Working 2nd Shift With a Family: How to Remain a Solid Unit

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So I have been hearing whispers, actually, I should say more cries for help from shift workers trying to balance the 2nd shift whilst also having a family. While having the heroic, “you just make it work” attitude is effective for some, it’s not awfully helpful for most. So let’s dive into more practical solutions on how to juggle family life and work 2nd shift.

How to work 2nd shift with a family? Working as an honest, transparent team with your support network and treasuring the time you do spend together makes managing family life and the 2nd shift possible. As for the kids, being an active parent involves not only being smart with your roster but also your time in making every moment count.

Mother and father sitting with child with leather boots | 2nd shift with a family

Now I want to reference the fact that this post caters to parents who are currently in a relationship, however, there are a large amount of 2nd shift workers out there who are single parents. You have a whole new level of amazingness and albeit not all points here may apply to you. So alternatively, we invite you to check out this post specifically for single shift working parents. We hope you can take something away to ease life’s current rigors.

This post will dive into how to not only survive but thrive when managing three important things. Your marriage/relationship, being a great parent and working the 2nd shift. For some, this careful balancing act seems impossible. But we strive throughout this post to not only change your thinking but also give you tangible tips to make your situation as “family-friendly” as possible.

I have broken this post into four parts which you can click on to access the area you want.

  1. The pros of the second shift you may not have considered.
  2. How to manage your marriage/relationship and the 2nd shift
  3. Being a great parent while working 2nd shift
  4. Managing 2nd shift with a baby

Working the 2nd Shift – What’s to Love About This Schedule?

Like any shift work situation and roster arrangement, there is a HUGE variation in opinions on the 2nd shift depending on individual circumstances. Such as how many kids you have, do you work weekends, travel distance to work, relationship status, etc.

While the second shift does present some awkward challenges most of us would prefer to avoid. Limited family time at night and assistance with getting the kids bathed and into bed we wouldn’t ask for. However, the 2nd shift can be doable – even with a family.

To get the ball rolling and to prove my point, I wanted to give you a list of the pros of working 2nd shift with a family. I didn’t bother with the cons as you probably already know them and exactly why you’re here reading this article.

Daycare benefits. Pro #1 – Less of your hard-earned money going towards childcare due to both parents being available at varying times of the day. Pro #2 – Your child spends more time with you rather than in the care of a stranger.
Strengthens relationships. Both in regards to communication and needing to spend your time wisely together. It’s all about quality, not quantity.
Midweek days off – If your 2nd shift is on a rotating shift work basis, you often have a day off during the week you can spend either with small kids, cleaning up around the house, enjoying some “you time” or attending to scheduled appointments.
Sharing the load with looking after the kids as you and your support network are often on different schedules. This can lead to less feelings of one party doing more than the other.
Financial reward due to working “non-sociable hours” – sometimes up to $200 extra per week.
Body clock friendly shift. The 2nd shift works well with your body clock and sleep schedule (unlike the 3rd shift) which means when you do get family time, you’re likely feeling more energic and well rested.
Interesting opportunities at work as the shift is often busy and management is still present to give direction and provide teaching opportunities
 Avoiding peak hour traffic
Able to enjoy a sleep in

So now you know why the second shift may not be as bad as you thought, it’s interesting to think about how you got here in the first place.

Is the 2nd shift all you have ever known? Did a family member work the second shift so you are used to it? Or has your relationship been shocked by a new work arrangement and you’re struggling with being thrown out of normality?

The reason I wanted to bring this up is that I am a firm believer, particularly in this situation, that how you view the 2nd shift schedule and its impact on your family differs greatly depending on how long it’s been happening.

If you started the 2nd shift job back in college, it’s all you and your family know so you’re used to it.

The same goes for the rotating shift worker who’s recently moved to the 2nd shift and simply accepts the new role because “that’s how to system works”.

But you could be in the third category where you’ve elected to work the second shift for a number of personal reasons but now it’s testing your relationship and family unit.

Which one applies to you?

Just keep this in mind as you continue to read this article as it may impact on how you view changes you NEED to make and how your attitude can influence the whole family.

What is the second shift anyway?

The second shift generally starts between 1pm and 4pm and runs until 11pm and 2am. The second shift is a necessity and often very busy in industries such as nursing, film production, medicine, hospitality, customer service and security.

Related posts:

Family dinner | 2nd shift with a family
You don’t want to miss out on this do you?

2nd Shift and Your Marriage/Relationship

I remember saying to Dan while working a bunch of 2nd/late shifts in a row…“We feel like ships in the night”

Do you feel like this too? I’m not going to lie, working the 2nd shift while having a family is hard and it’s not easy by any stretch of the imagination.

