DP works a similarly weird shift pattern, so it changes week on week, and I work a standard 9-5 (well, 8-6 including the commute). As far as I'm aware a childminder is probably the only way to do this, if you can't afford a nanny or au pair.
Our CM is fantastic and very flexible, but I think it helps that we can give her a rota weeks in advance so she always knows what she is doing, and we try to plan DD's times with her around the CM's other responsibilities - so we don't pick DD (1) up at around 3, as that is a terrible time what with the school run, we just accept the extra hour's fees and pick her up at 4 when it is easier. It evens out in the end as CM is very flexible with keeping DD on the odd times DP is a bit late finishing a shift.
We found that when we went through our work schedules there was only actually two different 'shifts' the CM has DD - for earlies and night shifts, I drop her off at 8ish and DP picks her up at 4; for late shifts, he drops her off just after midday and I pick her up at 6. This keeps it a lot less confusing for everyone.
Lastly, we pay a set fee every month rather than paying for exact hours. We just looked at a few months and worked out what the average number of hours would be. Some months the CM might be a few hours 'underpaid', sometimes she might be a few hours 'overpaid', but it all works out. And even doing this is a hell of a lot cheaper than a nursery!
Oh, and for a routine, it's taken a little bit a jiggling around but we've worked to sort out a routine that fits the CM's day and we stick to that at home too, i.e. nap times and food times. It's no hassle to us and it helps create some consistency for DD.
I was absolutely dreading returning to work because of DP's shifts and how hard it would be, but it has been so easy. Just be honest with any CM you talk to about the weirdness of shifts. And, if this is an emergency services job (sounds a bit like it) then be honest about that because it does mean the shift worker is in a job where they might just not be able to leave at the end of their shift, and so the CM might have to have the DC an hour or two longer.
I am a nurse and wok shifts. You need a flexible childminder. If Im on an early I can drop my kids off before 7, you wouldnt be able to do that with a nursery. If Im on lates, th childminder gets them from school and then OH gets them after work. It is very difficult. If I had the room I would have an au pair - might this be an option for you?
We managed it only by using a childminder who was flexible and happy to have the children on different days each week. Fortunately she only had a couple of children at a time so was able to be flexible, other childminders who mind as many kids as possible won't be able to do this. I realise looking back how lucky we were. If I was on a nightshift, I would wait for my child to go to pre-school and then grab a couple of hours sleep. We also had family close by who filled in some of the gaps. Looking back I don't know how we did it, we had four dc's under 7. I only worked part time hours though but it was a struggle and I was permanently exhausted, especially from the nightshifts. Now the kids are older if I am on an early , dh does morning school run and I pick up, if I am on late, dh goes in earlier so he can get home earlier. we only get through school holidays by me working mostly nights and my lovely boss being so accomodating.
I've only just started looking for work but I'm fortunate enough to have been offered a job, in the industry I want which I think I would enjoy.
But.. it's shifts: earlies, lates and overnights; changing from one to the next each week. Has anyone out there done this and has it worked?... if so how? I haven't got family close so we'd be looking at nurseries/childminders for mornings or afternoons but we'd need different times depending what week it was and I don't know if nurseries can offer that. I also feel bad that my kids will have no kind of routine. Any advice or experience shared welcome!