Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Swinging Night-Shift Life

Recently, a reader asked me to write a post about how I deal with a night-shift-working sexy-ass hunk of love. Okay, she didn't quite word it that way. I am calling him a sexy-ass hunk of love in an effort to make up for "throwing him under the bus", according to him, and "being rough on him", according to my father-in-law, in my Mother's Day post

For the record, I am not sorry for what I wrote, because it was nothing but the truth, but I am sorry if I left the impression that he's some tool of a husband, because he's actually not. He does a lot for me and the boys, and totally cleans the house, too. In fact, I've had one of my best friends threaten that she is going to steal him from me "if I ever do anything to that man." So there you have it. He's not an ass bag.

Anyway, night-shift work. How to make it work? One big concern for me was how to deal with a dude who is needing to sleep during the day when I have one or several screaming, yelling, toy-throwing, jumping, running kids in the house. Which is obviously not even close to being a good combo. However, it is doable.

Basically, the day sleeper needs to figure out what works best in blocking out the noise for them. The obvious solution that probably springs to mind is earplugs. However, Nate refuses to wear them. For some reason, they annoy the holy hell out of him and are like tiny little rocks or something in his ear canals. 

But thankfully, earplugs are not the only thing that block noise - Nate puts a pillow over his head. This actually seems to be an amazing solution because it also blocks light. I do it on the mornings that I get to sleep in, and I sleep like the dead. But you can also have a fan or air filter running. The white noise blocks out a lot. Or, a friend's husband uses noise-cancelling ear buds. 

Basically, as the one who is awake and responsible for the kids, you have to understand that you are not going to be capable of stopping all of the noise. Short of sedating the children (which is tempting, I know), they are just going to be loud sometimes. Especially a baby. They cry. Sometimes a lot. And it's even more stressful when you throw on the added shit-stress of a sleeping person in the house. But this is where I've just had to learn that it's up to the person who is sleeping to create the best environment for blocking noise as they can, because we can't really keep kids and babies from doing their thing. It's just not possible. So they need to turn on the fan, put in the plugs, and throw a pillow over their head. They'll be fine.

However, this isn't to say that the boys aren't being taught to respect the fact that there is a sleeping person in the house and they need to be quiet. I believe that they need to understand that they can't just do what they want and scream and be loud and disregard their environment and others around them. Of course, they are children and will act as such, but they're also taught to do their best to keep the noise under control when dad is sleeping. 

The next thing was dealing with being basically shut out of the bedroom during the day. I mean, what if I get shit on and need to change my clothes? Or the weather changes and I need different clothes? As babies, all of the boys were pukers, and they spewed like it was going out of style. It was disgusting. And annoying. So basically, I either kept an extra 20 shirts and pairs of pants in another bedroom, or accepted that sometimes, I was going to have to go into my bedroom and risk disturbing Sleeping Beauty. 

So do your best to plan ahead for the day ahead but recognize that unless you have a crystal ball, you are going to have to enter the bedroom here and there. It's fine. Everyone will survive.

Currently, Nate is on swings, which means that he's gone during the worst time of day: the evening - when I am the most tired and exhausted, and the kids, too. And doing the dinner and especially the bedtime routine by myself is no fun. Baths, pajamas, teeth brushing... ugh. But this is where I have to figure out what works best not just for them but especially for me, at each of their stages. Believe me when I say that there have been times that I have had enough and put them to bed an hour early. It was really in their best interests. Like, if they wanted to continue to live. 

The worst time was after Brandon was born. Ethan had just turned 4 and Connor, 2. I was breastfeeding, and perhaps I'm stating the obvious when I say that to have to sit down several times in an afternoon and evening to feed a baby with two tiny ones running amok was not fun. This was when I "perfected" the art of timing. However, babies and kids are not always predictable and many times I got screwed. So I had to learn how to let a lot of stuff go for the moment, and I learned how to keep Brandon latched while I was up, walking around, and doing many, many things. Perhaps I should add that to my resume in the able to multi-task section....

Recently, I finally figured out the whole popcorn and a movie deal. One night a week, I pop some corn and put it in a giant bowl on the floor, then find a new or not-often watched movie to put on for them, and the combo seems to keep them occupied for an hour or so. I'm learning to find little traditions to do with them to occupy the time while Nate sleeps and works. 

Eventually, you learn to juggle it all but I'm the first to say that it's NOT easy. Some days things seem to fall into place and others, they just fall apart. But you will always get through it.