Sacrifices will need to be made and some super honest discussions need to be had on a pretty constant basis to keep everything afloat. Which I personally think makes your marriage stronger and is not a negative point.

If you and your spouse/partner want it bad enough you will make time and you will find a way to make the 2nd shift work with a family.

In life, I think we make time for the things we care about the most. Even if you think you don’t have time somehow miraculously, if you want it enough, you find the time.

But while you work the 2nd shift, this time WILL look different forcing you to tweak long-standing habits and modifying the way you normally do things. Yes, it can be annoying and painful at times, but it’s totally worth it for your “better half” and your family.

Here Are Some Tips for Making Marriage Work While Working 2nd Shift With Children:

Talk. Talk. Talk.

If you don’t communicate with each other (even about the bad stuff) this will not work.

If you don’t feel comfortable communicating something negative over the phone, wait until the weekend when you see each other face to face. Just don’t enter into a conversation to “get something off your chest” at 2am when you walk through the door. This isn’t fair.

“Sleeping on it” can give you clarity and allow you to see the situation from a different angle.

“Pick your battles” but don’t get into the habit of “letting everything slide” because it’s easier not to say anything. This will eat you up and cause more problems.

Related post: Night Shift Is Killing My Marriage. How to Stop It Happening

Be a Team, Appreciate and Reassure Each Other

While you’re out working providing for your family, just remember your partner/spouse is also (potentially working their own job) AND looking after the kids.

Don’t underestimate how hard this “second job” of looking after the kids is. Never call it “babysitting” when you are in charge as this will REALLY rev up your partner – and not in a good way.

I once heard a nursing mom say, “I feel like a married single mom.” In a partnership you never want your partner to feel like this so make sure you’re a strong team, appreciating and reassuring each other when times are tough.

Related post: How Can I Sleep When My Boyfriend is Away?

Learn to Make Weekends Really Special

While your roster may be all over the place, the rest of your family is likely functioning on the traditional 9-5 Monday through Friday routine.

Whatever time you have available on Friday night till Sunday evening – use it wisely. Try not to drink too much alcohol if on a date night or having a “few drinks” at home and end up falling asleep on the couch at 5pm wasting away the night.

Instead, organize a babysitter and take your partner out on a real date. Explore new restaurants, go to the drive-in and just have a fun, light-hearted time with each other.

Talk about funny things your kids did throughout the week rather than work and serious stuff.

Related posts: 5 Impressive Date Ideas For Those Working Opposite Shifts

Couple laughing | 2nd shift with a family
Remember to laugh and not take each other too seriously

Make Time For Each Other

Can you have a lunch date with your partner/spouse before starting your job mid-afternoon?

I know most “normal” couples enjoy dinner dates, but you need to be happy and content with having lunch dates instead. Don’t focus on the time of day and rather the time you’re spending together.

Help out With the Housework

I’m sure you’ve come home from a shift and the house is like a bombs gone off. Literally. There is toys, food, dishes and washing everywhere! And how did you feel? Like you’ve come from one job to the next without a break?

Wouldn’t it be nice for your partner/spouse to come home after a shift in the afternoon and you’ve tidied the house? That is my kind of luxury.

It can work AMAZINGLY well to keep the love alive too, as silly as this sounds. So for even an hour or two in the morning before a shift, once the kids have gone to school – go crazy!

Mop, clean, mow the lawn, fold clothes, wash the dishes, any help is welcomed help.

Surprise Your “Better Half”

Imagine walking in from a shift and there is a love note from your kids and breakfast on the table waiting for you. Lovely right? Why not do this for your spouse/partner from time to time. Particularly if they are working on the weekend or you have switched schedules.

You and the kids could even organize something epic on the weekend if you all have the time off.

Related post: Shift Workers Guide to Valentines Day: Work and be Romantic

Take It in Turns Sleeping In

Do you both need to get the kids up and ready for school?

It might be more effective (in some cases) for one person to sleep while the other gets the kids ready for school, then swap the following day. Take it in turns to ensure you are looking after each other and your health.

Prioritize Sleep When You Get Home to Be the Best Version of Yourself

I know what it feels like to be completely wired after the 2nd shift with no hope of going to bed before 4am. But you have to try.

Your spouse/partner and kids need you to be at your best the following day. BUT I also can fully appreciate that for some of you, this time is “you time” and you actually look forward to it.

Finding the right balance between what works for you AND your family is key here. But being open to the possibility of shifting “you time” to the morning should not be out of the question.

