One Parent Works Days, the Other Nights. It’s Hard, But Not Impossible

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Juggling your home life with your career goals has a number of challenges. Put a kid or three in the mix with busy school schedules and a few balls will be dropped now and again. Add in parents working opposite shifts and your family may find itself scrambling to keep everything from bouncing off in all directions. So how do you and your partner manage a busy household and co-parent when working opposite shifts? 

Nurturing your relationship with your partner, eating together where possible, utilizing a shared calendar, evenly distributing the workload of chores, setting goals and having honest conversations are positive ways to tackle everyday life. Though challenging, it can be short-term. Stick together, continuing to communicate openly and honestly.

Though you’re working opposite shifts, we are firm believers you can still raise happy kids and maintain a loving relationship with your partner. Here are 10 tips to make life easier as parents working opposite shifts.

1. Eat Together as a Family Wherever Possible

Eating together as a family, as often as possible, establishes a designated time to share with each other what’s happening in everyone’s personal life. It keeps an open line of communication for solving problems at home and with people outside the household.

Meals as a family may be breakfast for one and dinner for the rest, but it’s a time of bonding that creates a positive support system for everybody.

Dining as a family provides time to talk and listen to the ups and downs of each other’s daily lives. Eating together and openly communicating gives your family the opportunity to discuss, address, and solve conflicts. Casual conversations at the dining table will build courage in your children to seek advice on how to handle a problem at school.

Children who have a support system at home experience a higher level of comfort and security of safety. They develop a better sense of self when they are allowed to express their ideas and share their interests with family. Talking while enjoying a meal together strengthens trust, encourages empathy, and fosters better communication skills.

Meals as a family can be another way for you to keep healthy eating habits in check. The convenience of fast food and take-out can be tempting but the price and quality are not always the best. Eating well-balanced meals as a family creates a healthy environment. Here are a few meal ideas.

Related post: 12 Valuable Meal Prep Tips for Busy Shift Workers

2. Get a Calendar

Whether it is a magnetic calendar on the fridge, a large wall calendar with various colors and stickers, a large paper diary, an app on your phone, or a shared digital calendar, talk to your partner and establish the type of calendar which will work best for your family dynamic.

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See this calendar on Amazon

Calendars help each family member keep track of what’s going on. From work, school, and extracurriculars, make it visual to help even the most tired of eyes. It will simplify the chaos of trying to remember which day is soccer practice and what time ballet starts.

This calendar will also tell kids what days their parents have off and when they can make plans with friends.

From a chores perspective, be specific with regard to the frequency. Allocating a different color to each family member makes this process transparent.

3. Embrace the Small Moments

Working opposite shifts and parenting children leaves very little time for you and your partner to spend together. That’s why it’s imperative to make the best use of that time positively and productively. It could be quietly relaxing together for some downtime to recharge, completing a project that’s been neglected, or folding the laundry while catching up on your favorite show. 

When physically crossing paths in the hallway, kitchen, or bathroom, stop. Embrace, give each other a little kiss or a simple smile. Spark happiness and joy in the other person. These small acts go a long way.

Related post: How to Stop Feeling Lonely When Your Partner Works Nights

How do you embrace the small moments when working away from those you love? We wrote a post here which dives into unique ways you can limit the feelings of isolation and feel more connected when trying to provide for your family.

Lap top and tea

4. Allocate Chores to Your Kids

As a parent, you teach them how to talk and lead them when they learn to walk. You instruct them about proper hygiene and cleanliness. It’s also important to teach them how to help take care of a household. Teaching your children life skills that they’ll need as independent adults is the best lesson you can give them. 

Chores help children to gain a stronger connection to the family through the sense of teamwork that comes from doing housework together. Children can develop healthy coping skills for overcoming feelings of frustration when they have teammates to assist them.

Most importantly, household chores give kids the ability to push through mundane tasks because they learn to understand the importance of the job.

  • If no one empties the trash cans, what will happen to the house?
  • If no one does the laundry, what will you wear to school/work?
  • If no one washes the dishes, how will we eat our meals?

Completing chores gives your kids a sense of accomplishment. Showing them gratitude with a simple “thanks for clearing the table” or “I appreciate you for taking out the trash” builds their self-esteem. It also associates work with recognition, and you validate their effort by complimenting a job well done.

In addition to teaching them valuable life skills, raising happy kids results in higher levels of social and emotional competency. Researchers have determined that how well children share with peers, listen to directions, solve a conflict, and help others in need determines their likelihood of success as adults.

Discuss as a family how chores will be assigned taking into consideration each person’s abilities and skill set. Will everyone do the same chore each week or will jobs change to prevent monotony? Are there jobs that will require parental supervision or children who will need assistance with their chores?

5. Balance the Housework Between Each Parent

In every relationship, it is imperative to balance your workloads and chore expectations so that no one feels like they’re doing all the hard work.

Determine each other’s strengths and weaknesses regarding chores. Then work together to decide who will be responsible for specific jobs around the house. Consider using a chore checklist to help everyone keep track of what jobs they have to do.

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Check out these fun chores charts on Amazon

Does one of you despise doing the grocery shopping while the other finds it relaxing? Perhaps one of you is a master chef when it comes to breakfast while the other claims to be the grilling enthusiast of the house. Be supportive of one another’s strong suits and trust them to do the job they’ve agreed to handle. No one likes to be micromanaged or nit-picked about how they get it done.

As a third option, get help in the cleaning department through a professional cleaning service if you are financially able. Paying for somebody to come and clean up the areas everyone tries to ignore may be the best money you’ve ever spent!

