What are your best tips for when your husband works so late that he never sees your kids?
While we’ve had great discussions supporting stay-at-home dads and finding quality time with kids over the years, we haven’t really focused on fathers who frequently — or always — get home from work after their kids are in bed (and maybe leave the house before seeing them, too).
Does your husband consistently work late and rarely see your kids on weekdays? How do you deal with it? Do you see it as just a fact of life, or does it bother you that you’re the one always responsible for your kids’ dinner, bedtime routine, etc. (and possibly the default parent as well)?
We should point out that while we’re saying “husband” here, it’s partly because of a recent comment thread about that specific dynamic and partly because it’s such a common situation. (In fact, it even has its own page on TV Tropes: “When You Coming Home, Dad?” Warning: If you click, you may find yourself falling down the TV Tropes rabbit hole.)
But obviously, this discussion can incorporate parents of all genders who frequently work late, including breadwinner moms.
(We should mention that checking out our Week in the Life of a Working Mom series is a great way to see all sorts of examples of how parents blend their various work schedules — click here to share your work-life balance!).
If your husband works so late that he never sees your kids, please share your tips on how to handle it. Do you outsource household tasks? Simply lower your standards (and try to ease any pesky mom guilt about that)?
If your husband always misses dinnertime, do you use the “family breakfast” option? Does your husband take on more chores on the weekends or mornings than you do? (If you’re the parent who always works late, please share your perspectives as well!)
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This started happening so he found a new job. Fortunately we aren’t in a position where our options are homelessness or never seeing his children who he loves and values, so he figured it out.
Yeah, this would be a dealbreaker for me. There’s no job so important that it’s worth never seeing your kids on weeknights. Occasionally missing bedtime is a very different story and we manage that by making life as simple for the parent whose with the kids: takeout or frozen food, simplified bedtime routine, relaxed standards for cleanliness, etc.
This is my husband right now, but our child is very young (10 months) and goes to bed pretty early (7:30 or so). My DH doesn’t get home until 7:30-8 most nights and it will probably be that way for most of his career (biglaw partner). He does spend a few minutes with him in the morning and a good chunk of weekend time, so I’m not too concerned. I have a gov’t job and (barely) work 9-5 so I get to spend a lot of time with the baby before and after work on weekdays.
My kids go to bed at 7:30 (ages 5 and 2), so husband almost always tries to get home by 6:30, then logs back in after bedtime. Of course, there are excepts and he travels some, too. This seems to work for us, but is not without its difficulties. My job has a lot more normal hours, so we see it basically as fact of life for him/us.
My Dad was a lawyer with a finance practice and this is what he did. He was almost always home between 6 and 7:30/8pm and then either went back to the office (later years when commute was shorter) or worked from home office (early years when commute was longer). He and my mom ususally sat and had a cup of tea for 20 mins after the kids where in bed and she usually went to bed before he finished working.
I thought you were talking about your husband, and I thought it was odd but also sweet that he would have tea with his MIL after putting the kids to bed and before logging back on. ;)
Lol – no DH is definitely not a lawyer. But Dad’s regular presence despite the inconvenience to him, meant that I insisted on the same in my partner and that has certainly benefitted both our home life and my career.
My husband travels once a month for a week at a time. I did start to feel like the responsibility has been falling heavily on me. Especially since we are in the midst of potty training one kid and sleep training the other. It’s been exhausting to say the least. So I have started to higher a babysitter from 5:30-7:30 every night he’s gone. I work full time as well and it has helped my sanity when he’s away. The mornings are a little harder and we are usually very late all week but I give myself grace. My employer is understanding as well. I will say, when he gets home, he gets to wash bottles every night for 5 nights as a make up.
My husband leaves at 5 in the evening and gets home at 7 in the morning. He spends all his waking time getting ready for work so we never see him. On his days off he is either playing his game or sleeping 16 to 18 hours at a time. I pretty much am already a single parent. Cant get him to spend an hour with them before work. Or help with the house or kids. I have been seriously considering leaving him since he already isnt a part of our lives.
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The fact that my husband had a job that worked like that (not on an all-the-time basis, but on a frequent and very unpredictable basis) was definitely a big part of why we aimed for him to stay home with the kids. I found that schedule frustrating enough when it was just me and the dog waiting for him. Plus, we figured his inflexibility would make it a lot more difficult for me to advance in my (more lucrative) career.
If my toddler were a normal kid, I would never see her at night. I typically do not get home from work until 7:30 or 8 on a good day and can be up to 10 or 11 or later on a bad night. Fortunately, my kiddo is and always has been a night owl, so her bedtime is between 10-11 and she sleeps until 8 (and I typically leave the house around 9). If it is going to be a rough week, I try to at least a couple of nights get home right before bedtime, put her to bed, and then log back on afterwards (bedtime is typically my job). And I try not to miss both breakfast and bedtime at the same time (kiddo typically eats breakfast in the kitchen with me while I pack my lunch and gather my things). The hours are a fact of life for me and I am compensated handsomely for them, which allows DH to be a SAHD. I also generally pick up or outsource a lot of the housekeeping type items, which I think helps keep the balance for him when he works the same hours I do taking care of our kid. Once we’re into the elementary years, I expect that will change because he’ll have “at school” time to do more of the housekeeping rather than trying to keep our wild and crazy toddler from causing total mayhem and destruction all day long.
Yes, I am bitter says
My husband works late, getting home right at kid bedtime or well after it, most nights. The evenings he does come home, he’s so resentful of having to be home “early” it makes it worse. He does do solo evenings if I have something else going on — typically once a week at the most, and split between non-work and work events. He rarely stays out late for non-work things, but the default is he can work as late as he wants without ‘checking’ with me.
I’m getting DEEPLY resentful of this situation — it used to be less of a problem when I could go into work as early as I wanted, but that’s no longer possible because we now commute in together. I make significantly more than he does and my job is just as demanding, but more flexible. He doesn’t even like his job, and based on what he’s telling me and the hours other people work in similar positions, he’s working as late as he is because he’s inefficient and making work. It could be he just doesn’t want to come home and deal with family life. He doesn’t avoid family stuff on the weekends, but that’s fun stuff, not the evening routine.
I think I’d mind it a lot less if 1) he actually liked his job/found it fulfilling, 2) at least acknowledged that my second shift makes it possible for him to work like he’s working, and 3) I didn’t feel like anytime I wanted to do something outside of school/childcare hours, it didn’t have to be a major negotiation.
Mostly a vent, I’ve tried to talk to him about it, but he either gets defensive or says he’ll do better.
Boston Legal Eagle says
Hugs. This sounds really frustrating and I would be majorly resentful too. Have you tried couples counseling? Honestly, the fact that you make enough to support your family gives you lots of options to not put up with this if he’s not willing to change.
In our family, if one of us has to work late, we can almost always do it from home after the kids’ nighttime routine. If I have to stay late at the office (generally predictable and known ahead of time), I let my husband know and that night involves a lot more screentime and condensed bedtime routine.
Hugs – that sounds infuriating. We have a similar dynamic and it is so frustrating because it’s like – YOU ARE CHOOSING THIS! I feel like there’s some male insecurity under it somewhere for us anyway.
Yep — some of this is habit from when he use to be in a position that required immediate responses, but I thought his new position would be better — it is somewhat, but not as much as I was hoping.
He’s just a jerk.
+1. Dump him. He’ll be forced to do the evening routine when he’s a single dad and you’ll have a lot more time to yourself.
Coach Laura says
Well, depending on how much she makes compared to him, dumping him may mean paying alimony, “maintenance” or giving him a greater proportion of household assets.
For constructive advice, counseling might be one. Or having him see a career counselor or coach or an ADD coach if ADD or similar is causing the inefficiency.
Hugs. Being a working parent can get exhausting and overwhelming, and it sounds like your husband’s reaction is avoidance. I’m so sorry that so much is falling on you and your partner isn’t standing by your side as he should. I’ve unfortunately seen (from my father and my sisters’ exes) men sometimes spiral when they start to feel inadequacy/resentment as the woman experiences professional success. It’s shitty and regressive and not the woman’s fault, but it happens. Can you try to talk to him from the shared perspective of “oof this working parent thing is hard. Let’s have each others’ backs!” perspective? Maybe get him to agree to 3x week home for nightly routine so you each get some breathers? Hopefully he can empathize with the burden you’re feeling and be less resentful if you both agree to break times for each other.
Just coming in late to say that I appreciate the support. For lack of a better word, there are cultural/generational differences in how we view family life — even though we’re both from the US and had SAHMs for most of our childhoods. He really doesn’t appreciate that parenting and household stuff should be a shared task and has no role models among his family or, even more importantly, good friends, who have a two career household. And I do think there’s some jealously about my career possibly taking off and his wrapping up, even if he doesn’t realize it. Because of his security clearance, he is VERY reluctant to seek any outside help for either marital or personal counseling for ADHD, which we both think he has.
There is a forced end to his current job/career fairly soon, thank goodness — so I might be naive, but I’m holding out some hope for that.
That’s really rough. I hope you seek out support for yourself even if your husband can’t provide it, whether that’s a mother’s helper, babysitter or just mental health breaks you can take for yourself like an excersise class or dinner with a friend or therapy or whatever works for you. It’s hard to bear an unfair burden alone and not gave it color your attitude. I feel you.
even if he doesn’t seek counseling for ADHD, I would highly suggest him getting diagnosed. I was diagnosed with ADHD about a year ago and adderall has helped me SO MUCH.
Coach Laura says
OP, I was sure part of his issue was ADD/ADHD and glad to see that my intuition was correct.
There are coaches that work with ADD/ADHD adults to improve their work. They are definitely not therapists and wouldn’t trigger security clearance problems. One such coach is Nancy Ratey and she has a fabulous book that he could read -The Disorganized Mind on amazon. Even though he may retire soon, I would encourage you to get him the book (maybe read it yourself as it has tips for family) and find a coach – it might help not just at work!
My spouse used to have a high clearance level and work in an extremely sensitive job/work environment and even after being diagnosed with ADHD and starting medication, did not have any problems as long as he was in full communication with his security officer. In fact, he said his work quality improved. My brother is also a military officer with a high clearance (both of them are TS/SCI+) and he is prescribed ADHD medication by a military doctor that are 100% covered by TRICARE. Refusing to seek help and blaming it on clearances is a cop-out (which also as somebody diagnosed with ADHD as an adult and while having a less-stringent security clearance I understand, it’s hard to face it and take the necessary steps — but don’t let him fleece you on this.)
I wish this was inclusive with partner or spouse instead of husband.
(Not just a passing reference to why in the paragraphs above.)
I know. It seems so simple to just be inclusive–instead, she went out of her way to explain not being inclusive. Just be inclusive. Easy.
Me and my husband cannot seem to agree on how to divvy up the responsibilities of taking care of the kids. He agreed to work at a job where he commutes at least an hour away and is gone from 2:30 pm-1:30 a.m. Kids are asleep by 9 p.m. and awake by 9 a.m., he refuses to spend any time with them before work. On his 1 day off he sleeps all day and gets mad when I tell him to take care of the kids, when he’s done throwing a fit he will take care of them for about 1-3 hours. Not during Covid I work part-time making more than him and go to school full-time. He seems to think since he’s bringing in $ (minimum wage) that he is doing enough for the family. We are a family of 6 with 1 on the way, his long hours with little pay is not working for our family at all. I don’t know what to do.
This doesn’t happen for us often…but we also live in a smaller town and don’t make the kind of money that often leads to this lifestyle.
I understand says
Husband has a job with crisis management duties so everyday is an unknown and he can arrive home anytime between 6 and 10pm each night. There is no work from option either. For now, I’ve accepted it and it can be a frustrating dynamic. Things that have helped 1) We chose a childcare option with an early drop off time (7:30am) and he is responsible for dropping off the kid every morning. He told his work that he can stay late but he will never be able to be in before 8:30am (most team members arrive by 7am). This means that I can get ready in peace or go into work early (and leave early) 2) He is responsible for planning and making two meals over the weekend that can easily be reheated and I supplement with other TJ frozen meals, tacos, etc. I basically don’t cook real meals 3) He makes the kid lunch and prep his bag every night regardless of how late he gets home. 4) He folds and put away all the laundry (I hate this chore so much). 5) He takes at least half the kid sick days (not popular in his office and luckily our kid has been relatively healthy) We are expecting another child early next year and we both agree this is not sustainable in the long term so we’ll likely have our neighbor’s nanny come a few hours per week in the short term and long term I’ll move into a more high paying job with still stable hours and he’ll switch into an independent contractor. Let’s hope it works.
My wife works late and misses bedtime often. She feels guilty about it, but I think its fine. To assuage her guilt she has been coming home right at the tail-end of bedtime. I would prefer that either she miss bedtime completely, or be there at the beginning of bedtime. Showing up in the middle of our bedtime routine is just the worst. The kids get excited and we have to start all over. I’m letting it ride because she needs it and the kids need it. But I think we can do better.
Regarding the guilt factor, I understand why she feels it. However, even on the worst weeks she is home Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for bedtime. Most weeks she manages to make it home one other night – so that is typically 4 out of 7. I call that a win. She also is there for every breakfast. And it’s a huge win for me because she has recently been fully in charge of the getting dressed battle royale that goes on with our toddlers each morning. I know Laura Vanderkam is a bit polarizing, but something that has helped me from her books is when something bothers us to examine really how much time it takes/ how many times it happens. It feels like my wife “never” does bedtime. But when we really looked at it, she is there just slightly less than half the time.
The Other Side says
I (wife) had a really cool opportunity to teach 20 hours a week on top of my lawyer job (sole practitioner) and to take a part time masters degree.
I thought everything was fine and we had a great financial situation. I was honestly very happy and looked forward to workdays. I contributed by doing laundry, cleaning and packing lunch etc. Husband got extremely angry about the situation and basically wouldn’t communicate for a while and then exploded with rage one day.
Now I have more support staff at the office (so I work less and earn less). I also don’t work as hard at teaching as I used to (20 hours of teaching is SO MUCH work to prep and mark for). I have dropped my part time degree that I loved. We also added on two hours of cleaning a week (which makes a huge difference to our house). Now I also do almost all of the drop off and pickup of our child (child gets dropped off at school and then for a bit of daycare every day). I am also super cautious about any time away from the home. I give myself one afternoon a week (sunday afternoon usually) to do something for myself. And that is it.
Honestly, I’m not going to pretend I am happy. However, it is what it is.
20 hours/week of teaching is insane! My husband is an actual professor and only spends 2 and 4 hours every week in the classroom, but easily spends 15-20 hours/week on teaching when you include the prep work. Admittedly, that’s not his full-time job (he does research) but our friends who are at undergrad colleges and don’t do much, if any, research still don’t spend more than 10-15 hours/week in the classroom! I cannot imagine teaching 20 hours and trying to hold down a separate full time job.
I honestly had never been happier.
I would love to teach full time and this was a great opportunity to build experience.
Over the course of our marriage I have had so many opportunities to do things that I have turned down. Amazing jobs, lectures, workshops to lead. All kinds of things and I have turned all of it down. This opportunity came up and I was so happy. And I love every second of it and I am good at it. My students mark my classes highly and I have fantastic rates of student success post grad.
My husband goes to the gym. He goes home some days and has a nap. He buys take out some days instead of cooking. He lets the kid watch tv instead of active parenting. These are all things he does for himself. No one including me would judge him for them.
Instead of those things I wanted to work 1.5 jobs and attend school. And that was a dealbreaker and resulted in a lot of comments about how I was a bad mother. It’s an unfair world I guess and we can’t have everything.
I’m sorry, that really sucks :(
Thanks for sharing this. I feel like sharing any parenting inequity on the main page leads to a chorus of DTMF but life is not that simple. That said, I’d keep trying to do what makes you happy because motherhood has a natural end date and then… what? That’s what I keep telling myself while I fight the battle anyway.
