I thought it’d be harder than this.
But adjusting to living a shift life has been surprisingly simple.
I mean, I worked shifts so know the complexities of living life around them, but there was a bit of trepidation when it came to the point where the first shift schedules were being put together for Dave. Warnings and rumours of the intensity of this job and this lifestyle ruining marriages and breaking up relationships made us both a bit… quizzical more than anything, really. It’s a bit concerning, but at the same time, I knew we were strong enough to handle it.
And it’s a bit like going back to basics. Post-illness, I live my life in a pretty simple way in that I just follow my body. If I am tired, I sleep. If I am hungry, I eat. Obviously, I can’t nap at work, but the simplicity of it works well outside of the office. If I need to lie down after work and have a nap, I will, and I’ll do the same on the weekend. Yes, it means I miss some stuff, but I find it hard to disobey when the pull for sleep comes.
D was unsure how it would all work, I think. I know his colleagues and superiors have given him some tips, but he didn’t have a set idea in mind of how it would all come together. He’s not too fussed on that side of things, though. I’m the planner, he’s the “wait-and-see”-er.
And I have always slept in on weekends, even if D gets up and about. I sometimes nap on afternoons when he does other things. I’ve napped after work and before parties and even during a lunch break of a very trying day. (I like sleep, okay?)
So one bonus that comes from his shift work? he now naps! hurray!
We nap together in the late afternoons if he is tired from a day shift, or still tired from the night before. Or he comes home at 7am on a weekend and gets into bed with me and stays in bed. So it’s a weird schedule, but it works brilliantly for me.
I thought it’d be harder, because I thought him leaving in the afternoon when I’m at work and not getting home at midnight would suck (it does, but not as much). I thought him working all night while I slept would suck. I thought him leaving at 5pm and not coming home until 3am would suck, as I wouldn’t see him for days.
And sometimes it feels like I don’t see him for days. But that’s been okay. I miss him more and everyone needs a little time alone, you know?
Here’s how our shift life kinda works:
Dave is on night shifts: He leaves for work when I’m going to sleep. I watch crappy TV and drift off, then he wakes me up for work when he comes in the door. Or if it’s a weekend, he climbs in beside me and we go back to sleep. Very easy. The only downside to this shift is that he sleeps all day, so if it’s a weekend, we don’t do anything together until after 3pm or so.
Dave is on day shifts: He gets home between 4-5pm, just like me. We have dinner together, we may go to an early movie, or if it’s been a tough day, we may nap before dinner. The downside to this shift is that we don’t go out at night (or if at a movie, we’re home by 8ish) because Dave gets up at 5:30am. D finds this the toughest shift– getting up that early is a killer.
Dave is on “back” shifts: This is surprisingly the hardest shift for me. He leaves before I get home and gets home after I’ve gone to sleep, and on a weeknight this is only just after I’ve gone to sleep. There’s something about being woken up an hour/90 minutes into a sleep that just jars you a little bit. On weekends it’s not as bad, as it’s 3am or so when he is back, and I’m sometimes awake! And I can sleep in the next day if needs be. But I don’t feel like I see him as much.
But I think another important thing to note is that my/our social life doesn’t really suffer. I do get to see him because I make time for him. I stay up to talk to him or I make a point of focusing my energy on the time we do have. Some weeks are definitely harder than others, but in other ways they are easier. He’s not home for dinner? I eat fish or a small meal that doesn’t require much effort. He’s sleeping all day Saturday? I plan my coffees/brunches/catch-ups with friends then. I do default to working around him, which is fine by me. If I’m asked out for dinner, etc, I check my calendar to see what shift D is on, and pick a day that he is working.
And luckily the shifts are in threes or fours – he only very occasionally works five days in a row. So it’s do-able.
It’s not perfect, but it works for us, and gives me a nice balance of time together and time for myself. I sometimes wonder if Dave gets enough time to himself, but I think he takes some video game time when I am sleeping, and meets cricket/police buddies for drinks when I am happy to stay home for a night in.
I’m so proud of him and what he does. I’m just so glad this aspect hasn’t affected our lives. I imagine with kids, it would be different/harder, but again, that’s just adapting.
And it’s so worth it.