What is the so-called split shift? It’s the answer to how many of us working parents manage to get in a full day of work. Even if we leave the office at 4:30pm to pick up our kiddos.
The concept is that a parent ends the workday “early” to spend time with children, then finishes up that workday after dinner, bath, and bedtime. In other words, you’re still working a full day, but you’ve “time shifted” a bit.
“But how on earth does anyone have the energy for this??”, I’ve been asked by brand new mamas. “How can anyone possibly have the motivation to log back on without being resentful, frustrated, or downright too tired?”
I absolutely use this strategy to get things done. (There’s no other way to be a partner at a law firm and run a company while wanting to be there for my kiddos.)
Here are my 4 secrets to how I’ve managed to make the “split shift” work for me:
- I did NOT do the log-back-on thing at the very beginning. For the first 6+ months that I was back at work (okay, make that closer to a year), I was simply too (insanely) exhausted to even think about logging back on after I managed to get the baby to sleep. Neither of my kiddos slept particularly well the first year of their life, and neither did their mama. Never mind that while pumping, there was all that pump-part cleaning and bottle prep work to do in the evenings. Back in those days, I collapsed into bed at ridiculously early hours of the night. And I resigned myself to doing whatever I could for work during my workday. It simply HAD TO be enough. And it was.
- I use my “break” in the day to recharge me. Now that my kids are older (3 and 5), I don’t mind the logging back on at night. I actually find that the 4:30-9pm device-free “break” from work I take each day to pick up my kids and BE with them and my husband recharges me. This time “offline” gives me new ideas and a second wind. I love playing in the backyard with my boys for a bit after school, catching up with my husband over dinner, helping my oldest with his lego sets, and reading and singing as a family before putting the kids sleep.
- I split my split shift. Part of why the evening working works for me is that I use a fair chunk of it for Mindful Return – which is truly a passion of mine and doesn’t feel like work. I prioritize any pressing client legal work that needs to get done. Then, I turn to Mindful Return to use a completely different skill set and side of my brain. I also triage work and try to reserve deep thinking and heavy writing for daylight hours, when my brain tends to be sharper.
- I give myself a hard stop. Depending on how much (or how little) sleep I got the night before, how I’m feeling, etc., I pick a time that I’m going to stop working and head to bed, and I stick to it. It’s not always the same time every night, but choosing a time leads me to check in with my body and determine what I can and can’t do.
I know the split-shift isn’t for everyone, and too much can lead to work overwhelm. But for now, it’s working for me.
Do you use the split shift strategy? What does it look like for you? I’d love to hear from you in comments!
Want more strategies for navigating working-mama-land? If you’re heading back to work after maternity leave, take the Mindful Return E-Course. Next session starts soon.