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The Trade Off

As a dad who works outside of the house, I often come home feeling like I’ve “missed out” on time with my son. Even though I’m worn out from a full day working as an oncology nurse and caring for other people, I genuinely miss hanging out with my two-year-old son—despite how demanding and exhausting I know he can be.

Since my wife works from home and cares for our son while I’m at work, I know she’s ready for a break and needs to get some work done when I get home.

While it’s taken us almost two years (and a schedule change for me) for us to fall into a good rhythm and parental divide, I think we’ve finally found our groove. Simply put, we trade off. When I get home from work, I take over the parenting duties for the evening—prepping dinner, feeding, playing, bath time, etc. and it’s her turn to go work.

This system has allowed us both the chance to get what we need: I get to spend the evening hours with our son, and she gets a break from parenting while tackling some work projects.

We’ve learned to trade off in other ways too, which can be helpful for you and your spouse to get a break, recharge, change up your roles, and avoid burnout and resentment. Here are some suggestions on how you can implement some trade off in your parenting roles:

Trade Off Ideas:

  • Swap routines. Every other night, switch which parent does the bath/bed routines. If one parent has been home with the kids all day, the other parent does bath/bed time. It’s a good way for kids to spend time with both parents, too.
  • Take turns sleeping in. This could be on weekends or whenever you have a day off together. One parent can sleep in on Saturday, the other on Sunday. Or one parent gets to sleep in both days this weekend while the other parent gets to sleep in both days next weekend.
  • Split the day. On days you’re home together, try a split shift where one parent takes the morning shift (roughly 6 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and the other takes the afternoon shift (roughly 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.) and you both get some alone time, a chance to run some errands, go to the gym, meet up with a friend, etc.
  • Take turns making dinner. One night one of you makes dinner while the other one occupies the kids—takes them to the park, in the backyard, or for a walk. Switch it up the next time.
  • Change up your normal tasks. I used to be the one to always get the oil changed in our cars. But one day my wife offered to do it, and I stayed home with our son. This gives you a change from your normal responsibilities, and a chance to appreciate what the other person does.
  • Alternate going out with friends. It’s good to both get a little socialization with friends, and we’ve found it easier to do when our son is asleep for the night since it’s less work on the other person. One parent stays in and keeps an eye on the monitor, while the other goes out for a few hours. Next time, it’s the other person’s turn.

I hope this trade off method brings about some balance and a change of perspective in your parenting roles.

Chris Seleen is an Arizona native, oncology nurse at Banner Gateway MD Anderson Cancer Center, and husband to RAK’s Editor, Monique Seleen. They live in Mesa with their two-year-old son, Carter.



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