Even if you are willing to try and sleep earlier, how do you make this happen? Here are a few options:

Limit the amount of light your eyes are exposed to between finishing work and going to sleep – Wear blue light blocking glasses while watching TV and scrolling on your device 90 minutes before bed – See which ones we love here
– Don’t bring your phone to bed. Use a traditional alarm clock if you need which also has some handy “sleepy” features like these ones we reviewed here.
– Wear an eye mask – See our review post here
*Click here to see our recommended sleep aids via our shift work tools page.
Winding down with purpose– Listen to meditative sleep music
– Listen to an adult storybook in the dark
– Use a white noise machine – See our favorite here.
– Stream relaxing nature sounds like rain or a thunderstorm via YouTube.
Click hereOpens in a new tab. to explore our recommended sleep music with videos.
Be smart with your food and drink selection– Avoid visiting the take-out store on the way home – even though the cravings are intense!
– Eat a filling dinner at work between 5.30-8.30pm and eat a small filling snack once you get home like guacamole with raw veggie sticks or warmed veggie frittata
– Don’t have coffee or alcohol within 5-6 hours of needing to sleep
– If you suffer from reflux, work out which foods are causing this and make smart choices next time – as this pain can be very consuming!
Can’t sleep?– Meal prep (whip up some soup or prepare kids lunches by cutting up some fruit into smaller containers and making some sandwiches so they can take it to school
– Check out our weird but effective sleep tips here and how to fall asleep when you’re not tired here.

Can’t sleep after the 2nd shift?

Changing your sleep habits and establishing a routine in the few hours after work can make a HUGE difference in how quickly you can wind down and fall to asleep. Don’t be afraid to try a new technique for the sake of your family.

Related Posts:

Working 2nd Shift With Kids

Missing on nightly “family time” can be hard for both your child and you. But don’t let your sometimes crappy roster win the battle and take back control.

Here are some helpful solutions to working 2nd shift with kids:

Use the Mornings Wisely

Depending on your shift finishing time, are you able to rise earlier and help get the kids ready for school? Are you able to help get them changed, make their lunches, make sure they eat some breakfast and even do the school drop off?

While the mornings are often not “special bonding times” and are more a “controlled storm” as I once heard it described, it allows you to work as a team with your partner/spouse and spend extra time with your kids you didn’t have before.

Be a Part of Their School Work and Projects

Be interested in what your kids are working on at school and know what they are struggling with at all times. Ask your kids to leave their homework out on the benchtop so you can check it and have a look once you get home. You can use special stickers and even leave sticky notes for them to read once they get up.

On your days off or even on the morning drive to school you can chat about their projects and homework tasks to keep yourself up to date with what’s going on and make them feel valued.

Pack Notes in Their Lunch Boxes

Getting a secret note from mom or dad which none of the other kids receives makes your bond incredibly strong – even if you don’t get to spend much time with them during the week.

The note only needs to be short for maximum impact.

Related post: Trick to Best Communicate as a Shift Work Family

Take Control of Your Roster

Are you able to request particular days on and off? Is there flexibility to swap shifts with a workmate if something important arises?

Learn how your system works and manipulate it to suit your family. When children are involved try and request time off when big events are happening like:

  1. Parent-teacher interviews
  2. Sporting events
  3. Project presentations
  4. School production evenings
  5. Summer break

You never know what can happen with your roster when you ask the right people in your workplace early enough.

Man sitting with boy on step outside with ball | 2nd shift with a family

Rostering tip #2:

To allow more time with your kids on Friday night can you work Sun-Thu rather than Mon-Fri? While this does mean you’re working Sunday, you can have play time on Friday nights which is often a fun family night as there is no school the next day. Even if this is not permanent, it can be an effective change in the short term.

Related post: Best Shift Work Roster Scheduling Tips

Volunteer at the School

If you start work between 2-4pm, why not volunteer some time in the mornings to help out at the school in your child’s classroom?

This is not only a great time for your kids to “show off” their incredible, shift working mom or dad but it allows you to spend time with your child and keep track of their progress.

Use Video Calling Regularly

Are you able to take a break around your child’s bedtime? Are you able to video call your partner’s phone and say goodnight to your kids?

While this is nowhere near as good as the real thing, it’s still effective for all concerned and gives you both something to look forward to.

Make Sunday Family Fun Day

I know Sunday is also NFL day for the fans of American football, but don’t spend every single weekend watching the game live.

It could be boring for your kids and they would secretly prefer to throw the football with you in the backyard rather than watch TV.

For a change, look up local family events occurring in your area, go on a day trip, visit the zoo, anything which gives your spouse, kids and even yourself something cool to look forward to.

