What are some tips for working a different shift from your spouse?
August 7, 2018 12:22 PM   Subscribe

Mrs. BBQ works evening shifts (3p-11:30p) and I work first shift (7a-6p including commute). We make the most of the time off we have together - but any tips or life experiences from others in this situation?

So, more details;

She works two 2-11:45 shifts and two 10am-11:45pm shifts a week. After work she is pretty wired (she's a nurse!) and also pretty exhausted. She usually plays a few computer games and heads to bed by 1am. Typically she sleeps until 10-11am, where she either goes to work immediately or has a few hours home.

I work five 7a-6pm "shifts" every week, a lazy desk job. I can feel tired after work, but I know it's nowhere near the work that she does. After work, I usually meet up with friends, go to clubs, or do chores around the house.

On her day off, when I get home from work, we make an effort to spend a relaxing date night together. On weekends, we try to spend as much time together as possible (when we are both awake at least).

Lately we've noticed that we are sacrificing our sleep to see each other, which has been wearing on both of us. After particularly poor subsequent sleep issues, we find ourselves irritable and (both of us!) feel like our partner does nothing other than sleep! (That's how we usually see each other after all)

So, until we get a change of situation (probably in the next year or two) - has anyone here been through anything similar? What worked well for you? What tips and tricks do you suggest?
posted by bbqturtle to Human Relations (6 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
It's tough. I know that "you're always sleeping!" feeling well. I work a standard 9-5 desk job. Hubby currently works 3 AM - 11 AM M-F, and has worked other odd shifts and weekly schedules.

Currently, it's not too bad for us -- my hours are very flexible, so I usually work more like 6:30 - 2:30, which has the added benefit of making my commute shorter (meaning more time at home). He usually naps once or twice during the week, so he's asleep during the second half of my work day. He wakes up shortly after I come home and we get an evening together.

Would it be possible for you to go to work a little later and spend an hour or two in the morning with her? Or, could you work a reduced day on her day off so you get more time?

Can she meet your for her breakfast/your lunch before she goes to work?

The thing I find toughest right now is that there's no good time to talk about boring practical things or have tough conversations because we usually want to save the few hours we have together for decompressing. I make liberal use of text messages to satisfy my communication needs, though this is a double edged sword. He's not supposed to have his phone out at work, and he's not great at texting anyway, so sometimes it feels like it's just going into a black hole. But sometimes it just feels good to get it out anyway, and at least then I know he has whatever info I feel a need to share. Along the same lines, we did a lot of time-shifted sexting at the beginning of our relationship when our schedules were even further off and we weren't living together yet. (Sometimes I'm amazed we made it through all the early logistical suckage to get to marriage, but to me that's also an indicator that this is a good, solid relationship.)

Leaving notes for the other person to find when they get up or get home is also a cute option. Texts that don't require a response, that they can just look at and move on (smart watches are great for this if there are restrictions at work). Just little things to let the other person know you're thinking of them, even when you're not together.

Good luck!
posted by natabat at 1:44 PM on August 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

My husband and I do this! He works second shift and I work first. We also have a toddler. It's hard. We text a lot. We try to do nice little things for each other. I buy him the snacks he likes when I grocery shop, leave him notes. He and the baby will go out in the morning and get me flowers. Our weekends as a family are pretty sacrosanct. We try to make sure we do something, just the two of us, even if it's just making popcorn and watching a tv show or I sit and talk to him while he plays around on his computer. It's not ideal but we make it work and have for, like, four years, I think? I save stupid internet memes to send him that I know will make him laugh. And I stay up to see him when he gets home most nights of the week (my sleep suffers but I'm a chronic insomniac anyway).
posted by Aquifer at 2:05 PM on August 7, 2018

I did this with my husband for a year when we first lived together, and then for another two years when his dad got sick and he did evening caregiving shifts on top of working full-time. I’m afraid my real answer is “It sucks and it put a real strain on our relationship.” Our marriage survived and bounced back, but it was a strain.

My coping advice is, in the time you’re apart, prioritize things that make you happy and healthy. Exercise; eat healthy food; do something you absolutely love that maybe your spouse isn’t as into, so it’s OK to do it without them. Like join a glee club, or learn to tap-dance, or learn to play hockey, or learn to cook Italian food, or take a photography class, or take up yoga, or go and visit every weird little museum in your area. Go out and do new stuff without each other, so that you’ll have novel topics of conversation when you do see each other — and so that you have something in your life other than waiting on your spouse to get home/wake up.
posted by snowmentality at 7:51 PM on August 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've never been in this situation, but if you could set up a bimodal sleep pattern for yourself, your awake bit in the middle of the night could coincide with her coming home time. Might be worth a try. Article about someone with a newborn.
posted by kjs4 at 12:34 AM on August 8, 2018

Consider the idea of having for one or both of you to try sleep in 2 phases - a "big sleep" and a shorter "siesta". The siesta time slot really should allow for one 90 minute sleep cycle - but one person's siesta might be possible to align with the other's longer sleep. It also allows you to be awake longer when your partner is also awake - the 90 minute siesta can be subtracted from a standard 8 hour sleep window. Traditionally a siesta is scheduled in the afternoon - starting from about 6 hours after waking and immediately after lunch. You probably don't have the option of meeting all those goals - but could try for some.

Since your are both on shifts - and the time of those shifts moves from week to week - your joint situation is probably sufficiently complex and dynamic to make it worthwhile plotting on a spreadsheet. That was you can explicitly plan when exactly you can both be expected to be awake and together - or asleep and together?

Finally: the situation is quite likely to put a long term strain on both your health and your relationship. If you can plot a way to stabilising at least one of your working days then that will help a lot.
posted by rongorongo at 4:48 AM on August 8, 2018

A few more things I forgot to suggest:

Is it possible for you to work from home on her 10 AM days or her day off? Even just being in the same room (or the same house) can ease the pressure a bit.

If your commute is a significant chunk of your day, can you reduce it somehow, especially on her day off? Or would she be willing to shuttle you to/from work on her day off so you have that drive time together?

I already suggested she meet you on your lunch break before she goes to work, but does she have some sort of meal break after you get off that you could meet her for?

Basically, start thinking outside the box -- find (or make, if possible) gaps in your days that align, even if they don't align at home.
posted by natabat at 9:05 AM on August 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

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