My Struggle to Make It Through Split-Shift Parenting

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I’m due to pick up my boy at 4:40 on the dot from daycare. That means I must leave work by 4:30. The problem? It hasn’t always been happening. You see, to save on child care cost, and to minimize the time our son spends at daycare, my husband and I agreed to change our work schedules to opposite shifts. Monday and Tuesday, I work 8-5.  He works 12-9. Tuesday and Thursday, it’s opposite. Friday, my mother comes to watch the baby from an hour away. To keep the “part-time” rate at our daycare, parents cannot exceed 5 hours per day or 20 hours per week. This makes Monday and Tuesday stressful. Due to a 20 minute commute for my husband from the daycare back to his work, he must drop the baby off by 11:40 — and I must pick him up no later than 4:40.

The first time I’m late, it’s only by a few minutes.  My job can be hectic and I do my best, but lately it seems to be harder and harder to leave on time.  The next time I’m late, I don’t arrive until 5 p.m.  I drive dangerously fast to the daycare, cursing at every *&#$^!% who gets in my way and tears are starting to swell by the time I get there. This is not how I want to start our evening together, so I wipe away my tears and tell myself it will be better tomorrow.

Tomorrow becomes today, and I’m late — again. It’s nearly 5. I go through the same ruthless anxiety on my way to get him, and on the way home I realize — I may not be able to do this anymore. It’s more than being late. It’s getting home and being stuck there without my partner until 9 pm. The weather in Indiana is unpredictable and usually terrible during the spring, so I can’t go for a walk. Baby and I have played every version of Wheels on the Bus, Peek-a-Boo, and Gotch-ur-Nose I can think of.  We’ve read every book (of which we probably have a hundred) multiple times. We’ve been to the mall too many times to make it interesting anymore.

To make matters worse, split-shift parenting makes chores hard to get done. I used to pride myself on a squeaky clean home. When I got pregnant, I realized some of that may have to slip a little. But mountains (I mean, a freaking mountain after 2 days) of laundry? Who used that many dishes today? I won’t even comment on the number of hair bunnies that waft lazily through the house from our dog, who also requires attention.

Finally, I miss him. I miss my partner desperately. We have no family in town, so it’s hard to do a date night.  Thankfully, the daycare offers one once a month (bliss!), but I miss the day-to-day interaction with him. Seeing him with my son, laughing and playing together. Usually, by the time the late person gets home, baby is already in bed. It does give us some time to catch up, but we’re usually too exhausted to chat beyond a 20-minute window.

I shared my fears with my husband. Fear that we may drift apart if this continues. Fear that if we do change to full-time daycare, just for the sake of our being together, that our baby will suffer somehow. Although, he does get at least one of our undivided attention at all times minus those 20 hours a week in daycare. Still, I would rather it be both our attention together.  A family.

After much discussion, I feel slightly better. I discover he has been feeling the same way, and we agree to wait and see how we feel when the (awful, terrible, yucky, wait, why do we live her again?) Indiana weather gets nicer. The days will get longer and warmer, which means walks with the baby and the dog in the park, getting out, seeing new things without the hassle of bundling and wrapping our baby up like some slow-cooker pork roast. He’ll start to be more independent too. Soon he’ll be toddling around, able to entertain himself a bit better, which means perhaps a few more loads of laundry that get folded instead of repeated eight times through the dryer to be “ironed.” We also agree to sit down soon and do a new budget to see if, a big IF, we could afford to do full-time daycare at least one of those days out of the week and then work the same shift.

The problem is, just adding 15 minutes over your part-time limit is $40 per week. That’s over $2,000 more per year. It’s like saying we’ll give up a family vacation for full-time daycare. That’s huge, right?! But I know some have it worse. Some parents do split-shift overnight, so they only see each other for a few minutes when one gets into bed as the other goes out the door. I’m glad we’re not in that situation. When I really think about it, we’re pretty lucky. Baby gets time with friends at the daycare but plenty of one-on-one time with us. We still have our weekends (unless one of us works).

My point is: It’s hard. When you are in love with your spouse, and in love with your child, and at the same time watching a budget carefully, finding a balance is difficult. Open communication with your partner is essential. I feel good about being on the same page with my husband and feel good about our plan. I can’t wait for sunnier days ahead!

How has split-shift parenting worked for you?

Plus, more from The Bump:

A Day in the Life of a Work-at-Home Mom

What Being a Working Mom is (Really) Like

A Week in the Life of a Working Mom