Ted and I have, like every other parent, had numerous conversations about how to achieve a healthy work-family life balance. An idea that never had appeal to me has become one that we’re going to try. And that is, the split-shift. Actually, it’s something I’ve always done without thinking about it, getting in practice after the kids are down, teaching in the morning and then the evening. So I’m not sure why I thought it was not a good thing, except that for office jobs it’s not the usual. However, after the holiday we realized that Ted hardly ever gets to spend time with the kids during the week when he’s not involved in chivvying them out of bed, or back into it. (Holidays can be good for achieving a new perspective.)
Additionally, in February we’re going to be letting go of Tuesday and Thursday morning childcare. Those hours were originally intended for me to practice, but a) we need to save some money, and b) I need to spend more time with the twins.
Those factors combined for us to consider the split shift for Ted. So, starting this week he’s going to come home earlier to have an hour or so with the kids in which they can just play, be together without agenda before the routine of dinner/bedtime begins. And two days a week he’s going to work from home so he can forego the 2.5 to 3 hour daily commute. This way, he can still get his hours in but be available when I am teaching. His being home in the afternoon will also allow us to let go of Tuesday and Thursday afternoon babysitting hours, and will thus save us a significant amount of money, as well as enabling both of us to get more quality time with our kids.
And, after we get them down at night, Ted will do a chunk of work, and I will practice. The fact that we’re working in tandem will help, I think. And then we’ll have an hour to decompress, and then we’ll do it all again.
Someone I know was bemoaning the relentlessness of the parenting life a couple of years ago. At that time the twins were so young that we weren’t even in the space to think about the relentlessness of routine: we were just trying to survive having two small babies at once. But now we’re there, and we’re working on finding ways to make the routine serve us better, so that at the end of the day we can feel happy that the routine has gone beyond the logistics of life to give us space for connection.
And I’ll have to keep working on my own personal discipline so that I do actually practice at night. The reality is, many of my days are 15 jam-packed hours long. I am starting to have more compassion for my desire for relaxation that gets expressed by an habitual turning to my phone for entertainment & escape. But I have been convinced for some time that the answer is engagement, not escape. So here we go!