How “part-time parenthood” works for us

Guest post by Oddjob Sally

By: D. Sharon PruittCC BY 2.0
With the increase in visibility of stay-at-home dads, my husband has a hard time describing himself. A month ago, I went back to work 30 hours a week and he cut back hours at one of his two part-time jobs. This works out so that four days a week, he is at home with our baby, and three days a week, I am. To call himself a stay-at-home dad is not entirely accurate, but he’s not “baby-sitting.” He is part of a growing number of people who are splitting shift-work and child care between them.

I knew a couple a few years ago who split childcare between them by day and night. One worked as a night-shift nurse and the other was a daytime front desk manager. This basically meant they also took shifts sleeping. I can’t imagine how that played out in their relationship — but it can’t have been easy.

For my situation, we have the perfect “flexible” jobs that allow us to move our schedules around to maximize our incomes while not having to pay for childcare. It is not the payment itself for childcare that we have issues with, although that was a huge consideration for us, but rather that we feel our daughter is too young (ten months old when I returned to work) to be deprived of her one-on-one special parent time. So we have committed to having one of us at home with her while the other works until such a time as we feel she is old enough to be taken care of by other (for us, older than two).

The upside of this situation is that we found out that my husband IS the better stay-at-home parent. This could be because he really didn’t enjoy his “on call” job very much, or it could be that he hasn’t spent the last 10 months 24/7 with a little baby happily suckling his nipples, but he is happier at home, gets more done than I ever did, and our baby is a happier camper for him. Instead of me waiting for him to get home at question mark o’clock from his crummy job, he knows I will be back at lunch time for breastfeeding, then at 4:30 on the dot for more breastfeeding. We get supper on the table together, take a walk as a family, then both tackle bedtime together. Sometimes we even have time for sex.

And furthermore, neither of us is suffering from gaps in our resumes. We are both working part time at jobs we enjoy (his weekend job is awesome) that will hopefully blossom someday into full-time work. While we wait for that, we can budget our buns off and enjoy this special time with our little baby.

The downside is we have few entire days off together. When he was working two jobs he made sure to take at least one day off a week (after working himself into burnout). Now, with him working three days and me working four, well, no days off for the three of us (for now!). This means we miss each other and neither of us feel like we are fully getting a “break” of sorts, since break time is baby time. It means hanging out with our friends with the baby but not each other and it means we have to work extra hard to give each other special attention.

But all in all, having two part-time parents is working out well for creating balance in our lives — without a “stay-at-home” mom or dad.

Comments on How “part-time parenthood” works for us

  1. I love this post. I just recently quit my 9-5 to have a more flexible work-from-home several part-time jobs/businesses life. We won’t have kids for a couple more years but this is prep for this kind of lifestyle when we do.

  2. My parents did the day shift/night shift working thing, even into us entering school; there was always someone in the house if anyone was unwell or got sent home.

    I hope to be able to do something like this with my husband one day. We’re students now but I hope to work as an English as a Second Language teacher and he’s working towards becoming a lecturer. Who knows what the future will bring, but hopefully our jobs offer enough flexibility that we can take turns staying at home. And even more hopefully, maybe we could wrangle days off together.

    Who knows if that’ll be possible, but that’s what we’re aiming for.

  3. Good for you guys!

    I was lucky growing up to have both parents at home for awhile – dad was a farmer, mom didn’t return to the workforce until my brother and I were in elementary school. So when we were ill, we’d get to stay home with dad. (Which was pretty awesome.)

    My husband and I both work full-time, but I’m lucky enough to work from home. We have childcare in the AMs and hubby is home by 3 PM. I schedule phone calls for when there is someone else at home so I’m not interrupted (this works about 90% of the time), otherwise – I try to play catch up during naptimes and when husband is home for the day.

  4. That’s pretty much how my husband and I are doing it, too. He works 7 on, 7 off, so when he’s off I’m working and when he’s working I’m off (and by off, I mean home pulling baby duty). It does present some challenges, but 8 months in and things are working out well.

  5. My husband and I are negotiating what our work arrangements will be after our first child is born (very soon!), and considered something like this, but never having a day off together seemed too hard to me. (The job he would have been working on weekends was also not awesome, so that helped in our decision-making.) It is interesting to hear how this works for someone else.

    • This sounds similar to my situation. My husband worked weekends while I worked during the week, and he really didn’t like his job. It was kind of ok for almost 2 years, because he knew it was only for 12 hours a week. One day he just “had it”, and we decided we would be better at budgeting and be happier with weekends off together. Now that our second baby is almost here, there seems no point in him going back to work any time soon since we will be so busy.

