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The demands of childcare can be challenging for all families. Shiftwork, shift changes, and overtime hours mean that PSP families can face more complex situations. These demands can pile up and overwhelm PSP families.

  • Evidence shows that police officers, firefighters, and paramedics and their spouse or significant other (SSOs) identified shiftwork as creating childcare conflicts and negatively impacting family relationships.1,2,3
  • Childcare is often not available outside of the standard work day so it is difficult to arrange when one or both partners work shifts. Alternate childcare can be expensive, and parents may rely on extended family for support.
  • Childcare scrambles occur when the work schedules of parents overlap and are characterized by inconsistent and poorer quality childcare arrangements.

Coparenting and tag-team parenting

Coparenting is the coordination of childcare between two or more adults. The parents may live together or apart and provide care for dependent children. This is often a supportive relationship where positive childcare practices are reinforced. However, there can be disputes which create an unstable home environment for children.

The irregular schedules of PSP often involve rotating shifts, mandatory overtime, and call-ins. These work requirements can conflict with childcare responsibilities. In some cases, this puts pressure on the non-PSP parent to fill-in the gaps. When one parent takes on an unfair share of child rearing in the coparenting relationship, they may experience fatigue and resentment due to role overload.

Adaptive coparenting is when two parents work together to overcome challenges related to parenting roles. For example, the non-PSP parent might arrange a family visit to the fire station to visit their firefighter (PSP parent) on duty – this gives children a chance to connect and see where their parent works. Rotating shifts also provide opportunities for parenting. Certain shifts allow PSP to be home with children during the daytime which can benefit dual-career couples.

Tag-team parenting is an example of adaptive coparenting used by households where two or more parents work outside the home. Tag-team parents alternate between parenting responsibilities and paid employment so that one parent is always available for childcare. Although there can be challenges managing unscheduled shifts and overtime, the tag-team approach encourages each parent to engage in a meaningful way with their children.


Coparenting may become more difficult when there are problems in the relationship due to poor communication and conflicts.

Competing Demands

Some PSP organizations have yet to take into account family and childcare responsibilities within dual-career households. This can make it difficult to balance work and family life.


Families can suffer when parents are unable or unwilling to share childcare fairly. Problems can also arise when a parent undermines the other parent’s child rearing practices.

Gender Inequality

There is evidence that women spend more time caring for children and elders. There also can be a shift to “traditional roles” with the birth of children. This can put added pressure on both women who are PSPs and those who are spouses or significant others.

Examples of coparenting challenges


Career and life-cycle stages


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References for this page (click to expand)

1Brodie, P. J., & Eppler, C. (2012). Exploration of perceived stressors, communication, and resilience in law-enforcement couples. Journal of Family Psychotherapy, 23(1), 20-41. https://doi.org/10.1080/08975353.2012.654082  

2Regehr, C. (2005). Bringing the trauma home: Spouses of paramedics. Journal of Loss & Trauma, 10(2), 97-114. https://doi.org/10.1080/15325020590908812  

3Watkins, S. L., Shannon, M. A., Hurtado, D. A., Shea, S. A., & Bowles, N. P. (2021). Interactions between home, work, and sleep among firefighters. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 64(2), 137-148. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajim.23194  

American Psychological Association. (2022). APA dictionary of psychology. American Psychological Association. Retrieved July 18, 2022, from https://dictionary.apa.org/  

Boyd-Swan, C. H. (2019). Nonparental child care during nonstandard hours: Does participation influence child well-being? Labour Economics, 57, 85-101. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.labeco.2019.01.006  

Brodie, P. J., & Eppler, C. (2012). Exploration of perceived stressors, communication, and resilience in law-enforcement couples. Journal of Family Psychotherapy, 23(1), 20-41. https://doi.org/10.1080/08975353.2012.654082

Duxbury, L., Bardoel, A., & Halinski, M. (2021). ‘Bringing the badge home’: exploring the relationship between role overload, work-family conflict, and stress in police officers. Policing & Society, 31(8), 997-1016. https://doi.org/10.1080/10439463.2020.1822837

Feinberg, M. E., Boring, J., Le, Y., Hostetler, M. L., Karre, J., Irvin, J., & Jones, D. E. (2020). Supporting military family resilience at the transition to parenthood: A randomized pilot trial of an online version of family foundations. Family Relations, 69(1), 109-124. https://doi.org/10.1111/fare.12415

Lambert, E. G., Hogan, N. L., & Barton, S. M. (2004). The nature of work-family conflict among correctional staff: An exploratory examination. Criminal Justice Review (Atlanta, Ga.), 29(1), 145-172. https://doi.org/10.1177/073401680402900109 

Lero, D. S., Prentice, Susan, Friendly, Martha, Richardson, Brooke and Fraser, Ley. . (2019). Non-standard work and child care in Canada: A challenge for parents, policy makers, and child care provision. https://childcarecanada.org/sites/default/files/Non-Standard%20Work%20and%20Child%20Care%2C%20revised%20June%202021.pdf 

Paley, B., Lester, P., & Mogil, C. (2013). Family systems and ecological perspectives on the impact of deployment on military families. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 16(3), 245-265. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10567-013-0138-y

Saltzman, W. R., Lester, P., Beardslee, W. R., Layne, C. M., Woodward, K., & Nash, W. P. (2011). Mechanisms of risk and resilience in military families: Theoretical and empirical basis of a family-focused resilience enhancement program. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 14(3), 213-230. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10567-011-0096-1

Strazdins, L., Clements, M. S., Korda, R. J., Broom, D. H., & D’Souza, R. M. (2006). Unsociable work? Nonstandard work schedules, family relationships, and children’s well-being. Journal of Marriage and Family, 68(2), 394-410. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2006.00260.x