How to Make Split-Shift Parenting Work

by Dollar Stretcher Contributors

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How to Make Split-Shift Parenting Work

My husband and I decided that we wanted to give split-shift parenting a try. We just had a beautiful baby girl! I'm a RN. My husband has a delivery route for a beverage company. He's out early in the morning and home by mid-afternoon. My plan is to take a second shift job at the hospital. We expect that split-shift parenting will mean some adjustments. Can anyone with experience tell us what worked for them and what things didn't? We'd really like to make this split-shift thing succeed.

Parent Communication Is Paramount

Make sure you set aside time weekly for the two of you to talk about your week, discuss issues, etc. before things build up to an unpleasant climax. Set up a journal in which you both write the day's events concerning your daughter, such as what/when she ate or slept, if she needed any meds, what she did during the day, etc. This will make sure you both know what is going on and that her care is pretty seamless. Take photos of achievements to share with each other. You can do this, but communication is paramount!

Create Strong Bonds

I also am an RN. My husband worked day shift and I worked nights or evenings. The one downside was when I worked nights, I was always sleep deprived, but when I worked evenings, it was perfect. The upside is that my daughter had a relationship with her father that was the envy of all her friends, and he knew just what was going on in her life. Even today they are "best friends." Try it. I think you'll really see the benefits very quickly. When I hear horror stories about what goes on in daycare centers, I know we made the right decision.

Schedule Regular Time With Spouse

Make sure that you schedule regular time with your spouse. Split shifts help solve childcare challenges, but you want to ensure your marriage remains strong. I've seen this succeed, but both must be committed to their relationship as primary.

Beware of Relationship Erosion

I would caution you on this course. My ex-husband and I did the same thing years ago, as daycare costs were beyond our reach. He worked early mornings and worked evenings split-shifting the care of our daughter.

This may not happen to you, and I hope it doesn't, but we lost touch with each other completely. We were never able to socialize as a couple and were rarely awake at home at the same time when our daughter was not also awake. As you can imagine, our intimate life together became non-existent. After a time, we were just roommates, and in that atmosphere, we soon became more like siblings than a loving couple. We adored our daughter and became very good at co-parenting, but not at being a couple. We divorced.

If you choose this path, please be aware that this can easily happen and take steps to protect yourselves from relationship erosion due to lack of opportunity to connect and keep focusing on one another and your relationship.

I wish you the best and hope you can navigate this minefield successfully.

Be Sure to Have a Backup Plan

We have three kids and that is what we did. My hubby is a truck driver, and I am a server. You do need to have a backup plan. We had a neighbor who would watch our kids if he got home a little late. It was a rare occurrence, but I had her back if one of her kids needed to leave school. We were both active parents with our own styles and the kids got the best of both of us.

Split-Shift Requires Organization and Simplification

My husband and I worked split shifts for over a decade to avoid the cost of daycare and spend more time with our children. We also co-homeschooled our children at this time.

First, we always scheduled a date night, every week when possible. Even if it was a walk in the park and a cheap dinner, we made time for each other.

Second, we simplified our home, which made it easier to co-clean, co-manage, and co-cook. The slow cooker was our best friend. Decluttering and making our home an easy place to take care of our kids made it easier to hand this job off to each other.

Third, we stayed organized. We had a regularly updated family calendar on the fridge with other family game plans like homeschool weekly plans, grocery lists and menus, and notes on special projects for that week. Staying organized was so helpful.

Lastly, we treated each other with kindness. We tried not to focus on "who did more." We left kind notes for each other, kept in touch regularly throughout the day, and encouraged each other to take time for ourselves.

I'm not sure we ever felt we had "the perfect balance," but we worked together and made our marriage stronger. With one out of the nest and the other on his way too, we have just now started working the same shift and finally have nights and weekends off together. We are having so much fun! The investment in each other was the best payoff of all.

Line Up a Backup Babysitter

Yes, split-shift parenting can work, and we did it with a special needs child. We allowed for an extra hour between our shifts to touch base with each other. In case one of us had to work late, we had a backup babysitter until a parent could get home. We both were off on the weekends, so that helped. We also found that each one of us doing a little something like a load of laundry or fixing something to eat and putting it in the fridge before work helped.

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Parents Need Clear Roles and Tasks

We do this. I work full time from 8:30am to 5pm. My husband works a casual job with 37.5 hours a fortnight guaranteed and other shifts as offered. He works three weekend days a fortnight and one evening a fortnight. I do the parenting on those days. He does all school drop offs and pickups, takes the kids to their activities, and cleans the house on the days he is not working.

On the weekends, when he is working, I cook ahead for the days we are both working. We are hyper-organized. Meals are planned and written in a shared online calendar. We each have our duties. He usually cooks during the week and I cook during the weekends. He cleans, and I shop for groceries and pay the bills. As long as you both have clear roles and tasks, it is doable.

Regularly Spend Time Together as a Couple

We did a similar thing when my kids were young, but we alternated days. My one piece of advice is to spend time together as a couple regularly. I ended up divorced. I wasn't only because of split-shift parenting, but it definitely didn't help.

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