When You Don’t Live in a 9 – 5 World

Heather says:

At times it seems the whole world runs on a 9 – 5 model, a quick look around your nearest city suggests this cannot be true for all. If it were, there would be no 24 hour restaurants, miscreants would have an easy life with no one on patrol, who would deliver pizza when we just couldn’t face  cooking after a long day?

Today I’m reaching out to all of those who don’t run in synch with the world and asking, “How do you cope?” My husband works rotating shifts that keep him away for 14 hours at a time. When he’s on shift, for all practical purposes he is not part of our routine, other than perhaps a phonecall after the kids are tucked in to see how the day went.  Then of course, we have the days of, “Shh Daddy’s sleeping, can you stop hitting your brother with the Hot Wheels track?”*

I don’t have many friends or acquaintances who understand why Saturdays can be so lonely or how a simple girls night out can take so much planning.

It’s not all bad. We homeschool, so there is a lot of flexibility to enjoy my husband’s time off and even when he’s on nights, there are times where I adore a few quiet hours all to myself. I enjoy being able to watch a chick flick with no raised eyebrows or popping a bowl of popcorn and topping it with whatever picques my fancy at that moment (usually garlic salt and parmesan, or butter, salt, and a few sour patch kids). Those evenings are nice and should be my focus when I’m returning three small children to their beds at odd hours of the night. (It’s never just one child or one dog that acts up, they draw straws and take shifts).

So tell me, what do you do to cope when you live out of step with your peers?

*Toy used and actual command changed to protect the innocent.


  1. lee on May 17, 2009 at 10:46 am

    My DH works 10:30pm to 7am, and his weekend days (Fri/Sat or Sun/Mon) change every 4 weeks. I work Mon-Fri 8am -3pm (with some Fridays off), so I drop off the kids at school and run like mad for work (no bus – charter school), then leave work and run like mad to pick them up. Then there’s homework, dinner, baths, and bed for them since our day starts at 6:30am. DH usually gets up for dinner with us, and sometimes stays up until he goes to work. We keep to a pretty tight schedule, even on days off, since both kids have autism and it makes our life reasonably sane. We also use checklists for the kids’ responsibilities like their morning and evening routines. When they are not getting ready for school or bed, I just remind them to look at their list and I don’t have to nag about each little thing.

    Since DH and I started the DASH diet, we have been eating at home more, and eating a lot better, lol, but I guess that was the whole idea. I didn’t realize how much easier it would be to plan meals when there was a completely reasonable set of rules in place. And we are eating smaller portions of the things that make good leftovers, so that makes snacks and lunches easier as well. Since DH is on a backwards schedule, he has index cards with his daily portions on them, so at the end of the day, he can choose what food groups he has left to snack from.

    I have tried to set things that allow the kids to be more independent. Little things like the easy-to-use milk pitcher from Ikea that the kids can manage, and reasonable snacks that they can find and serve themselves so I can sleep in until 8 or 9 on Saturday morning :). And getting them used to me running to the store for an hour while their dad sleeps (while they are engrossed in videos so they don’t bicker and wake DH up). Fostering their independence makes my life easier, and theirs too, since I am not so tired and crabby from struggling with them over every little thing.

    I keep in contact with friends via texting and phone mostly, but I do occasionally get to run away to a movie or something, when the planets are aligned (or whatever causes those all-too-infrequent coordination of schedules…). And we do manage to make it to family events with friends on weekends sometimes, even if DH is a walking coma. We do what we do out of necessity, and by choosing the least evil of our options. 🙂

  2. Allison on May 15, 2009 at 10:29 am

    My DH and I work in EMS, he works 12 hour OVN’s and I work days. Every other weekend I meet my DH in the hall at work and outside of work I am a “single” momma. He doesn’t see our DS for 3 days, as I take him and pick him up from childcare. It is HARD. No one understands why he can’t watch our DS so I can go out. Holidays are spent at work rather than with family. We are desperate for a change and looking for something different. My heart goes out to any family who works odd hours.

  3. dani on May 13, 2009 at 11:30 pm

    Ok, so I don’t have kids, but I have summer schedule that is either opening (7-3) or closing (3-11). I don’t really get to see much of my family when I work closings, as they are asleep when I come home, and I am asleep when they get up! Our family kind of makes meals for each other though, and schedules days off together (sad I know). Sometimes I will get the leftovers, and sometimes I will make them for everyone else. Either way, we spend the days we have off together, and enjoy the time we have together (and the time we have alone). Since I am not a parent, I guess it makes it a little easier, but it still is weird to not see your family for a few days at a time.

