How Solo Moms can make the night shift work
Managing life and work is challenging for any parent. For a Solo Mom, this is twice the work without a backup parent. Solo Moms who work the night shift face the added challenge of finding quality child care because many child-care centers are closed at night. Although stressful, it can be accomplished—so let’s break it down.
In many instances, the night shift offers advantages to the day shift—so good for you for thinking outside the box. In some industries, night-shift hours may pay more than daytime hours. In addition, work at night may afford a Solo Mom more daytime hours with her kids; however, those benefits come at a price.
Even though it is overwhelming, there are ways to meet the needs of all involved and create a work–life balance as a Solo Mom. If you’re a Solo Mom working the night shift, here are some things to consider when making arrangements for nighttime child care:
- Start with family and friends. Consider whether you have a family member or a friend who is able and willing to help. Depending on the circumstances of the individual, this can be an arrangement for payment or as a gratis service. For example, if my sister-in-law needed a hand with her kids, you can be certain that I’d have my kids’ cousins over as much and as often as was necessary. Or perhaps you have a friend who could use the money and who would be willing to help in exchange for payment. Consider this person’s willingness and ability to make a firm commitment. You don’t want to strain the bonds of friends or family if you foresee obstacles to a person completing the job reliably. For example, if this person has children of her own, would she be willing to absorb your sick child? Make sure she knows it is OK to say no to the proposition. Do, however, exhaust your friends and family options before moving on to someone else.
- Maintain a sleep environment. Keep in mind that it is preferable for children to sleep in their own beds at night if possible. Although this may not always be possible, it is worth striving for.
- Create backup arrangements. Aim to develop a stable of people who are willing to be an emergency backup in the event that your regularly scheduled help is suddenly not available. Let your friends and family know your schedule a month out, and ask who can be a backup on each night you are working. Explain that you will call them only in an emergency, but that their help would set your mind at ease about maintaining a work schedule and protecting your job. This might be a good option for friends and family who would like to help but who are not necessarily able to make a firm and regular commitment.
- If you hire someone you don’t know, get a background check. If you need to go beyond friends and family, make sure to thoroughly vet any child-care center or the personal and professional references of anyone you hire. If you are considering a child-care center, make sure that the center is licensed. Investigate whether any complaints have been made. Go with your gut, and trust your instinct on the information you get from a thorough investigation.
- Develop a bedtime routine. Develop a bedtime routine and stick to it. Make sure that any child-care provider is on board with it. For example, begin by brushing teeth and then get into bed with a comfort item. Then let the child read two stories and sing a song or whatever works. Depending on the individual circumstances, you may want to call to say goodnight if that is logistically possible and not upsetting or otherwise counterproductive.
- Make sure any provider is certified in CPR. If your child is an infant, make sure caregivers also know how to prevent sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS. You should be confident that they know how to accurately assess an emergency and will be able and willing to seek medical attention if necessary. Be certain that they are aware of any allergies your child has to medication and foods.
As a sleep-deprived Solo Mom, you must build self-care into this equation if it is to work long term. Budget for some hours to allow you to sleep at the end of your shift. No one can be launched from work to life with small children without any rest. Although Solo Moms are often budget-conscious, child care is not the place to trim. Make sure that you are addressing your need for sleep as you consider the best option for your child.
Care.com and Sittercity are online child-care service listings you can use to find help. Make sure to thoroughly check anyone you interview, including the person’s driving records. In some states, background checks do not include driving records, so you may need to investigate them separately.
Tara Shafer is the cofounder of Reconceiving Loss, an online resource center for families coping with pregnancy and infant loss. She is a contributing blogger to the Huffington Post, Psychology Today, and BabyCenter. Her work has appeared in the New York Times and on National Public Radio. You can follow her on Twitter at @reconceivinglos.
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