Marriage & Work Filter, opposing schedules edition
August 31, 2013 2:01 PM   Subscribe

What non-obvious effects can I expect if I take a job with hours that are very different from my wife's?

After years of being a marginally self-employed fine craftsman / househusband, I am seriously considering a particular part-time job. This is a job for which I am well-qualified and well-suited, and it's clear that the potential employer likes me a lot. The job would helpfully supplement our income, and also impose some structure on my otherwise problematically free-form days.

I am hesitating, however, because it's evening and weekend work, whereas my wife works a traditional 9-5, M-F schedule. For most of the year (it's an academic job) we would go from our accustomed five evenings and two full days a week together, to one evening and one weekend day. This is such a drastic change, and I am so entrenched in our current routines, that I am not sure I can properly imagine what this would be like. Have you and a partner ever (or do you now) live(d) like this? FWIW, we neither have or anticipate having kids.

Our evening meal routines would have to change. We'd each be dining alone most nights. I'm not sure how to handle that without resorting to boxed mac and cheese. Perhaps our crock pot would have to swing into regular service?

How might we stay connected socially with so much less time together? I don't want my marriage to feel like a LDR while living in the same house.

What else, good or bad, am I not thinking of?
posted by jon1270 to Human Relations (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Can you meet for lunch? My boyfriend and I did this for awhile when we worked nearby one another and almost never got to see each other in the evenings.

Not gonna lie though, it sucked.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:03 PM on August 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

For a while I worked second shift while my SO worked first. That meant I got home around midnight, and he stayed up to see me and spend some time with me, and so he always got to sleep WAY later than was reasonable to allow getting up in the morning and being at work on time.

It was horrible. The sleep deprivation was the worst part. We survived, but I will never do it again.
posted by fritley at 2:13 PM on August 31, 2013 [3 favorites]

Is it possible for your wife to ask for a small adjustment in her schedule? Like moving her shift to 8-4, or having one day (or even half-day) a week working from home, or doing 9-6 on Monday-Thursday so she can leave at 1 on Fridays, etc.?

Even a small tweak could help you guys manage a little more time together, and many (though certainly not all!) employers are willing to at least consider things like that improve employee satisfaction when there's no (financial) cost to them. Best of luck.
posted by argonauta at 2:13 PM on August 31, 2013

I will second sleep deprivation on *someone's* end as the worst non-obvious effect. This happens to me frequently- my husband works 1/4 days, 1/4 nights and 1/2 swing shifts. The nights work out great, actually, but the swing/evening shifts are dreadful because he gets a little sad if I don't stay up and have a late dinner with him when he gets home at 10 or 11, but if I have dinner with him at 10 or 11 I'm not making it to bed at an hour that works for me, since I have to get up at 6 to make it to my job on time.
posted by charmedimsure at 2:33 PM on August 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Well, the "Don't worry, dinner's in the freezer" books were a godsend when the wife worked second shift. Even with that, though, second shift fucking *sucks*.
posted by notsnot at 2:34 PM on August 31, 2013

Response by poster: Clarification: this would not be full-on second shift. More like half-shifts, with me getting home around 10:30 PM.
posted by jon1270 at 2:47 PM on August 31, 2013

My husband worked 2nd shift (3pm - 12am) and I worked first (8am - 5pm). How we made it work was I'd come home for lunch everyday and get to spend 20-30 minutes with him. I couldn't stay up til he got home as it was too late for me. The tough part was he'd stay up an extra two or three hours after getting home before coming to bed, as it's hard to fall asleep right away with out unwinding first. This was hard for me on Saturdays because I'd be awake all morning before he'd get up.

It was rough. The lunchtimes together were nice but frustrating because we didn't have enough time to talk about the important things and discuss them.

We are finally on the same shift after seven years like that and I don't ever want to go back.
posted by jillithd at 2:48 PM on August 31, 2013

Best answer: This is exactly how my husband and I live, except that sometimes he gets in later than 10:30. I try and stay up to see him, and often am a bit sleep deprived, but I've learned that if he's having a particularly late evening, I really do need to go to bed before he gets home. I should also note that even though I'm normally not a big fan of TVs or other technology in the bedroom, on those nights where he's not ready to sleep so soon after getting home, it helps us feel together if we can go to bed at the same time, and he can read/play quietly on his iPad until he's ready to sleep.

As for the time together, we have exactly what you're suggesting - one full day and one evening a week. Unlike many of the posters above, I don't find it to be that big a deal most of the time. But in order for it to work, that day and evening have to be treated as sacred at least 90% of the time. We use the evening for a 'date night' and do something mutually enjoyable, and use the shared day together for errands, extended family, home-stuff and those fun-to-do things that require a full day (tomorrow, we're going to the waterpark - yay!). We also try and talk on the phone once a day at some point, but that's not always possible.

