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Raising Happy Kids when Mom and Dad Work Opposite Schedules

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We’re a Millennial family, and we’re breaking all the parenting norms. Over the last few months I’ve been the only hand on deck for dinner, bath, and bedtime. John manages home and family during the daytime. He's pretty amazing at fixing his twin girls' hair and picking out clothes for them that match. Even though the last year and a half have been challenging, we’re getting pretty good at raising happy kids when mom and dad work opposite schedules.

This was never our plan for parenting. John and I come from large families, and both of our moms stayed home with the kids while our dads were at work. But that was more than 20 years ago and things are different these days. Ever since we found out we were having twins, life has thrown us a lot of curveballs.

The most recent change was this fall when John got accepted to the university. We are thrilled for the opportunity to make a better life for our family, although it comes with some challenges. Our current situation isn’t ideal. Still, we're doing all we can to keep peace in the family and smiles on the kids' faces.

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What does split shift parenting look like?

I’ll be honest, it’s tough - both physically and emotionally. On the days I pick the kids up from preschool and daycare it takes me almost 2 hours to get home from work. Then as soon as I get in the house it’s time to start Job #2: Making dinner, getting kids bathed and into bed. I only have a few hours with them each night and because I have so much to do it doesn’t feel like I get to spend much time with them.

In the mornings John is on deck getting 3 little ones out of bed, dressed, groomed and out the door so he can get to his classes at the university. He deals with the piles of laundry and day-to-day errands. On top of all that he works nights as a bartender in a restaurant.

It’s a big deal when we get to do something all together, so we make our time count.

Dates look a little different for my husband and I because we're not always home at the same time. On the nights we are both home, we watch one of our favorite shows or order take-out to enjoy after the kids go to bed (ssshhh... Don't tell the kids ;). This year we celebrated our anniversary by taking our 4 kids with us to the zoo, then going out for ice cream afterwards.

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Positive, open communication is essential.

My husband and I are constantly texting about logistics or sending each other pictures and videos of the kids on SnapChat. We use Google Calendar to plan meals for the week and keep track of everyone’s schedules. It also helps to add a healthy dose of humor to the conversations because, let’s face it, parenting is supposed to be fun!

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The kids always come first.

Full disclosure: our house isn’t very clean. I’ll gladly sacrifice tidy rooms for reading an extra bedtime story or coloring in a picture with my kids any day. I know that, years from now, there will be moments when I’ll have carpets with vacuum lines in them and I’ll miss these busy days filled with clutter and crumbs.

If all goes well, John only has 3 more semesters left until he graduates with his bachelors in computer science. After that? Who knows what the future holds for our family. This difficult time is temporary but the end result is to make a better life for our children, so we make the best of it. With a lot of communicating (and a little bit of silliness) I’d say we’re doing ok at raising happy kids when mom and dad work opposite schedules.

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