When our daughter was born, my husband worked overnights. I felt bad that I was often irritated about this schedule and that I was resentful that it put such a burden on me. Working overnight wasn’t something he preferred, and I know he wished to be around more, so my irritation at the situation felt wrong — but it was still very present.
It was so difficult to be the only person available to wake up with our daughter overnight most of the time. My husband slept during the day, so any doctor’s appointments that came up were my responsibility. I was also the only contact at daycare if she got sick and needed to be picked up early. It was a lot of responsibility.
I have a career too, and it felt like it took a backseat to the needs of managing life around my husband’s job. Having two working parents is hard enough – let alone when they are working at totally different times or one of them is working much longer hours.
I’ve talked to some other colleagues that have partners with a difficult, non-traditional schedule, and there’s one common theme: it strains your relationship.
My husband no longer works overnight hours. When our daughter was around 18 months old, his schedule finally got switched, and now he works pretty standard weekday hours like I do. Being on both sides of the equation, I can testify firsthand that our relationship was much more strained when he worked overnights than it is now. Our co-parenting is much more harmonious, and we have fewer disagreements.
But at the time, I was resentful about the situation, though I wasn’t proud to admit to these feelings. What helped the most though was admitting to myself that I felt this way, and that is what I suggest anyone else in this situation do.
Looking back, I think it’s normal to feel irritated about the difficult work schedule situation — I mean, it makes your life more difficult! It was an “aha” moment to realize that, of course, I feel this way about something that makes my life hard, and that most people would react the same to the extra burden.
Once you acknowledge and accept your feelings, you can work toward taking specific steps to lessen the sense of resentment. After much trial and error, we found a few steps to improve our relationship and co-parenting during those difficult 18 months:
Embrace non-traditional date nights
Due to your schedules, “date night” might not be possible in the evenings. However, your schedules may allow for morning trips to the coffee shop or late night movies. Take a look at your calendars and see where you can squeeze some time in. Read on for more date ideas:
Carve out kid-free time for yourself
Don’t feel bad about it. When you are the one working the more traditional hours or fewer hours, chances are, you’ll have the kids with you most of the time. Sometimes, you might feel like you need a break. You don’t only need to consider babysitters for big nights out. Sometimes, it’s nice to run errands in peace or get your hair done without a baby in your lap. Give yourself permission to sometimes use your village for a midweek break.
Outline parenting tasks your partner can handle with their schedule
Their schedule may not allow them to help with the usual tasks like school drop-off or dinner duty, but there might be some other task they are able to take off your plate. Take a look at schedules and parenting tasks, and see if there are any spaces to reassign. Most tasks might naturally fall to your plate based on when you’re free, but with some reconfiguring, you might be able to reassign something to your partner.
Master your routine
Parenting is hard enough, but parenting on two different schedules takes some extra organization to make things run smoothly. Set up a routine that works for everyone, automate and outsource as much as possible, and write everything on shared calendars. This was especially important because since my husband was sleeping during much of the day, we couldn’t easily communicate about who needed to be somewhere and when, so we had to ensure it was all laid out ahead of time. Read on for some extra inspiration for your routines: