What It's Like Being a Parent When Your Partner Works Long Hours

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What It’s Like Being a Parent When Your Partner Works Long Hours

motherhoodPublished August 4, 2022

by Kirsten White, BSN, RN

Pediatric Nurse

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My first date with my husband was scheduled for 8 p.m. on a Tuesday. Despite the relatively late hour, he was coming straight from work and was a few minutes late. This was my first glimpse into our future. I saw what parenting might be like with a partner who works long hours. I was not upset, though. His delay gave me a few extra minutes to primp in the restaurant bathroom. In all seriousness, I knew from the beginning what I was signing up for. My husband is a hard worker with a demanding job in a field that expects near 24/7 availability. As frustrating and lonely as his work schedule can be at times, I am grateful for it and would not change it.

Many emotions and dynamics come with being married to and having a family with a self-proclaimed workaholic. It has been quite the learning curve. Our routine has had to adapt with every family change, from getting married to welcoming a puppy to having a baby. Through it all, I have noticed many positive and negative feelings that come with having a partner who works long hours.

9 Emotions About Partner’s Long Work Hours

Guilt

As difficult as it can be to solo-parent late into the evening on many weeknights, I still feel like the lucky one. Spending so much time in my home and with my family is a privilege. With this privilege, though, comes guilt. Guilt that my husband does not get the same amount of quality time. Sometimes this guilt consumes me. I feel like I can’t complain about the challenging parts of my day because I would not trade it for a long day at the office.

Laziness

Because I work less outside the home, I do feel the need to prove the value of being home with my daughter. I never want to come across as lazy and often feel the need to account for my time. My husband sees the worth of me being at home and raising our daughter. He never challenges me on what I did all day. He recognizes that she’s happy spending our days together. We’re both grateful that we’ve made it possible and that I am willing to take on that day-to-day care. My guilt, though, makes me question whether I was lazy in my ability to get it all done that day.

Loneliness

I rarely have a moment to feel lonely when I am “go, go, go” with my toddler all day. I try to fill our days at home with playdates, swim lessons, walks, and group classes, so I get a good dose of adult conversation with other moms. However, the loneliness can creep in on nights when I am alone after I put the baby to bed. I am fortunate to spend so much time with our daughter, but she is not quite at the point of offering adult conversation yet. Once the sun goes down, being alone can feel quite isolating.

Envy

I believe there is no perfectly equal partnership, but it can feel like other people have that when you see other families on social media. When I scroll through my feeds, I find myself envying other moms who seem to have ever-present husbands sharing the load of childrearing. However, I remind myself that I want to change the diapers because I am picky about how it is done. I want to prepare my daughter’s meals because I care about serving her nourishing food. And if I wanted a partner to split homemaking duties in half, then we would have to split all the other responsibilities in half. That’s just not how it works for us.

Nostalgia

One of the hardest parts about having a partner who works long hours is the longing for your baby to spend time with their other parent. I never want to add guilt or make my husband feel like he is missing out. He does go out of his way to get at least a few quality minutes with her daily. I genuinely care about their relationship and want to foster it, so I always hope they will get a good amount of time together.

Jealousy

Because I am always hoping for quality family time, sometimes that means sacrificing one-on-one time with my husband. It can be tricky to divide a busy working partner’s limited time between myself and my family. Do we bring the baby on date night so he can spend time with her? Or do we get a babysitter to have an actual date, thus sacrificing his time with her? I strangely find myself jealous of my husband’s limited time. I want his attention, but I also want him to give all his attention to our daughter.

Overwhelming

Maintaining the household largely independently can sometimes feel very overwhelming. There is never not a load of laundry that needs to be folded or a pile of dishes that need to be washed. I am still working at it but keeping a tidy house has become important to me in motherhood. It can be challenging to stay on top of everything when I am frequently alone with my child. My hands can only be in so many places at once, and the list of chores seems to keep growing.

Resentment

It is easy for resentment to build up when I am drowning in chores. I feel like I am doing many of these alone. However, in these moments, I try to remind myself that he could just as easily be thinking these things about me while he is working late in the office. Ultimately, what would I rather be doing? I am right where I am meant to be and want to be. When I think of it that way, the resentment fades.

Gratitude

Ultimately, I am beyond grateful for my husband’s hard work and financial support for the family. Although I work part-time, my primary responsibilities lie with our family and home. This is what I have dreamed of since childhood. Even on my worst days, I am still thankful for getting to be my baby’s mom and my husband, who makes that possible.