Sounds like you are a bad mother. There are only so many hours in a day and most of your day is spent away from your child. ergo an absentee mother.
Two lawyer home says
My husband is a senior associate in BigLaw (capital markets) and this is currently our reality whenever he has busy deals. During those weeks he often works around the clock and gets home well after kiddo’s bedtime. I also work full time outside the home but as an in-house lawyer with much more stable hours (approx 8-4pm in office then log back in evenings as needed). Our solution is to have Husband do every morning drop off after I leave for work at 7am which means he does the morning playtime, dressing, breakfast, and packing of the baby’s bag. Therefore we ensure he gets meaningful parenting time almost every weekday morning. I do every pick up and dr’s appt, ad hoc events etc. and I plan all the logistics of pumping, bottle washing, baby food, buying kid’s clothes and planning the kid/family social events. I honestly think that if we had not “officially” delegated the morning routine to him, it would have crept more and more onto me (simply out of convenience) to do both morning and evening routines. This works for us so far and I’m cautiously optimistic. It’s a juggle. Modern day parenting, I guess.
Also in a two-lawyer home, and I think you’re right to be cautiously optimistic about this arrangement! Designating which parent does what thing for the kid is, in my experience, the best (only?) way to make sure dad gets both quality time and non-quality caregiving time in an amount that’s fair to mom.
We keep score about it and I think it’s okay — if he covers one of my tasks for me one day, I “owe” him a cover, and that keeps things pretty balanced so that it’s not one person constantly sacrificing for the other.
No Longer Married says
This was sort of what happened with my husband and me, only I was the one working until midnight. We couldn’t afford child care because we both worked low paying jobs, so he would work 4am until 12:30pm and get home between 1pm and 1:30. I would then leave for work as soon as he got home so I could get to work by 2:30pm. I would get home around midnight. In the mornings, I would get our oldest ready for school, then my dad would take him to school. After that, I would get our youngest up and fed. Then I would rest on the couch for a few hours watching him until I had to leave for work. On average, I got around 4 hours of sleep each night. (My lifelong battle with insomnia didn’t help any.) On the weekends I would try to do the housecleaning. My husband would do laundry while I did the meal planning and grocery shopping.
This was supposed to be a temporary situation. He was going to school. And once he finished his degree he would get a much better paying job so that I could switch to part-time. And once both kids were in school, I could switch to working days during the time the kids were in school. Unfortunately, after he graduated with his bachelor degree he never did anything with it and had zero interest in getting a better paying job. He continued to work the same low paying job, and I continued to be a living zombie. He also became less and less interested in taking care of the kids. There were times when I would come home at midnight and discover they were just sitting down to eat dinner. Or I would come home early and find the kids asleep on the living room floor at 9 or 10 at night, still waiting for dinner. My husband would come home from work, lay down on the couch, and spend the day sleeping. Or he would go out to the garage and spend hours playing on his laptop while the kids were locked in the living room by themselves.
Eventually, he was fired from his job of 8 years. I switched to working days, taking a pay cut in the process. He still refused to work, and we eventually got divorced. There are times I wonder if the marriage would have survived if we had been able to afford day care, and had been able to spend time together as a family. Now I’m the one with the college degree (graduated in May!) and being almost completely self-sufficient. Once I finally finish my master’s degree and get a REALLY good job, I should be able to support myself without relying on student loans to fill in the gaps.
Welcome to modern parenting. I feel a whole lot better now that life is improving.
Wow, I’m really late to the game but I just wanted to tell you that you’re crazy strong, and you did the right thing :) You’re going to be a wonderful role model for your children. My husband was raised in similar circumstances to your children right now (except he never saw his dad again after he was 8), and he is an amazing partner to have, because he saw a hard-working woman his whole life and would never question my career drive or value my job less than his.
Congratulations on graduating, that’s a huge deal! And don’t go into too much debt for that Master’s- I had to quit mine as a single mom, and I’ve gone from $50K to $115K salary without it in 5 years. Someone with your work ethic will do amazing things :)