This Might Be the Secret to Work Schedules for Parents

It's enough effort to keep track of your life when you're only looking out for yourself. Factor in your responsibilities as a parent and things get complicated very fast. The one thing that's easy is feeling guilty about your work schedule, but there's actually good news for working parents, no matter what their shifts.

Sociologists at the University of Washington have just published research looking at parents with "nonstandard" work hours, those outside the 9-to-5. The study has some limitations, mainly that it focuses on two-parent, opposite-sex households with one parent on a nonstandard schedule. But its findings are interesting nonetheless. For instance, boys tended to do well with either parent on a night shift, and all children coped well with a mother working nights. Rotating or split shifts, however, tended to cause behavioral problems across the board.

No matter what, the best scenario for working parents is a consistent schedule, the same hours on each day of the week. That kind of stability tends to mitigate the negative effects for kids regardless of when either parent is working. Again, this study and previous research confirm that this is more difficult for single parents and low-income families. But it also shows that a solution is possible — especially if employers and policymakers get on board.

Whether you're a parent or not, equitable access to things like workplace flexibility, affordable childcare, and parental leave make conditions better for all workers. If there's a way to make life more stable for adults and for kids, it's well worth pursuing.