It’s About Balance

Having a partner who works long hours is not without its challenges. However, I would have to work outside the home more if he didn’t work so much. This would also mean that our daughter would have to spend more time in daycare. His long hours and career allow me to have a part-time job and spend more time caring for our family. We have struck a balance that works for our family. This balance is constantly shifting, but there are many solutions that we have implemented to improve the way we function as a family.

5 Tips for When Your Partner Works Long Hours

1. Ask for Help

It can feel impossible to get housework done while chasing a toddler who is undoing your work faster than you can get it done. I had to swallow my pride and get help. I realized this when my daughter was two weeks old and my husband returned to work. We planned to have newborn photos taken in our home, which was a total disaster. I had to ask my mom to help me clean and declutter so the house would look presentable for photos. Having a second set of hands to occupy the kids or help with housework makes all the difference.

This can be paid help or asking a family member or friend. People will ask what they can do, especially in the beginning. Take them up on those offers with specific needs like cleaning, an errand, or childcare. Even once people stop offering, it is okay to ask for help. I ask my mother-in-law for babysitting favors almost weekly. It gives our family more time together when my husband is home, and I think my mother-in-law likes the time with her granddaughter.

Don’t be ashamed to use that help to allow time to take care of yourself. When I have childcare lined up so I can run an errand, I try to add a manicure if time allows. It can be easy to feel guilty about spending money on yourself, especially not being the primary breadwinner. But if there is room in the budget, treat yourself occasionally. As the saying goes, you cannot pour from an empty cup.

2. Indulge in a Treat

Try to look forward to something you enjoy on nights when they aren’t home. This helps to prevent loneliness and resentment because you are excited about your activity and not mad that they aren’t there because they work long hours. For instance, I anticipate watching TV shows my husband does not like on nights I know he will not be home. While watching these shows, I often will also fold a load of laundry. That way, I’m being productive but enjoying my time and not watching the clock for him to come home.

3. Delegate When Possible

It can feel easier to do everything on your own rather than accept help from a partner. My husband is terrific at asking, “what can I do to help you right now?” When floundering, I’d rather complain but insist that I’ve got it under control. Being very specific with my requests has proven to be particularly helpful. Chances are, you have a mental list of tasks that need to be done. Rattle off a few easy ones like “please put five diapers and a bib in the diaper bag.” He lightens my load that way and gets to contribute. It can be frustrating that they don’t just know what needs to be done. But they can’t learn how to help if we never give them the opportunity.

In the same way I delegate tasks to him, I try to make myself available to help him with his tasks. While I can’t do his job, I can lighten his load on days when he works long hours. I try to anticipate his needs, such as noticing a load of his laundry that needs to be done or preparing lunch for him. Being able to lighten his load a bit makes me feel like we are each contributing uniquely. We form a strong partnership pursuing a mutual goal of a happy, healthy family.

4. Remember to Communicate

Resentment and confusion can quickly build when partners don’t understand what the other does all day or what they need. However, communication is an easy fix for this. I had to find a way to share my needs without making him feel like he was somehow falling short. For example, I like to know whether my husband will be home for dinner so I can plan our mealtime accordingly. I realized my usual way of asking if he planned to eat with us unintentionally guilt-tripped him if the answer was no. Because he shared how this simple question made him feel, I could explain that it helps me plan my afternoon when I know whether he will be joining us and when I can expect him. Now there is no misunderstanding regarding the intent of my question, and we can both feel informed and on the same page.

5. Work With Schedules

The best logistical advice I have when a partner works long hours is to share a calendar. If there is any event at which I want or need my husband’s attendance, I make sure to send a calendar invitation to his work email as soon as I know about it. That way, I won’t forget to bring it up in person the next time I see him and then feel angry when he can’t make it last minute. We started doing this a few years ago, which has changed our awareness of each other’s schedules and availability.

While it may seem that partners who work long hours exhaust all their dedication on the job and have nothing left to give to their families, I believe it’s the opposite. A hard-working partner’s work ethic bleeds into their family life. These character traits on the job also reflect their devotion to the family. Their dedication to their jobs exemplifies commitment to family, as this is a significant way they contribute and provide for us.

Their hard work is not without sacrifice for them, either. I am sure they would often much rather be home in the evenings with their children and partners. Delegation, assistance, and open communication can help us to see the blessings and challenges that a partner’s hard work brings to the family dynamic. I am grateful for my husband’s devotion, diligence, and work ethic because I know he is working hard for all of us.

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