I should also mention that we both use our other, non-together full day off to run a lot of errands or do housework, so we don't have to worry about it so much in our 'us' time. As for meals, as the one who is home in the evenings, I make meals as if we were both here, and he eats them when he comes home. As long as he's not too late, I generally keep him company but don't wait for him before eating my own dinner.

Overall, it works for us, but I'm a borderline introvert and kind of like having a bit of time to myself. I also use my alone time to see friends.

Honestly - this is way easier to manage if you don't have kids. While it's not my favourite scenario, I don't mind it. Plus it leaves me lots of time to hang out on AskMe and Mefi :)
posted by scrute at 3:20 PM on August 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Full disclosure - we spent the first 15 months of our marriage (5 years this winter!) long distance and for nine of those months, only got to spend 10 days together in the same space. That might have changed our perspective on this, since what we have now is heavenly in comparison.
posted by scrute at 3:24 PM on August 31, 2013

Best answer: My partner works a regular Monday - Friday 9-5 job. I work 3 pm - 11:30 pm four days a week, including every other weekend (both Saturday and Sunday).

It actually works out OK for us. We don't find it to be as hellish as others have described, at least, and while there are ways in which it can suck, there are ways in which it's actually beneficial.

The time apart gives us the opportunity to indulge in interests that don't appeal to the other; for example, on the nights that I'm at work he can watch movies that are too violent for me or just don't interest me without worrying that he's ignoring me or making me uncomfortable, and I spend my late mornings and afternoons before work drinking leisurely morning coffee, reading, having lunch with friends, spending an hour chatting on the phone with my mom, etc., without feeling like I'm neglecting him.

(As individuals we both need a lot of alone time, dislike big crowds, and are content to spend time at home. YintroversionMV.)

Little things help a lot when I'm working a bunch of days in a row and we haven't had a lot of in-person time together. I'll cook something in the afternoon before work and leave it for him to reheat when he gets home, or he'll cook after work and send me to work the next day with leftovers. We do a lot of doubling of recipes and reheating leftovers.

We text like insane texting maniacs pretty much all the time, with all sorts of couple-y in jokes and pictures of the cats doing adorable things like sleeping. He wakes me up every morning to kiss me goodbye--I go right back to sleep easily, and it's important to me that I get to tell him I love him every day before he leaves for work. He's a champion sleeper so it doesn't bother him when I stay up late reading in bed on the nights I've worked, and as strange as it sounds I really treasure the intimacy of being awake in bed with him while he sleeps.

And when we do have a weekend off together or an evening during the week to spend together, it's hard to take it for granted. Instead of it being just another Tuesday, it's a Day Off! When you don't have every day to spend together, the days you DO have are remarkable and feel really special.
posted by jesourie at 3:27 PM on August 31, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: There would be nothing wrong with trying it out and seeing how it went. You can always quit. I can't tell you how your relationship will hold up to it, since everyone is different. Also keep in mind that there may be a possibility of changing shifts later, correct? (It's not clear from your question what the company structure is, but if there are day shifts, and you work there long enough, you could get moved or have first pick if someone leaves.)

That said, I worked from home and my husband worked his first 3 months of this job on the swing shift (from like 2pm to 10pm or something.) It sucked. It also sucked for me though since I was stuck in the house all day. He did have weekends off, though. So realistically we only had mornings and weekends together to hang out and go out together. I ate all my meals by myself. He ate meals at work or right before work.

Now he's on 9-5. He now still has a few days every month when he doesn't get home until 2 am or works from home outside of normal hours (he's in IT.) So although I am looking for a new job, I'm still home all day until 6 ish.

So, it's doable being on weird schedules and if you need the money then maybe you can do it for a few months and put the money into savings. We just made sure to take advantage of the days we had free together. We would make big meals to have leftovers, watch movies, go shopping, etc. I just made sure to catch up with him about his day at work. We still communicated quite a bit and he knew that on his days off we would spend a lot of time together.

Anything in a relationship will require communication. Talk with your wife on her expectations for your free time. See how she feels about you being on different schedules. Check in with her about it often if you take the job. Make plans ahead of time for the time you have together. Also look for opportunities in the company to change shifts.
posted by Crystalinne at 4:28 PM on August 31, 2013

Response by poster: (It's not clear from your question what the company structure is, but if there are day shifts, and you work there long enough, you could get moved or have first pick if someone leaves.)

Nope, this is not the sort of situation that would have any chance of changing while I was working for the University in question. The hours are inherent to the position. I'm not so much looking for strategies to tolerate a bad situation until I can escape it. This is not worth pursing this unless I can reasonably hope to sustain it for at least a couple of years and have a decent quality of life too.
posted by jon1270 at 5:32 PM on August 31, 2013

Best answer: I've done approximately that schedule and it was fine for me. Just try to enjoy the HELL out of the evening and weekend day that you have. Also, if it's an academic schedule, hopefully it gives you some weeks off. If your wife can get those weeks off too, or some of them, you can take the extra money you will be earning and go somewhere fabulous together. For me, a week's travel together makes up for a lot of truncated weekends.
posted by BibiRose at 5:54 PM on August 31, 2013

Are you happily married right now?

