When you’re trying to balance the night shift or working weekends with raising kids it can seem like the rest of the world is set up for nine-to-fivers, but non-standard work schedules for parents are way more common than people think (this mama’s been working since four o’clock this morning). About 31 million American kids have a parent who’s working outside standard office hours.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 43% of kids have a mom or dad whose work schedule would be considered non-traditional. This group includes parents who aren’t part of the Monday-through-Friday crowd, work irregular or evening hours, or have more than one job.
Children who live with two parents are the most likely to have a mom or dad who is working outside the nine-to-five. A full 50% of kids in dual-parent families have at least one parent working weird hours, and the number goes up to 61% if both parents in the house are employed.
When we look at single parent families, the numbers dip a bit but are still really high. According to the Bureau, 49% of kids living with employed single dads have a father who works a non-standard schedule. The number is similar for kids of working single moms, at about 47%
The U.S. Census Bureau says it’s important to note that the data doesn’t address the circumstances that lead parents to work non-standard schedules, but previous research indicates that social and economic conditions, like educational attainment and advancements in technology play a role.
The impacts of non-standard schedules on kids vary. Super irregular work schedules that make it hard to have a routine (such as retail or restaurant shifts that see workers called in or sent home on short notice) are associated with negative outcomes for kids and make it really difficult for parents to arrange for child care.
On the other hand, research has shown that when moms work non-standard schedules while dad works a standard schedule, adolescent delinquency rates for kids are lowered. The researchers say this kind of ‘tag team’ approach to parenting can result in stronger family relationships.
Whether you’re a single mom working nights or the co-parent who works weekends while your partner does the nine-to-five, you’re far from alone in your routine. You may feel a bit lonely commuting to a night shift on dark, empty roads, but weird work hours can lead to full days with your kids, and that’s what any parent wants to see on their schedule.