Every morning my husband gets up at 4.30am to go to work. After he leaves the house, I get our two young children up, give them breakfast, get them dressed and get myself ready for work. My husband rushes back in the door at 9am after his morning shift, then looks after the children for the day while I go to work. When I get home at 6pm, he leaves to do an evening shift while I do the bedtime routine and cook dinner.
We are officially ‘tag-team parents.’ The term was coined by the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, to talk about parents who work different hours from each other in order to manage childcare.
When we first started working like this, it seemed like a great idea. We could avoid the extortionate childcare costs of long daycare (often around $140 a day where we live), and both get to spend quality time with our children, who are two and five. And in many ways it IS great; our children spend most of their day with one of us, they know their dad is as hands-on as their mum, and see that both parents need and want to work.
But it’s certainly not easy. Family time is limited, and it means both of us solo parent for most of the time we’re with our children. That means little down-time, and minimal couple time. I can’t remember the last time my husband and I went on a date or even had more than a few minutes snuggled up on the sofa together.
Side note… what’s the sexiest thing in the world? Sharing the mental load, of course. Post continues after video.
But tag-team parenting is not an unusual phenomenon. Childcare costs in Australia have risen by around 145% since 2002, according to a HILDA [Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia] study, and data shows that although four out of five workers would love flexibility in their roles, flexibility within jobs hasn’t changed much since 2001. These statistics mean many families have no option but to tag-team their parenting duties.
Catherine, 39, and her husband Marcus, 40, do an extreme version of tag-team parenting with their four-year old daughter. Catherine is a self-employed lawyer and her husband works away on oil-rigs for weeks at a time.
“We arrange it so when my husband is away, I don’t take on much work, and when he’s back I work full-time and he does the childcare until he goes away again,” she says. There are pros and cons to their situation. “We both get to spend quality time with our daughter, and she sees that we both go to work,” says Catherine. “It also means we are reducing our child-care costs.”