If YES, then do not take this job

Memail if you need concrete convincing.
posted by jbenben at 7:48 PM on August 31, 2013 [3 favorites]

I think a spouse getting home at 10:30pm every night (when most people are getting ready for bed, if not already reading in it) would be tough if it was just for one month.

Getting home at 10:30 every night as the new normal? Well, I don't think you're going to have much interaction with your spouse (and you guys can forget about entertaining or attending most events together). It would be like having a long distance relationship with the person sleeping in the other room. Sad to say it, but I think every day you worked these hours, you'd be leaving your spouse and marriage to coast along on an ever-dwindling momentum.

It reminds me of the dentist's saying that if you ignore flossing long enough, eventually you won't have to.
posted by blueberry at 8:38 PM on August 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

For our first year together, my husband alternated between a normal shift, late (3-12 I think) and really early am (starting at 3 or 4am), changing roughly once a month with his days off changing (but never both being weekend days). I work 9-5.

It sucked. We are both introverts and home bodies and it still sucked.
posted by pennypiper at 9:02 PM on August 31, 2013

Best answer: My husband works a 9-5 and I get home at 10.30 4 nights of the week, and we find it works just fine. This is mainly because we are both fairly independent, not homebodies at all, and both have passions and hobbies that keep us fulfilled. It works for us because we take frequent weekend getaways together, talk every night before we go to bed. It probably won't be sustainable when we have kids and want a routine. It's certainly not for everyone!
posted by shazzam! at 11:37 PM on August 31, 2013

I was in a serious relationship with someone and we lived this way bordering on four years. I worked first (M-F) and she worked second (Tu-Sa). We saw each other in the bit of time I could be awake when she got home and on weekends for lunch. We'd touch base at dinner time during her break most days. As others have said, if you are independent and have lots to occupy yourself with it can work out OK, but by and large I don't recommend it. Consider also the impact of shifting back to being on the same schedule- you may find that you have to readjust again to being around each other all the time.
posted by zennoshinjou at 2:05 AM on September 1, 2013

My husband and I were on that sort of schedule for a while. IT'S NOT WORTH IT. You end up feeling more like irritated roommates than romantic partners.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:11 AM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

We are trying a schedule of alternating days where we both work 10 hr shifts (9AM-8PM.) He works 40 hrs/wk (Tues/Wed/Fri/Sat), and I work 30 hrs/wk (Sun/Mon/Thurs). There is no way in the world we would ever do this if we didn't have a baby on the way and a financial need to avoid the cost of child care. We work at the same place, so we can have lunch together, and since we work the same hours, we sleep and wake relatively the same and spend some time together at morning and evening. Still, we have no full days off together EVER unless it's a federal holiday or we use vacation time, which is important to save when one has a baby on the way. I think our situation is not as rough as yours because having different sleep schedules, in my mind, is basically like having different lives. I have cried and lamented hours and days over our decision. I would not reccommend you do this unless it's absolutely necessary for your finances.
posted by dissolvedgirl22 at 6:50 PM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You end up feeling more like irritated roommates than romantic partners.

^ That was what it was like for me. We did opposite schedules one semester--just 3 months--and our interactions became stilted and we fought much more often about stupid housework stuff. We never had sex and when we did it was more, uh, "quickie" than qualitative. And the longing and was so much like a LDR except we did share a bed. Now I work Mon-Fri 1st shift and my partner works Tues-Sat combination of 1st and 2nd shift. This means we have 3-4 evenings and one full day together, and that's the minimum that I'm willing to do. As it is I wish we could spend more time together and relish the odd holidays when we have two days off together in one week.

THAT ALL SAID, maybe your relationship is different from mine and you're the kind of people this would work for. There are couples that live in separate houses, in different cities, that have their own bedrooms, and do it all happily. Depends on your dynamic. If you do decide to do it, my advice is:

-Cook as much ahead of time as possible. Crock pot, freezer meals, etc. This will keep you from getting take-out constantly when you're together and away from the mac n' cheese when you're alone. Pick up a copy of this book and google "once a week cooking" for consolation and ideas.

-Reduce the amount of housework you have to do. If you have high standards, lower them, and do whatever else you can (minimize your stuff, hire help) to make sure you don't spend any of your time together taking care of chores.

-Be very attentive to your relationship needs. Plan dates ahead of time: block off time, decide what special things you will do together, and follow through on it. When you do see each other, talk and listen. While you can text each other all day long, it's not the same, so put some effort in to bumping up the quality of your time together.

-Likewise, attend to your social life outside your relationship. When I have less time with my partner I've found it's easy to neglect the rest of my friends, but that's not good either. Schedule your friend-dates too.

Now that I think about it, those are good ideas anyways, but it all becomes more important under stress.
posted by epanalepsis at 6:36 AM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

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