  4. Becca on May 13, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    I am the work at home mom that often stays up all night to complete diaper cake orders. That can wreak havoc on our family of seven. Luckily, I have children that are understanding of this possibility (tired mommy) and a husband that helps me out when he can. It also means I must sneak in the naps when the little ones are napping and the boys are at school.

    Meanwhile, my husband works two jobs to make up for an ex-wife that doesn’t pay child support for my three step sons. He only gets to eat dinner with us three nights a week so we make the most of those nights…..and we let the boys stay up late on one weekend night so we can have a game night. Texas Hold ‘Em Poker is the game of choice at the moment!

    So, what does this all mean? It means we are cooking a lot of kid-friendly food on nights when dad is working 2nd job (mom eats a salad, I am on a health kick anyway). Four nights a week dinner is a cinch and the kids are thrilled with the menu. It means I am trying to cook more grown-up fare the three nights dad is here with us at dinner time.

    This also means the boys and girls are learning to clean up after themselves, wash their own clothes, and do regular chores around the house (’cause I cannot do it all myself, lord knows I have tried!). It means I have to learn to ask for help…..which was hard for me to do. Super Mom does not exist and I stopped looking for her within myself a few months ago.

    It means the adults are sacrificing sleep to spend quality time with each other at the end of a long day, but we’ll sleep when our youngest graduates in 16 years! It means our 3 and 4 year old daughters are crawling in bed with me and daddy at 5:30 am so they can see dad before he goes to work (or just cuddle with him before they fall back asleep between us). It means making the most of those good things we have….it means a halt to those “perfection quests” that just make everyone disappointed in the end.

    The time we do spend together is good time and we try to give every child some one on one time during the course of a normal week. I’ve been blessed with great kids and step-kids and I am a straight-talking kind of gal. My kids understand they they are a top priority but they also understand that sometimes there are deadlines that will come before things they WANT to do. Luckily, they get it and understand how hard we are working to give them all that they have!

  5. Keter on May 13, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    I have had a number of jobs that demanded my entire life (in one job, I racked up 100+ hours a week on a regular basis). Add to that a commute of over an hour each way, ten hours in the office and up to 2AM to talk to India, and that didn’t leave enough time to even eat and sleep. I wish I could say that I had a good coping strategy for this, but I didn’t. I ate out every dinner and drank a lot to get to sleep despite vibrating from exhaustion (I’m dubiously lucky to never get hungover). The money was good, so I could afford it, even though I was always too tired and stressed to enjoy it. I could not have done this when I was younger and had a child at home; once I was on my own, I was pushing myself to make up for lost career opportunities and position myself to earn enough to hope to save enough to retire. (Probably out of reach now.)

    I quit the last job when they downsized again and I knew the load on me would increase to the point that I was going to fail no matter what I did: I was already maxed out on GTD strategies, computer shortcuts, and mindhacks for productivity. I won’t go back to that kind of work; looking back over those years, I don’t remember much of it at all…my brain was too tired to record any memories, not that I had much of a life to record.

    I was born at the end of the Boomer era, and really have more in common with the Gen-Xers than the Boomers. I think to survive in post-economic-implosion times, we, the 30-40 somethings, are going to have to reinvent ourselves to find or make work sane again so we can have lives and hope for our old age…or maybe that’s just me.

  6. Veggiemomof2 on May 13, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    My husband works swing shift & has since before the children were born. I’m not really sure what your question is. He works, I do not. The kids & I stay on a routine because they go to school. There are times when he doesn’t seen them from Monday when they go to bed, until Saturday noon when Dad gets up. We schedule everything. We do have some friends who are available at a moment’s notice, so if we find ourselves wanting to go out to eat Tuesday after school, we can call & see if they can go. My son has autism, so he really thrives on this routine & has learned to be semi-flexible when Dad’s home.

    Feel free to email me if you have specific questions! We’ve been living w/swing shifts for 15 years.

  7. Milehimama on May 13, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Our current challenge is that husband’s schedule can change at the drop of a hat. It is not unheard of for the boss to declare – 15 minutes before quitting time on Friday- that the crew will need to work 12 hours on Sat. and Sun. Or husband will call me and tell me they need him to work over.

    It makes dental appts. really hard, LOL!

