift-parenting household, the primary exposure is solely to parents, and outside exposure is at their discretion. One benefit of this arrangement is that fathers are forced to take a more active role in child rearing. From cooking and cleaning to baths and homework, fathers must be hands on to survive in a split-shift parenting household. The children also benefit from the qualities that they are exposed to from both parents. Mothers tend to encourage the nurturing and loving characteristics, while fathers tend to encourage the risk taking and adventurous characteristics in children.

Financially, the amount that can be saved through split-shift parenting is tremendous. Full-time childcare for a three-year-old child can range anywhere from $500-$1250 a month, depending on which U.S. city you live in. After-school and summer camp programs can just as expensive, if not more.

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Parents can also save on decreased doctor visits. Studies have shown that children who are in daycare also have increased frequency in illnesses due to exposure to more germs in daycare facilities, leading to more costly doctor bills for parents. While exposure to illnesses at an early age can build up a child's immune system before entering elementary school, it can also cost a parent quite a few missed days of work.

As a split-shift parent for three years, I can tell you first hand that there are as many disadvantages as advantages to this arrangement. However, if you address these issues beforehand, it can save you many headaches in the future.

  • Discuss with your partner the effect that split-shift parenting will have on your relationship
  • Determine whether the arrangement is something you can maintain for a long-term or short-term period.
  • Determine whether this type of arrangement will affect your current job.
  • Decide whether you are willing to pursue a different career that will allow you to participate in split-shift parenting.
  • Decide on when you and your partner will have "alone" time.
  • Arrange times when the entire family can spend time together.
  • Discuss the division of household duties, children's schedules and expectations for your partner.

Not every family's careers or lifestyle will allow them to have split-shift parenting households. Many of the answers to the questions above will help you to determine whether you are able to make the change to this type of parenting arrangement.

Reviewed October 2017

Take the Next Step

  • Find out how to make split-shift parenting work for your family.
  • If you need to use traditional childcare, make sure you consider these 8 ways to reduce the costs of childcare.
  • Is your family heading for debt trouble? Many families are and don't even know it. This simple checklist can help you determine if you are and what you can do to avoid it.
  • It's tough raising kids today! You need every time and money saving idea you can find. That's why you'll want to get our free weekly Dollar Stretcher for Parents newsletter. You'll find great ideas designed just for parents that will help your family 'live better...for less'! Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE.

Deidra Ramirez is a wife, mother of two boys and a Marketing & Public Relations specialist who has practiced split-shift parenting for 3 years.

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