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MS. ASCH-GOODKIN is a contributing editor for <italic>Contemporary Pediatrics</italic>.
It's called "tag-team parenting," and it's the way many parents who work at low-wage jobs manage to look after their children. According to a report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research, working alternate shifts so that someone is always home with the kids is more common among younger parents and in families with a lower family income, less education, and a Hispanic or mixed-race or mixed-ethnicity background than among higher-income, white families.
Parents tag-team for a variety of reasons: one must work a night shift (more often the case among workers with low education), they cannot afford non-family child care (even with two incomes), or they have a special-needs child whose care requires a parent's presence at all times. In the past decade, the report points out, a typical American family had one partner working 40 hours a week and the other working approximately 27 hours a week; more than half of those couples have children at home.
The finding that low-income families are more likely to use this parenting strategy indicates that the tag-team is more about the ability to pay for good child care than about simple parental preference.