If you are a spouse of a night shift worker and you have small children you are in survial mode. There is no balance, there is only making it thought the mornings. I know. I was there for over four years.
Let me first say working night shift in general is hard. It messes up your body and mind. It changes your personality and makes you perpetually tired and unable to focus. It is hard when it is just the two of you, having to wait until they wake up at 2 pm and having to attend most events alone. But it is a whole new world of difficult with small children.
The shift worker is trying to reverse their natural body clock and missing out on quality time and important events in the lives of their children. The spouse is left alone to deal with the crying baby, fighting siblings, and toddler distruction.
All with the added anxiety and fear that at any moment the common noise of childhood might wake up your spouse. Make their day infinitely more difficult, and, depending on the job, maybe even dangerous.
My strategy was to get my kids out. My home is small and my kids (well my son anyway) are loud. I found this was the best way for me to keep from losing my cool and not fall victim to the intense fear and anxiety of keeping them quiet.
My kids were up early (5:30 am early) and I had a long time window to try and keep them occupied. I would often start with a long drive seeing as nothing was open that early most mornings. We would follow this up with a stop at the park for several hours. This required a bit of planning as snacks, drinks and lunch would often be out of the house. For this I would being my trusty cooler bag and have everything ready to go.
Don’t get me wrong this was not an easy time, no planning would prepare me for how bone tired I was, how lonely, and how out of sorts I often felt. I recall several times I would sit in my car and cry while the baby cried. How I would pray they would fall asleep so I could go back home and get some sleep myself. How I wished I could just have a normal morning in my house instead of at a park at 6 am.
Looking back thought I realize the forced exile from my home made me think outside the box and discover new places I probably would never have tried. Also, being out weekend mornings helped me to find events and participate in activites I would have missed out on if I never left the house.
Most importantly, I got some great one-on-one time with my children without dishes, laundry and cooking to get in the way. We would spend early mornings at Monkey Joe’s bouncing on the inflatabiles together. (yes I know I’m not suppose to.) We would be at Chucky Cheese at 8am Sunday mornings to play games together. In my search for things to do outside the home, we discover farms and farmers market. We had shopping trips, long walks, picnics in the park and tree climbing.
Also I had a standing appointment to take them to see my mother early Saturday mornings and after work some evenings. We would have dinner with her or spend the morning doing crafts at her house. This created a wonderful bond between them that might not have been so strong if not for our odd weekend schedule. So remember to ask for help, take grandma and grandpa up on that offer to watch the kids.
The nightshift juggle was immeasurably difficult on our whole family. However, it is interesting to look back on that time fondly an remember some of the wonderful memories made with my children because of night shift.