6. Set Aside Time To Discuss the Tough/Tricky/Potentially Upsetting Subjects

Eating meals or snacks in the comfort of each other’s company can be an opportunity to share stories, discuss concerns such as home repairs, or make decisions about family vacations. It may not be the best time to talk about things that could get heated as that will upset your digestion.

Instead, schedule a time to talk about important issues that require serious attention. This allows each person to be better prepared without being tired from a long shift at work or in a hurry to wrap things up in order to be on time for something. Have a designated block of time set aside that can be used to air grievances and resolve conflicts or household problems.

Give the other time to mull over any potential issues, and even take some notes in preparation, so it doesn’t come as a complete surprise when you do finally sit down to talk. Here are some topic discussions to consider.

Make any adjustments to chore schedules or assigned taskswhat needs to be done more often?
what’s done too frequently?
what’s being forgotten?
Discuss any concerns about the kidshow are they doing in school?
what’s going on in their social life?
have there been any drastic changes?
Set goals and make plans for the upcoming week/monthwhat projects need to be completed?
what holidays/birthdays are coming up?
what school activities do the kids have?

7. Communicate Differently

Being able to maintain a loving bond with your partner requires communication. When you don’t get to see each other face to face as often from working opposite shifts, you’ll need to be more creative in how you stay in touch. Sending a text to check in on their day or night can be an uplifting way to show you’re thinking of them.

Related post – Most Effective Way to Communicate as a Shift Work Family

  • Coordinate phone calls to serve as a dual-purpose when possible
  • Your lunch break time may be the perfect wake-up call to start your spouse’s day with a smile
  • Maybe your bedtime coincides with your partner’s break and you can share a quick goodnight
  • Communicate about tasks such as grocery lists via text or emails to prevent items from being forgotten or lists being misplaced

Leaving notes of positivity for one another can be just the boost to one’s mood that gets them through their day. A note on the bathroom mirror for them to find when they brush their teeth or one on the fridge they’ll find while making dinner lets them know how much you miss them. Putting a love note on their pillow for them to find before going to sleep will give them positive vibes before drifting off to sleep.

Related post: 8 Survival Tips for Single Shift Working Parents

8. Be a Team

Choose to be supportive and encouraging rather than resentful and nagging. Healthy relationships work when you are able to communicate with maturity, empathy, and suggestions for improving the situation. Make time for intimacy and be comfortable talking about your needs and expectations while remaining willing to compromise and make sacrifices.

Co-parenting while working on opposite shifts will have its difficulties and require proactive planning to ensure all the bases are covered. Having a partner you can count on will come from healthy communication and a supportive mindset. Raising a happy family together will take dedication and a solid plan.

9. Consider Alternative Sleeping Arrangements

Working opposite shifts may have an impact on your sleeping arrangements. Some couples are able to share the same bed in the same room without disturbing one another. Other couples opt for having separate beds in a single room. You may even consider having separate bedrooms in situations where one or both of you are easily awakened and need total isolation to sleep well.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, we recommend the following sleep aids;

10. Set and Reach Goals as a Family

Setting goals as a family and working towards them as a team will:

  • strengthen your bonds with one another as you collaborate on achieving the shared reward of reaching the goal
  • teach your children about compromise, negotiating, and building trust
  • instill a “hard work pays off” mindset and a sense of achievement that leads to a greater chance of happiness and success

Having family goals helps keep everyone focused on something positive in the midst of day-to-day chaos. Setting a goal, working hard, and reaching that goal teaches your children valuable life skills they likely won’t learn anywhere else. Teaching your family to care about a common goal will lead them to be more empathetic, cooperative, and giving as they grow into adulthood.

What’s important to your family? Do you want to visit every state park and make lasting memories? Are you curious about other cultures and eager to tour Europe on a family backpacking adventure? 

When your family has a why that backs up the goal, it’s more likely you’ll reach that goal. You and your family will help each other stay on task of reaching the goal when everyone is vested in the plan. By working as a team you’ll 

  • learn about each other’s strengths
  • encourage one another to overcome weakness
  • improve communication skills while sharpening problem-solving skills

If your family doesn’t have a goal to work on together, you may begin to drift apart as you each become more busy working on yourselves. Having a common objective gives you and your family an opportunity to grow and learn together. It also creates a solid sense of belonging to a loving and supportive family.

SMART Goal Setting
One popular method used for creating and reaching goals as a family is called SMART goal setting.

S = Specific – determine in great detail what your family’s goal is and how you plan to achieve it
M = Measurable – how will you know when the goal has been reached
A = Achievable – is the family goal something everyone will be able to accomplish
R = Results-Focused – what will the family get from reaching the goal
T = Timely – how long will it take to reach the goal and do you have enough time available

Tips for Setting Goals as a Family

Include everyone in the planning and execution of the family goal. As the parent, you can establish parameters such as budget limitations and timeframe. It’s important that each family member gets a voice in the goal-setting process and is allowed to share their opinion, ask questions, or make suggestions.

Put the family goal in writing and hang it up where everyone can see it. This will help remind everyone what the family is currently working to achieve. Break down large goals into smaller milestones to keep your family focused on the process of reaching the goal rather than being distracted by the fear of failing to succeed.

Reflect on the family goal by scheduling regular follow-up meetings to discuss what’s working and what isn’t. Here, each family member can share their experience of working towards the goal and express any concerns or new ideas. When your family reaches the goal, be sure to discuss how the goal has helped the family as well as what goal your family should work towards next.

VIDEO – Night Shift Relationships: How To Not Ruin Them

If you’d like to see more of our YouTube videos, click here

Building a happy home life requires all parties’ input in the house to be a success. Working together to balance everyone’s needs within the rigor of busy schedules will have its challenges. But as long as each family member does their part and communicates with one another, even the most hectic homes can find peace and tranquility.

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.

Dad picking up daughter

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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