Two Working Parents and Shiftwork

I wrote recently about organising talks with work about returning and two months later I am still organising that return to work. Now that my return to work is a lot more imminent a lot of things are dawning on me for the first time.

Hubby works shifts over a ten day shift pattern. This means no day is the same each week – Every Monday is different, every Tuesday is different. This is incredibly hard to organise childcare around. Luckily, Hubby’s amazing Mum has offered to look after the children for me on her days off when both Hubby and I are working – This is a huge help and something I wouldn’t be able to return to work without – I am so appreciative already and I’m not even back yet!

Trying to organise working hours around Hubby’s hours is impossible. Nurseries and childminders nearly always ask for set days each week and the cost is huge now that we have two children. With shiftwork, if Hubby was off work and wanted to look after the children we’d have to pay for the nursery/childminder regardless. This means that realistically we don’t want to use official childcare as it will cost us money that we shouldn’t really need to pay at times.

The problem I have is work need me to work more days than I have childcare for and so I have agreed, provisionally, to work an extra day per week, averaged over a year, when I can work depending on Hubby’s hours. This means I’ll work three days some weeks, two other weeks and 4 on occasions too. I was originally looking at going back 2 days a week so the realisation that some weeks I’ll be working 4 days is a bit of a shock to the system.

This also means that a lot more of Hubby’s time off work will be used up by me going to work – He works ten days and finishes on a night shift, spends the bulk of his first day off sleeping off his night shift and then has three days off – I will more often than not be working at least 2 of those 3 days off. The work/life balance that I was hoping for is rapidly depleting.

Looking at our life after I return to work, each month will include two full days where neither Hubby or I are working. It will include two other days where Hubby is sleeping off his night shifts and then there might be a handful of other days where Hubby’s around for a couple of hours in the morning or a few in the evening where I’m not working either.

I had not, until now, sat down and looked at the calendar, written down our lives until the end of the year and worked out how much time we would have as a family. Shifts make normal day to day life so hard but it is only now that I am really finding it hard, having children changes your priorities hugely and the most important thing is the family unit and quality family time is so important.

Hubby and I have made a promise that those two days a month where neither of us are working will be used for great days out – Zoos, the beach, Legoland. When LP starts nursery in September our lives will have the added restriction of nursery drop offs and picks ups as well as school holidays. I am already thinking of the next six months and planning how to make the most of them – I’ll then be focused on October half term and the Christmas break!

These last 3 years of pregnancy and small children have been a privilege. When I return to work I will have only worked 6 months out of the last 36 and I have been able to spend such a great amount of time with my children and for that I am hugely thankful – I know many don’t get even half the amount of maternity leave and accrued holidays that I have had.

But one thing I hadn’t taken into account is that when LP starts nursery our life will revolve around the school calendar, we will never again have the freedom that we do now to do whatever we like, go wherever we like – We will have to fit things into school holidays. The last three years have been amazing. Looking back, I have loved my two lots of maternity leave. I hated my 6 months of working in between and I had hoped to stay at home this time and not return to work BUT long term going back to work will be the best decision for our family as a whole – I now just have to make it work.

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6 Comments

  1. March 17, 2014 / 8:55 am

    I’ve bookmarked your post to read during nap times – I don’t think I’d found you or your blog back in November although it feels like I have ‘known’ you forever!
    I went on maternity leave thinking I wasn’t going back, thought that work would decline and part time working arrangement that would work for us and would want me to work miles from home so up until January I thought I wasn’t going back AND it wouldn’t even be possible to go back. Now it looks like I will be going back and it’s really hard to get my head around but I know it will all work out. We’re reviewing it at Christmas too to see how we’re all finding it – I won’t stay working if we never see each other and just aren’t happy. The money will be nice but I can’t do it just for the money x

  2. March 17, 2014 / 2:15 pm

    Your nursery operates terms like a school?! *rushes off to check*

  3. March 17, 2014 / 3:53 pm

    It’s all so hard isn’t it? It sounds like your life is extra complicated by hubby working shifts – at least mine only works Monday-Friday. I thought I would go back part time after maternity leave but now looking at going back full time, which I know will be really hard but it’ll most likely only be for a year before we have another baby and then I’ll get full time maternity pay! And after that, who knows?!

  4. March 17, 2014 / 6:31 pm

    I just do a small amount of freelancing now but i would ideally like to do more – i think its often a case of the grass is always greener.

    Between my two boys i worked 3 days a week which seemed the perfect mix – nursery runs are much more stressful that you think though!

    It sounds like a great plan Donna, nice you can be flexible too x

  5. March 17, 2014 / 8:28 pm

    …and make it work you will. The long term is what’s important. It’s all a massive juggling act, as you know!

  6. March 18, 2014 / 2:22 pm

    You both seem to have such a great attitude towards the shift patterns you are going to have to work around, I’m really impressed. I think it’s a great idea to plan big days out for your shared family time, and really make it count. I really hope it goes well for you all.

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