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Share Care and Blending Family & Work Life Well

The following post is from Anne of Modern Mrs. Darcy:

source: Modern Mrs. Darcy

For the past 7 years, my husband and I have taken turns as parent-on-duty while the other one works. (He works full-time; I work part time.) We didn’t plan for this “share care” lifestyle; it just kind of happened. But you know what? We love it.

The Beginning

Seven years ago, I was a stay-at-home mom to a sweet baby boy, with another baby on the way.

I had no intention of heading back to work, and my husband and I were both okay with that.

But then, life happened—and it changed our plans.

An Unexpected Diagnosis

Just before his second birthday, my son was diagnosed with cancer. We caught it in time, and he was successfully treated. But that treatment was very expensive—especially because each visit to our child’s oncologist required 3 plane tickets. Our second child was born shortly after treatment ended. My husband was in grad school. We were broke.

We had always said that I could go back to work one day if we needed the money—and now we did. So I headed back to the office to work part-time, doing similar work to what I’d done pre-baby.

To save money on childcare, we planned my hours around my husband’s work and school schedule. At the time, my husband was working third shift as a social worker, so he could come home, crash, and wake up in time for me to put in an afternoon at the office, 3 afternoons a week.

The Surprising Benefits

I went back to work for the money, but was surprised to find it was good for me in other ways. I got to leave the house alone! I didn’t have to deal with car seats! I set the car radio to NPR instead of nursery rhymes! I loved spending my days with my kids, but I was glad to reconnect with this other part of myself.

My husband and I were also surprised to find that the role reversal was also good for us as a couple. My husband learned what it felt like to be home with the kids all day. He learned how to comfort crying babies and make dinner—often at the same time. He finally understood why I felt starved for adult conversation at the end of the day.

And I found out that everyone was okay without mama for a while. I discovered what it felt like to be the parent returning home at day’s end: it turns out I didn’t want a blow-by-blow recap of the day’s events, and that it was nice to go to the bathroom and maybe even change my clothes before the kids attacked me with welcome-home hugs.

7 Years and Counting

It’s been 7 years since my husband and I started our share care adventure. Since then, we’ve added two more kids to the family—bringing the total to 4. He’s changed jobs, and we’ve both started fulfilling (and profitable) side gigs. We’ve constantly revised and re-evaluated our work schedules over the years to accommodate nursing and naps and homeschooling, experimenting to find what works, and what doesn’t.

We still love the benefits of share care.

I love being there for my kids, but I also enjoy my time at the office each week. Motherhood is rewarding, but it’s also tough. I’ve found that the right amount of work makes me a happier woman—and a better mom. I’m grateful for a work/life arrangement that lets me enjoy time with my kids and time on the job.

And my income provides margin in our budget that allows my husband to pursue work he loves, and not just chase the biggest paycheck. His schedule allows him to be a part of the kids’ everyday lives: he puts them to bed, waves goodbye in the morning, or serves as the homeschooling parent-on-duty, depending on the day of the week.

When we started this parenting adventure nearly a decade ago, we hadn’t even heard of share care. But by trying to make the best of a tough situation, we stumbled our way into a plan that has worked out really well for our family. It’s not perfect; some days our family life is downright crazy. But most days our unconventional routine suits us just fine.

Has your family tried any creative share care arrangements?

Anne Bogel loves strong coffee, long books, and big ideas, and she writes about those things at her blog Modern Mrs Darcy. She is also the author of the new ebook Work Shift: How to Create a Better Blend of Work, Life, and Family. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky, with her husband of 12 years and her 4 kids.