A Veteran Mom’s Guide to Split-Shift Parenting


The situation isn't ideal, but financially it's the only one that makes sense.I had barely wrapped my head around the fact that I was pregnant with my second child, when the financial reality came crashing down. Full-time childcare for two children would cost about one-third of our household income.  It was time to consider another option: split-shift parenting. For us, split-shift parenting is a balancing act in which we try to equitably share the load of kids, house, and farm and somehow still find time for us. The situation isn’t ideal, but financially it’s the only one that makes sense.

We are not alone. The cost of child care is increasingly making families like ours turn to other options. The Urban Institute recently published a report, “Who Minds the Kids When Mom Works a Nontraditional Schedule,” which states that a quarter of all dual-income families have at least one parent working a non-traditional schedule.

I looked to a few veteran split-shift mamas for suggestions on the best ways to enjoy the unexpected gifts of split-shifting. What I learned is that these are couples who are deeply in love and are making a huge sacrifice in order to provide for their families. Both families made a conscious decision to split their childcare shifts, because paying for child care was financially unfeasible. One estimated that it would have cost $1,800 a month to put all three of their children into daycare.

[box size=”large” style=”rounded” border=”full”]Kelly met Aaron in 2002 while working a summer job making pizza. They became parents in January of 2009, and added a pair of twins to their brood in 2012. They have been on overlapping shifts since they became parents more than seven years ago and have been “full blown” split-shifting since the twins were born.[/box]

[box size=”large” style=”rounded” border=”full”]Seacoast Moms Blog’s own Cristy is also a split-shifting mama. Cristy met her husband, Dennis, at work and they continue to work together. The couple has been married for almost 12 years. They are parents to a recent high school graduate and twins who will be starting Kindergarten in the fall. The couple has been working split shifts since they discovered they were pregnant with the twins nearly six years ago.[/box]

[typography font=”Brawler” size=”46″ size_format=”px”]The Veteran’s Guide[/typography]

[typography font=”Brawler” size=”46″ size_format=”px”]to Split Shift Parenting[/typography]

The key to making spit-shifting work? Patience. Apologizing. Laughter. Remember that it’s not forever and get support from family and friends.

[dropcap]*[/dropcap]Focus on the positives. Saving money is not the only upside to split-shifting. Your kids are always around family. Split-shifting means no set gender roles. Everybody does everything and your kids are more well-rounded for it. And, the time that you do spend together is “absolutely priceless.” On Saturday mornings, my kids run in all excited and exclaim, “It’s family day!”

[dropcap]*[/dropcap]Split-shifting is hard. You are not a single parent, but you spend most of your time parenting singularly.

[dropcap]*[/dropcap]Working split-shifts is tough on a relationship. Most of your face-to-face conversations take place while one of you is headed out the door or to bed. Some days, if it weren’t for texting, you wouldn’t talk at all. “Our time together is the most precious thing in our lives besides our children,” writes Kelly. Making your relationship work is a continuous learning curve, and figuring out what works best changes.

[dropcap]*[/dropcap]When you hardly see your spouse, keeping “the fire alive” becomes an intentional thing. Both moms stress the importance of finding some alone time as often as possible. Kelly writes, “(We keep the fire alive by) understanding that one of the best things we can do for our kids is to make our relationship a major priority and to let go of the guilt that comes with that.”

[dropcap]*[/dropcap]More ways to foster a split shift marriage? Use technology. Text messages throughout the day keep you connected and on the same page. Cristy suggests, “If my hubby is not around, then I will make a quick video of the twins and post it on his Facebook page. They get excited to see what his reply is.”

[dropcap]*[/dropcap]Family time is sacred. Both moms say they try to catch family time whenever they can, even if that means visits on lunch breaks, or “30 minutes, once a month.”

[dropcap]*[/dropcap]Kelly’s suggestions include: “Try to do as much as you can around the house to make the next shift as easy as possible for the other parent. Try to keep a sense of humor and realize our chaotic life is all derived from our crazy love for each other.”

[dropcap]*[/dropcap]What would you say is the secret to split shift success? “Trust and understanding. Trusting that while you’re at work, your partner is doing all he/she can to raise the kids and manage the household to the best of their ability and to understand that life is nuts; kids don’t always like to cooperate. Know that some days the fact that everyone is still alive and the house didn’t burn down has to be enough.  You have to laugh together because some days are just complete #*@$.”


  1. Great read. We split shift, it works. My husband is home with the kids when I work a 12 hour shift on Sundays. Once I came home, he said “I dont know how you do it with these kids 3 days in a row.” That was pure gold, a newfound respect which ultimately made our marriage stronger.

    • Thanks Sam. I agree and I find that I respect my husband more as a father knowing that he can take care of business without my oversight.

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