Sunday, April 26, 2009

Tag Team 101

When Grinch and I decided to do this goofy tag team parenting schedule, we were surprised by the number of people who told us it couldn't be done. People who had never worked an overnight schedule. People who weren't dependent on two incomes. People who didn't even have children. They all told us we were looking at certain failure. A co-worker said we'd be lucky to last six months. Others gave us less than a week.

Nearly four years later, we're more than glad to tell them they were wrong, wrong, wrong.

It CAN be done. It's not always fun and it's not always pretty. Get a look at me after a painfully short nap and you'll understand just how un-pretty it can be. But it CAN be done.

Here's what you need to make it work:

-Team work. You both have to commit to this plan and be in it for the right reasons. If one of you isn't sure why you're doing this or isn't enthusiastic about the tag team concept, you're not going to weather the ups and downs very well. And there will be a LOT of ups and downs: the normal ones associated with having a child and the new ones that are unique to the tag team.

-The Right Partner. You have to be able to trust each other implicitly. Grinch and I had been together nearly 20 years before we took on the tag team schedule. We knew each others strengths and weaknesses. We also knew we could depend on each other to do the right thing, be the adult, be dependable and put our child first. If you're with a man-child, princess, stoner or general knucklehead, this is not going to work out for you. You might also want to reconsider having a child with this person, but that's a whole 'nother subject.

-Supportive employers. They may surprised by your choice and doubt your ability to make it work, but if your employer is willing to work with you on your schedule, that's a big part of making the whole machine click. Give them plenty of advance notice that you want to do this. Don't spring this on them as you're walking out the door for maternity leave.

-Experience. If your tag-team schedule requires one of the partners to work odd hours and you've never worked odd hours before, it's going to be 500 times harder than you ever imagined. I've worked late night and overnight schedules on and off for nearly 20 years. I've managed it well, but I've seen other people who just can't do it. You don't want to find out that you're not suited to the overnight shift when you've structured your family's life around it.

-Help. Grinch and I were committed to doing the tag team 100% on our own, no help whatsoever. It worked great for us at first, but it was pretty exhausting. I recommend having some kind of help at least one day a week, just to ease your load a little. That help can be a sitter, a meal delivery service, yard service, or a friend or relative who comes over just to hold or play with the baby while you do laundry or chop vegetables. After Dos came along, our tag team hours changed and we had to hire a sitter three days a week. It's drastically increased the amount of time we're able to spend together as a family and gives us a little more wiggle room in the schedule. It was hard for me to accept help at first, but it really has improved things for us.

-Dedication. If you're going to do this - do it. Don't try it for a week and give up. Plan on doing it for six months at least. After six months, sit down with your partner and talk about how the tag team is working for you. Make some adjustments if you need to and try it for another three months. If it's still not working, think about what else you can do to fix things and come up with a Plan B. Try three more months. After baby's first birthday, take a good look at how things are going. If it's working, then have another slice of cake and toast your tag team. If it's not working, have another slice of cake, toast your hard work and dedication and move on to Plan B.

When someone hears about our schedule, they usually say, "Wow, how do you do it?" "It's hard," I say, "but it's worth it." And that's the truth. It is VERY hard. News flash: life is hard. But you keep going and you keep learning and doing the best you can for yourself and the people you love. Things get easier and new challenges come along. If you do it right, you have some great teammates beside you, cheering for you every step of the way.


Illegal Tree said...

I spent 7 years on the night shift and it takes a different outlook on life to survive. I'd still be there but I'm pulling down the big bucks during daylight.

Heather said...

Those first six months on the night shift are Horrible, but once you find your groove, it's do-able most of the time.

Heather said...
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