See all those families at the park/festival/mall on weekends? Chances are I’m flying solo with baby in tow. It’s not by choice, but my husband’s work schedule—shift schedule to be precise. Yet I know we’re not toughing it out alone. Almost 15 million Americans work evening, night or rotating shifts, according to a 2004 study from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. And many of those shifts—like my husband’s—run well beyond the traditional eight-hour work day. So I know you’re out there mamas!
But if shift work is not part of your family’s reality, here’s a glimpse. When our shift worker gets home after his 12-hour stint, he’s beat. Meanwhile, Mama has been watching the clock because she’s in desperate need of some relief. Twelve hours or more is a long time to go without backup for your precious angel. Sometimes he barely gets through his meal before dozing off on the couch—maybe he’ll make it to bath time. (Reminder—we’re not talking about the baby!) And there’s several more days of this demanding routine.
It gets lonely at times, but there is an up-side to a shift schedule. Splash pad on a Tuesday afternoon? Sure thing! And our family basically has the place to ourselves. Costco run on Wednesday morning? Yes! All the senior citizens out shopping early tell us we have an adorable baby. Family meal at 7:00am around the dinner table? Absolutely. We carve out togetherness on our OWN schedule.
A 16-month-old isn’t bothered by this non-traditional way of life, but I suspect that will change as my daughter gets older. Won’t a six-year-old notice that Daddy isn’t at the school program and other Dads are there? This brings me to the holidays. As a former shift worker myself, I’ve celebrated plenty of them with my work family, and so has my husband. Luckily, our biological families are willing to celebrate whenever and wherever. Like the time we gathered at my sister’s house in Florida several days after Christmas. When a neighbor threw their tree to the curb, we picked it up, stuck it in a bucket full of sand and started decorating with homemade ornaments. Oh Tannenbaum! But will a child understand that Santa is coming to our house a few days early or a few days late? These will be challenges we’ll face down the road.
But every family has its challenges, don’t they? No matter your spouse’s work schedule (or yours) it’s tough to find family time in our hectic lives. So here’s to all those families—traditional and not—making it work. Can I get an “Amen!”?
Do you or your spouse do shift work? How do you fit in family time?