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The toll of working shifts

January is turning out to be a very busy month for my better half. One of the guys he works with, has had to go out of town for a few weeks which means overtime, six extra shifts this month. Now that doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you work twelve hours (he is paid extra for breaks and lunch since his job does not allow him to leave the boiler room), and then throw in a few extra, your body becomes completely messed up. This week alone, instead of working just two nights, he did four, and without any days off, he is switching to days (Sunday is considered a day off since the shift started Saturday night). Thus, he worked Wednesday night, Thursday night, Friday night, and Saturday night, and tomorrow morning he will go in for a twelve hour day. Basically when he came home this morning he only slept for three or four hours, because he will be going back to bed tonight so he can get up and go to work in the morning.

Hubby and I have been together for almost thirty-one years and he has always worked shifts. Way back when, he used to work a completely insane schedule. The shifts comprised of working seven-eight hour days, two off, seven afternoons, two off, then seven nights with three days off. This rotation gave him one weekend off a month. I found it to be particularly difficult on me also; I had three kids all under the age of five and if it wasn’t for the help of my mother, I would have went crazy. Afternoons were the hardest, feeding the kids supper, clean up, cleaning them up, and putting them into bed. I’m pretty sure, I went to bed right after the kids. My one saving grace, my kids were (and still are) sleepers. All loved a good twelve hours of sleep, so bedtime was at 7 p.m.

Throughout the years, hubby has worked all different rotations, with each new job he started, there was always a new schedule to get used too. One benefit I did enjoy was him having days off during the week. On those days, he could and would gladly take kids to school, swimming, or soccer, giving me a break. When it is just you and the kids for days on end, you feel and are in some ways a single parent, because even if hubby was home, there were days he was just too exhausted to really do anything, or he was sleeping.

Hubby has worked his current shift rotation for quite a number of years, and as it worked out, he wasn’t here for Christmas, boxing day, or New Year’s eve. On Christmas, we all woke at 6 a.m. to open our gifts, then middle child drove dad to work while the rest of us went back to bed (actually I stayed up, and started work on the dinner since we were having company). When the kids were small, it was a lot more difficult; waking kids early, or having them have to wait until dad gets home, is hard when all you want to do is open presents. The kids were troopers though, and would wait, asking every few minutes, “is he on his way home mommy”, kind of like the “are we there yet”question.

The one major bonus of night shift, especially when the kids were (are) in school, is well, sex. The kids weren’t home, so the parents played!

7 Replies to “The toll of working shifts”

  1. Mine works shift work too. Has since we met each other. It was the worst when they went to 8 hr shifts to stick it to their employer. I definitely felt like a single parent then. You mentioned your husband works in a boiler room. What is his title? Mine is a power engineer and has worked in boilers too.

    1. Hubby is a 2nd class Stationary Engineer. It took a bit to get used too, but I prefer the 12 hour shifts, because with this rotation he receives 2 weekends off a month. Thus we can actually have some sort of social life.

  2. Congratulations on making this work with 3 kids over the years!!! It’s not easy. Hubby and I worked separate shifts for 7 years whilst literally juggling the twins & I have no idea how we stayed sane!!!

    1. Juggling twins and two different shifts, I would have lost my mind. On the other hand, it is amazing how we do cope and somehow work out lives around the shifts. Kudos to you and your husband.

  3. Because not everyone has the benefits of traditional hours, thanks for the reminders. Loud Cheers to both of you for working it work for many years!!! … and for the excellent “touche” at the end!

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