    When he’s on a late schedule, we all go on his schedule. If he doesn’t come home until 8 pm, we eat dinner at 8; the kids stay up until 9 or 10. We value family time more than adhering to a strict schedule (we homeschool, so it doesn’t matter if the kids sleep in until 8:30 or 9 am the next day.

    My husband gets up by himself and gets off to work. He leaves at 5:45 and I don’t get up with him.

    And so a day when my husband is working 12’s or 14’s might look like: 9 am wake up, eat breakfast; 1 pm eat lunch, 3 pm, regular snack time, 5 pm another snack time, 8 pm dinner.
    With school between 10-3ish.

  8. Lee on May 13, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    My DH is a retail pharmacist, so he may work days, nights, and weekends. I’ve spent a lot of time doing things on my own with the kids (who are 18 and 20 now!) over the years.

    I suppose I was lucky. I live in a community where a lot of the other families would gather informally at the playground or beach in the summer, or on a sledding hill or ice skating pond during winter, and I seldom felt out of place without Dave there. As I think back on it, I was one of a handful of mothers whose husbands had odd hours. So we seemed normal to each other, and these families have remained our dearest friends after almost 20 years.

    So…I suppose my advice would be to find other families in your situation, and do things with them. You won’t feel so out of the loop, and you’ll have someone to vent with when your crazy schedule starts to get to you.

  9. gracie on May 13, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    not an odd day schedule, but an odd bi-weekly/monthly schedule:

    i still haven’t figured out my off-beat schedule yet: my x-dh (tongue in cheek) has our children for visitation ever 2 weeks for about 36 hours (that’s friday from 5:30 to sunday at 10am – 16-20 sleeping hours, 16-20 waking hours – give or take if he actually puts them to bed on time – lol)

    the rest of the time they are mine, and i homeschool, when do i get time for myself while they are home? defiantly not after they go to sleep, i crash too

    before they get up maybe — if i’ve gotten a full night’s sleep, i am able to get up an hour or so before they do — this does not happen often i very seldom get a full nights sleep

    like it or not my children are included in all chores, errands, etc…… finding a babysitter who will take all three — lol not happening, and i’m trying to cut back on the grandma option, i think i’ve been over using it — but if i don’t have her babysit she gives me the 1st degree on ‘who the sitter is, how long have a known them, do i trust them, when can she meet them, and why didn’t i call her to babysit!!!’

    working from home — i babysit — on hiatus for 2 months, because the mom is home on maternity leave

    dating????????????????????????????? – you’re kidding right — I’m living a monastic life-style

    on my ‘weekend off’ — I CRASH! — i eat at least one meal prepared by someone else — even if it’s McD’s — it’s so nice to have someone else do the cooking — ok so this coming weekend i’m craving chines buffet, or indian food — but suspect it will be McD’s due to $ —- i watch a movie (cable tv will be leaving our house soon — so don’t know what i’ll do for my movie night after that)

    also on my ‘weekend off’ — i try to get something done, fix something around the house, run errands maybe, go to a friends house, maybe cruse the internet with out guilt of wasted time (ok that’s not really happening– mom: all guilt all the time – rofl), or basically waste it — those who fail to plan, plan to fail type weekends

    WHAT i would like to be able to do on my ‘off’ time: do some freezer cooking, more fixing around the house, hobbies (i think i had those at one time – can’t remember :), i love to do my grocery shopping in the AM (like 6 am — no crowds), more reading (is that a hobby?)

    changing my way of thinking and my schedule is a slow process, and as my children get older i’ll be able to do more with them or without as they can stay home by themselves

    oh and sometime in the next 5 years i want to get my masters degree — for a better job — fitting that in my schedule should be fun!

  10. Tracy on May 13, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    Oh, Heather I can so relate! I used to get a little weepy on mornings when I knew I had to face 12-14 hours of dealing with the kids alone. I soon learned to embrace it, and now I know it’s made me a more confident mom, knowing that I’m up to the challenge. I used to be accused by my friends of being a “hermit” for being so difficult to nail down for a night out, but I had to accept them and love them anyway. Heh. Unless you’ve lived this schedule, you just don’t get it. It made getting together with them that much more special once the planets alligned just right for a ladies’ night.

  11. ThatBobbieGirl on May 13, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    Wow…you homeschool? Huh.
    And I thought you seemed so….so normal.

    I’ve done rotating shifts, straight nights, flexible part-time, and temp, with lots of SAHM in there, too. I don’t think I’ve had a straight 9-5 job ever.