For me, the very worst part about having a husband who works swing shift and night shift is the isolation and feeling like a single parent on his work days. Now, I know that compared to military families and travelling jobs where the spouse is gone for extended periods of time are significantly worse, but that's not my reality.

What is my reality is that even in just the four days of Nate's work week, I feel isolated. There is no doubt about it. I don't really know what it is about evening/night shifts over a day shift that makes it so much worse. Maybe it's being alone in the evenings, after still being alone during the day or part of the day for him to sleep, I don't know. It just is different. But, it does have its perks because after the boys go to bed, it's time for me to do whatever I want to do and watch whatever I want to watch on tv. Which is awesome a lot of the time but can get pretty boring, as well. 

So I guess the only way to combat it is to find things to keep you occupied, and then find new things. If the kids are older and more out-in-public friendly, then find lots of things to do with them. Mine are still a little too small for me to feel brave enough to cart them out by myself very often. Babies are awesome though, because you can contain them and pretty much take them anywhere. When at home, beg have your friends come over, or whatever works for you. I actually considered contacting some of the other wives of the guys my husband works with and starting up some kind of mom thing where we would trade off hanging out at each other's houses with all of the kids a night or two a week, do dinner, maybe have a drink, and basically socialize like some kind of giant mafia family while the kids entertained each other and ran around. And then my lack of commitment, organizational skills, and desire to hang with people who maybe I won't really get along with or whatever got in the way and I never pursued it.

But really, it's kind of a good idea. So if any of you who actually know who I am in real life and whose husbands work on the A-side want to give that a shot, then let me know. Just keep in mind that I swear, drink, and discipline my kids, and I don't even begin to attempt to paint the perfect picture of my life and family (and I can't stand being around people who do), so if that doesn't fit with you, then don't bother. 

The thing for me, if I'm going to be perfectly honest, is that it's tough for me to be one-on-three with the boys. I really don't like being responsible for all three by myself. It's hard, it's overwhelming, it's frustrating, and it's mind-numbingly boring, all at the same time. I love going and hanging with just one of the boys at a time; it's actually really awesome, and makes me wonder why we didn't stop at one kid. But all three together are just total chaos right now and I much prefer to have someone else around to disperse the attention, responsibility, and focus for and on me. I know that in a few years, when they're all older, it'll be much better, but in the meantime, I basically just have to close my eyes and hang on for the ride. Sometimes, with a  drink in hand.

So, I hope that helps. Basically, I have nothing to offer except to say that it's hard and it does suck. Feel free to ask anything I didn't cover in the comments. And feel free to offer up any nuggets of wisdom you may have about the topic, too! 

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  1. You. Are. Awesome.

    I think I'm going to just go mafia-family style; maybe with the actual mafia - that sounds a lot more entertaining.

    1. Well, thanks!

      Actual mafia sounds waaay more interesting!

      Good luck with it all. I'm sure you'll figure out how to make it work for you! :-)

  2. i have 1 kid and my hubby works 12 hours a day (at his j-o-b and here in the garage) from 9-9. sometimes i wonder why he wants more than one, other times i get it. i'm not even shitting you, he told me it's gonna be hard to have another baby. thank you, captain obvious. oh, and YOU are telling ME?? wow... well, that's another blog...

    anyway, i am a SAHM and work from home online. another kid would entertain the one i have... eventually... and i live in the boonies so it's hard to get out w/out taking a whole day to do anything fun. staying sane is the name of my game. in 4 wks i'll be done daycaring for a tot that ties me to the house and my kiddo & i will be heading to parks and abandoned (summer vaca) school playgrounds for sanity's sake. mafia style sounds the best, though. it's sorta like public, but w/out the stress. and your company usually understands your situation. thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

    also, haven't quite gotten there w/ sharing my blog w/ my in-laws, so good for you for grabbing life by the fun-nuggets and givin' 'er. ;-)

    1. Haha, I love the Captain Obvious mention! Having another kid entertain the one(s) we already had is where we finally are, and I couldn't WAIT to get there! It's been awesome in that respect but it also kind of balances out because they're more work to take care of overall.

      I don't blame you for not sharing your blog with the in-laws! I thought about that, but in the end decided (obviously) to grab life by those fun-nuggets! I do keep some things kosher out of respect for the fact that they are reading it but for the most part, they know exactly what I am about so there really aren't toooo many surprises here. But again, I certainly understand why many, many people don't share their blogs with some fam!

    2. fun-nuggets = my new favorite phrase.

    3. Definitely a good one! Good job, Katie J.! :-)


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