Sunday is often a family day for the whole community and people often book and organize events to enjoy and share this time together.

Before committing, talk to your partner about what you will and won’t attend. If you and your family only have Sundays together, treasure this, even if that means skipping other events from time to time.

Can You Come Home for Dinner?

Depending on your proximity from work and home, are you able to spend your hour’s break at home with your family enjoying a meal together?

Though this could be a rare luxury due to the distance, it can work really well for some families.

Tips for Working 2nd Shift With a Baby

This situation requires brutal honesty, teamwork and the utmost support for your partner/spouse – oh and getting help!

Here are some helpful tips for making 2nd shift work AND having a baby.

Be Honest

Nothing is ever too silly or embarrassing to say. You are both learning. There is no “one size fits all” handbook.

Get Organized

Your time will be split between three things and three things only at least for the first few months – work time, sleep time and baby time.

Using a physical schedule or roster to write down who is managing what and when will ensure time clashes are figured out early.

It’s better to know when you are going to need help sooner rather than later.

Work With Your Employer

Be honest about your situation. Reassure them that your seemly odd roster requests are only temporary and are likely to change once your child grows.

Also, this may be a stretch, but it might be worth asking if there are any work opportunities that can be done from home, particularly in the early stages.

Get Help

Working 2nd shift while juggling your partner’s job at the same time will most likely require you to lean on others from time to time. This doesn’t make you incompetent in case you are feeling like this.

Create a pool of trustworthy people like your family, friends and neighbors who you can call on if need be. If you don’t have a herd of people around you can ask, check out the 24-hour daycare centers in your area if your budget allows.

Check out this post we wrote, which actually targets single parents, but has some great information about finding help.

Stay Connected

Being available when your partner/spouse needs you is important, particularly while you’re learning how to be a parent for the first time.

Ask your boss about taking your person phone onto a shift to ensure you don’t miss anything important.

Moms – Express at Home If Possible

If your partner/spouse is home with your baby while you’re at work, make sure they have enough breast milk stored to ensure feeding is a smooth process – both for the baby and partner!

This Hands-Free Pumping BraOpens in a new tab. from is HUGELY popular and worth a look. The other option could be On the Go Tote, Double Electric BrOpens in a new tab.east Pump also from It comes with a decent-sized tote bag, electric pump and an abundance of bottles.

The moms and dads RAVE about it in the reviews. Check it out here.Opens in a new tab.

Make Time for Uninterrupted Sleep

Without it, you’ll likely make more mistakes and be irritable in the short term, while also damaging your health long term. See Is Night Shift Bad For You? 11 Truths Uncovered.

Take it in shifts and be respectful to each other. Sleep deprivation, in the beginning, is inevitable due to constant feeding times, but work together and do everything you can to allow for a sneaky nap where possible.

Stay on Top of Your Finances

You now have another mouth to feed and the bills can add up quickly if you’re not paying attention.

Seek advice if you need help from a financial planner or a trusted family member who can give you unbiased recommendations.

Also, remember to ALWAYS check your payslip and report any issues quickly.

Be Positive

Millions of parents are making this work around the world and you can too, even if the light at the end of the tunnel is a dull speck right now.

Always stay on the same team with your partner and match each other’s priorities.

Related Post: The Complete Guide to Managing Night Shift with a Newborn

Dad reading | Family | Working 2nd Shift With a Family

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Summary: Working 2nd Shift With a Family: How to Remain a Solid Unit

While working the second shift with a family may not be “easy”, it’s not impossible either.

Work with your spouse as a strong, transparent team to ensure you are both staying healthy, eating well and getting enough sleep so you can be the best parents you can.

Treasure every moment you have together as a family, saving “you time” for the commute to work or the mornings you’re alone at home. Remember we make time for the things we want to make time for.

Good luck to all the shift worker moms and dads!


Emma signature |

Disclosure: This page may contain affiliate links, meaning we receive a commission if you decide to make a purchase through our links, but this is at no additional cost to you. Please read our disclosure and privacy statement for more info.

Baby sitting on mans shoulders | 2nd shift and having a family
Man and son standing with no shirts outside | 2nd shift and managing a family
Family walking outside | Managing 2nd shift with a family

Emma @ The Other Shift

Hey there! I'm Emma Smith a passionate, Registered Nurse from Australia. Together with my husband Daniel, we run The Other Shift. Our sole aim is to help shift workers and those on unusual schedules find balance between work and life. I understand the challenges of fitting in exercise, maintaining relationships and getting enough quality sleep, but I'm excited to show you that it’s possible to do shift work and still thrive. Read more about us and our story here.

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