  6. Shift-work has been awesome for my family too! I’m a nurse (p/t nights) and my partner does tech support and is on a different shift every month. I love the flexibility it gives us, and the things I’ve been able to participate in, like school trips, that I would not have been able to swing if I worked conventional hours. One of us is always home for the kids and we’re extremely fortunate to have doting grandparents nearby as well. Oh, and if you have a partner who snores, sleeping in shifts is just dandy! 😉

  7. We have a similar arrangement in our family. We couldn’t afford for either my husband or myself to stop working after our daughter was born, and we couldn’t exactly afford daycare full-time either (nor did we want to leave her with strangers five days a week). I have a traditional Monday through Friday office job, whereas my husband has a more flexible schedule at a grocery store, so he shifted his ‘weekend’ to the middle of week which means our daughter gets two days of Daddy time, two days of Mama time, and the rest at daycare. Its a wonderful arrangement for our daughter, but very hard on my husband and I. Neither of us ever gets a real day off, and we never get any time to spend with each other. Whenever we go on family adventures, one of us isn’t there. I sometimes think about putting her in daycare for more days a week, now that we’ve gotten to know and love her caregivers and realized how much fun she has with her friends there, so that we could have more real family time, but we’ve only got another year and a half before she starts at public school, so I figure we’ll stick it out. But I am very much looking forward to having time off with my husband again. Its not something I’ll ever take for granted again.

  8. My mother & step-father had a “late in life” baby in the mid-40s. By then, both were very well established in their careers (at the same company), although due to the nature of their positions (public transit) they worked shifts. Both were senior enough to basically be able to pick their shifts, and therefore for the first 4 years of my sisters life, my mother worked from 5am-1pm, my step-father worked from 2pm-10pm. They’d do the hand off in the parking lot, and Mom would take the baby home. This meant that despite both of them working full time, she never required outside childcare other than when they wanted to do something together.

    Admittedly, that meant that for years they only ever saw each other on their days off (one of which overlapped) but finding daycare that works with shift work is a difficult proposition, so this worked pretty well.

    I work for the same company, and I look forward to combining my weird hours with my husbands 9-5 job. I think we can make it work pretty well. 🙂

  9. My husband & I work shifts too, from the comfort of our home, which means that our little boy is usually at home with one of us while the other works in the office. We’re also lucky to have family nearby who come to look after our little guy on days when our shifts overlap. But he does also have two mornings at daycare each week, partly for his social development and partly so that hubby and I can have a little break! Definitely recommend that if it’s financially viable!

  10. My husband and I also have a similar arrangement. I stayed home for 9 months (with an assumption I’d go back to work eventually, sooner rather than later) but didn’t want to leave my daughter with anyone but my mother, who is not even close to retirement age and has to work still. But then my husband got laid off, and I went back to my previous job and he became a stay at home dad. That lasted 2 months of him going stir crazy, and me becoming extremely depressed as my supervisor was letting his personal life effect his work, and taking it out on me. My husband immediately found a job as soon as he started looking (unheard of!) and I quit and he worked full time.

    The aforementioned supervisor was arrested (personal issues, ahoy) and another coworker left so I was asked if I could do ANY hours at all and we arranged tandem working/stay at home parenting. I work around my husband’s schedule and I love my job now without my old supervisor. We’re doing better financially, and i get out with adults more, and our marriage is actually better than before. We don’t get days off together unless he actually takes off which is difficult, but we makes a lot of time for each other otherwise, and we each get alone time with our daughter.

    It wasn’t always easy when I was a SAHM because my husband’s job was very demanding and I felt like he was never home, and I was adjusting to parenthood completely alone. He also wasn’t happy at his job, and bringing that stress home. Now I love my job, he loves his job, and we’re a stronger unit in all facets for it.

  11. We really hope to do something similar when we have kids, so I’m so glad this is working for you! I can do less-than-full-time and my husband is a musician so hopefully we can figure it out to do 3 days each, ish.

  12. Found this while I was trying to find posts about shift work, relationships and family. I work M-F 9-5, my chef spouse gets a day or two off in the week. We get those two evenings together. And. That’s. It. She’s working round the clock every other day. The great thing is that when we have a bub (hopefully next year) I can eventually go back part time and we won’t have to pay for child care. The problem is, I’m lonely enough as it is without missing the daily interaction at work. Are there other offbeat families out there coping with the curse of opposite shifts? I feel like I’d be better off trying to get a social work job centred on crisis management so that I can work similar hours. But then I’d be miserable. If she leaves her dream job, she would be miserable. How do you guys adjust to being a family that is only ever ‘half’?

  13. My husband and I work opposite hours and it sort of works for us. I’m a special education teacher for a charter school and he works graveyard in casinos. The downside to this is my husband gets very little sleep, so after my summer break, my son will go three half days a week to a daycare/preschool so my husband can sleep. It worked well when our son was smaller and slept more during the day, but now it’s too much.

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