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Thursday Tips: The Second Shift

Categories: Hacking Life


Until about a year ago, my husband and I worked opposite shifts and traded off with the kids in the middle of the day (usually in the parking lot of our company, where we both work, but sometimes at a nearby park). A lot of times I felt like I was going straight from one full-time job to another, since I was on my own with the kids until my husband got home around 3 a.m. Here are a few of the things I did to prepare myself for my “second shift” each day:

1.) Consider your commute your “me” time. This is harder when you have kids in the car, of course, but at least part of your commute can be all yours. Catch up on the news, listen to books on tape, learn a new language — or just turn off the tunes and enjoy the silence.

2.) Carry portable stress relief with you. Dot some soothing Peace of Mind (from Origin’s Sensory Therapy line) on your temples and feel the tension drain away. Stash a portable back massager in the car (or in your desk at work) to keep the stress from building up in your body; Life Fitness offers a lightweight, battery-operated one that you can strap around your back (you can find it at most CVS stores).

3.) Keep a snack in the car. I mean something healthy that can give you lasting energy — a fruit-and-nut mix, granola bars, an apple, a protein bar. Avoid energy drinks and anything high in refined sugars — you might enjoy a rush of energy for a little while, but the crash that comes afterward will just make your “second shift” more difficult.

4.) Change your clothes as soon as you get home. It’ll help you separate work from home, and may remind you to keep your office issues from creeping into your time with the kids.

5.) Have dinner already ready. Cook in advance and freeze an extra meal or two, or prep everything and have it ready to assemble when you get home after work. Your stress levels will drop dramatically if you don’t have to worry about what to cook for your ravenous crew the instant you get home.

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6 comments so far...

  • We did this for a while, too. My husband and I called it “split shift parenting.” Our challenge was doing it with only one vehicle; the parent at home either dropped off the other at work or did without wheels for the day.

    Daisy  |  May 1st, 2008 at 8:27 pm

  • This his been my life for 4 years now! Glad to hear other mothers are doing this too. The cooking ahead is the greatest tip. I rarely ever have to cook a meal from scratch when I get home. Also, even though it’s more expensive than eating at home, I try to pick a night to take the kids out. They love the treat and I love not having to clean up crumbs off the floor after dinner!

    Sharon  |  May 2nd, 2008 at 7:03 am

  • [...] started, and he’d hand her off to me and I’d take her back home for what I called my Second Shift with the kids (my first baby was also our fourth [...]

    Dad on duty: Is he as good as Mom? - The 36-Hour Day - Work It, Mom!  |  July 16th, 2008 at 11:14 pm

  • This post did give me a little bit of hope, but I am really catching it right now. I am the mother of three kids (ages 4 years, 3 years and 6 months) and I work the 7 pm - 7 am shift. Meanwhile, my hubbie works from 6 am - 6 pm.

    There are at least 2 days per week when my hubbie and I tag team. He comes from work and leave for work. The next morning my mother keeps the kids for 2 hours each day.

    I need some advice on keeping the kids on a “day schedule” since school starts in 2 weeks AND how to get some much needed rest. No rest for the weary is my life story right now. Help!!

    Ivy Lynch  |  August 8th, 2008 at 2:57 am

  • Hi, Ivy! I hear you… the split shift is great for covering childcare, but it’s really tough in general, and especially when your kids are so young.

    One thing that helped me during this “Second Shift” time was to actually write out a schedule for my kids. At first, I thought it was silly — I know their schedule! Of course they have to be up during the day! — but when you’re sleep deprived and/or someone else is covering for you, it really, really helps to have a written schedule to refer to.

    Then, I tried to keep things the same each day. I tried to have easy breakfasts already made (make pancakes or french toast on a weekend and freeze the surplus — they heat up just fine. Apples cut into chunks, sprinkled with cinammon, topped with a little bit of oatmeal, butter, and sugar, and zapped in the microwave makes an awesome breakfast, too…)

    I wish I had more advice for you… hope things work out!

    – Lylah

    Lylah  |  August 8th, 2008 at 10:08 am

  • [...] subway car is no fun, but try to find a way to use this time to de-compress before you start your second shift at home. Listen to music or an audio book, nosh on your favorite snack, if you’re not driving, read a [...]

    10 very small things you can do to make your workdays more pleasant - Work It, Mom! Blog - Work It, Mom!  |  August 18th, 2008 at 4:14 pm