Night-Shift Moms

Night-Shift Moms

shutterstock_76130890Juggling parenting with paid work means keeping a constant eye on the clock, thinking of all you could do if there were only a few more hours in a day.

None of us can create time, but many of us play around with it a bit, upending the concepts of day and night to carve out and cram in pockets here and there. The most typical version of this is the laptop in bed after the kids are asleep, or the BlackBerry in the pediatrician’s waiting room. For 5 percent of employed women, though (that’s a little more than three million), this means going a step further, and working between 9 at night and 8 in the morning.

That the night shift has grown in recent years is a result of a 24/7 economy, Jennifer Haupt writes in the latest issue of Woman’s Day magazine, to be published next week. But the fact that there are 250,000 more women working those shifts than men seems to be a result of deliberate choice on the part of many mothers as a way of juggling work and home. “According to a joint study by the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California and the Center for American Progress,” Ms. Haupt writes, “26 percent of night-shift workers choose that schedule because it makes child care easier.”

But this includes a toll. Lack of sleep comes to mind, and all the women Ms. Haupt interviewed describe being exhausted much of the time. Feeling out of sync with the rest of the family is another problem they mentioned. And marriages can feel the strain. As a guest blogger, Jamie Rich, wrote here last spring, about her own 7 p.m.-to-3 a.m. shift:

To be sure, the likelihood of marital discord increases for families when one parent works at night … I know why. When I work at home, I can still kiss my family goodnight. But when I go to the office, Brian and I pass in the doorway with a quick peck before we hand over Eloise. Sometimes the three of us rendezvous at rush hour on the crowded Underground-train platform in London’s financial district. Squeezing Eloise through the crush of bankers and lawyers, we make the trade, and I continue to the office while they head home. If Brian works late, I hand her off to the baby sitter — minus the kiss — and settle for a goodnight text message to Brian. Still, the fulfillment of staying engaged in my profession and the personal richness of being available for our daughter makes up for the few hours of awake time that I miss each week with my family.

Is the night shift a solution to your family’s work/life juggle? Or would it only cause more problems?