    DH has always worked like a madman, crazy hours, and travel, or both. Now he’s self-employed, which means he works 24/7, until he drops. He works from our home, and I never know when he’s going to be here or be gone to a customer or meeting or whatever. It’s crazy, and it’s really impossible to have any sort of a regular routine, but every once in a while, I try to make one. I don’t plan much to do with friends, because we’ve had to change them at the last minute, or he suddenly can’t do it. Lots of times we do stuff without him because he’s too busy or too exhausted.

    By the way, we homeschool too. I knew there was something about you I really liked! Two years to go for us. This is only our seventh year. I wish we’d started when my kids were little like yours.

  12. Virginia on May 13, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    A good friend of mine has a husband that works a night-time shift, and his “weekend” is Wednesday-Thursday, so that throws off a lot of things for them, like inviting people over for dinner or that type of entertaining.

    However, one thing that she does is she opens up her house on Tuesday nights for a girls’ night. Anyone and everyone is welcome to stop over for a cup of coffee and some girl time. Kids are invited and play together outside when the weather is warm. It makes a nice respite to look forward to each week and is a wonderful ministry on her part.

  13. Carol on May 13, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    my husband works weds through Sunday. On weekdays he works until 7 pm. On weekends its 2 to 12am. Friends really dont get the weekend thing at all. I CAN’T go out (without getting a babysitter). And on weeknights, I can’t go out until late. We’ve started having people over on Mon or Tues night. (I work Tues. through Friday) I hate being the chauffeur most of the time. It makes our kids stay up too late, because I’m committed to them seeing their father weekdays.

  14. Angela on May 13, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    My husband has been working 10-12 hours days 5-6 days a week. He has to be to work by 5am so getting every one to sleep so he can sleep is my biggest obsticle. He is also gone 3-4 nights a week for various activities and those are sometimes stressfull, as he does not usderstand that yes I love being home with the kids, but I need a break from them sometimes. Those nights when he is gone and I am able to get the kids asleep I love staying up and watching a girly movie, my next one is “Bride Wars” by the way:)

    When my husband worked rotating shift(days, afternoons, nights) I also worked retail, went to school and only had two kids. It worked out well for us most times as I could work my sched. around his, it was the unexpected overtime that would throw us off. I think it would be alot harder now as he would need to sleep at different times and we are loud.

  15. Heather on May 13, 2009 at 11:34 am

    I find that I just don’t sleep so I can get everything done…not a good coping method because I am tired all the time.

    I have a 7yo that is adhd..requires a lot of time. I also care for my mom who has “memory problems” and several health issues including severe depression so I have to take care of her almost 24 hours a day 7 days a week. I also work from home. Plus all the homemaking duties.

    Our home is cluttered and my mom does not want to get rid of anything ( we might need it) so I have to get rid of the junk slowly so she doesn’t get set off with change…she doesn’t deal well at all to the point where she’ll have to be hospitalized.

    I need more time to just sit down and watch a movie or do anything other than what needs or has to be done. Whenever I do I wind up feeling guilty that I should be doing something else.

    I feel like I should not complain because I know I am not the only woman in the world facing the same thing I go through every day….they manage to get it done so I questin why I can’t ever seem to just get it done.

    No good coping methods here but I do look forward to see what everone else does.

  16. Ceci on May 13, 2009 at 11:05 am

    I used to work retail. Two days a week I opened 8-5, two i closed 2-11(week) 12-8(sunday), and one i did a mid shift 10-7. The mids always caused me the most problems because my meal break would be at 2 or 3 in the afternoon. So I’d eat a late breakfast just before work, and then eat dinner at 8 when i got home (only to turn around and eat bfast 10 hours later for an open shift). Fortunately i always made sure to have one weekend day off to do things with friends, and sometimes they would meet me at the mall where i worked for dinner when i closed. As a matter of fact there was a guy i worked with who would close on my mid day, we would often go to dinner when i got off. But I hated working on holidays and for four years my family had to travel from England to NJ for Christmas becasue i couldn’t get off, and I would often end up at a friend’s house at Thanksgiving.

    For the last 5 years I’ve worked on projects based in the Middle East where people work a 12 hour shift 7 days a week, and then have a 10 day break every 4 months. My office is Houston and I work fairly regular shifts 7-4, and have most weekends and holidays off. But it’s interesting to watch the families with overseas spouses cope. I do a lot of emergency babysitting, carpooling, etc to help out. Plus when the spouse comes homes, then everything is messed up becasue you have your routine and they just aren’t in it.

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