I’m not complaining (yet), but my husband works nights. Here is a handy-dandy spreadsheet to show you what that means with regard to the times we are both awake and home at the same time (in yellow) on a typical workday
It’s not fantastic, but it’s far from awful. It’s possible that couples who both work 9-5 have the same amount of yellow on their spreadsheets (you don’t have a spreadsheet like this? Ooh, I feel so smug and superior) that we do. Maybe even less. He’s around when the kids aren’t in school, and because I’m (mostly) asleep when he’s at work, I don’t have much time to worry about the fact that his job is dangerous.
So I’m not complaining. (Much.) It’s what we chose, and the night shift (or third shift, or third detail, or, incongruently enough, fifth detail, which is the same as third, of course) actually works pretty well for our family. (Notice I wrote family. Not “us,” because “us” includes my husband, and he sacrifices sleep for time with the kids and with me, so working nights does not always work so well for him. This means he is a gem of a man married to a woman who is sometimes so consumed with worrying about the toll the lack of sleep takes on him that she forgets to relax during the time he’s sacrificing said sleep.) One of these years, he promises, he will transfer to the day shift. I look forward to having him home at night, though I admit there’s a tiny part of me that will miss knowing that if I hear a scary noise outside at 3am, I may have to wait for him to come deal with it, but when he does, he’ll be in uniform. Which is pretty awesome, and I’ll leave it at that. I’m totally not trying to make you uncomfortable.
But now, going into a three-day weekend, I’m complaining, and here’s why:
(I really hope that’s not, like, classified, or anything. Don’t tell on me.)
The three colors on the calendar represent days-off rotations. My husband is blue. He’s off on blue days, works on yellow and pink. In effect, his “week” is nine days long: six on, three off.
It doesn’t seem so dire at first, does it? A long work week, followed by a long weekend. A little intense, but otherwise easy-peasy, right? Wrong! See how few of those days fall on actual weekends?
Here’s where the complaining really starts: My husband is off about 12 whole regular-world weekends a year. That’s about 40 weekends during which I’m solo with the kids.
Yes, I know. Some people have to work every weekend. Them’s the breaks, and I’m an ingrate to bitch about how hard it is for me that my husband has to work most weekends. Plenty of parents are solo with their kids on the weekends, even those who aren’t single parents. I need to suck it up and recognize how good I have it.
I’m trying, I am. But not very hard, or very well.
Saturdays are not terrible, because the kids and I go to synagogue, and there is routine there, and there are distractions, and there are friends. I’m pretty sure, though, that there are a few congregants who think I’m a single mother. There should be no shame in single motherhood, but it’s not fair to the father/husband who makes me NOT a single mother. Sometimes during the post-service luncheon, I’ll make loud references to the kids about things we’ll do “when daddy finally wakes up,” figuring it’s better that people who don’t know him think he’s a lazy-ass rather than absent or non-existent. (Which, as I write it, seems ill–conceived and may have to be reexamined as a strategy, as well as recognized as some pretty hideously self-serving passive-aggressiveness. Have to revisit that.)
Then there are Sundays. OMFG, I hate Sundays. To be fair, I’ve always hated them, with their air of something aging, spoiling, turning sour. Ending. (Overwrought? Me?) Sundays are when (lots of) families are together, and Sundays are when I miss him the most. I miss him because I miss having my co-parent help to see our kids through the free-for-all that days off from school can be, especially when one of those kids thrives on routine (and by “thrives on,” I mean “is prone to falling apart without”). I miss him because I get bored without an adult coconspirator. My kids are fun and sweet and smart and utterly, utterly beloved to me, yes, but they don’t like to people-watch, one of their favorite things to do during meals is to speak in a high-pitched, babyish “cat” voice (do not ask) and then double over in laughter at their own cleverness, and also I completely do not understand Pokemon. I miss him because I’m too self-conscious, insecure, and slightly deluded not to feel uncomfortable being one of the only ones out and about with kids but without a partner.
But the main reason I miss him and complain about the weekends he has to work is that it’s so good– the best– when he doesn’t have to. When the four of us are around, at leisure, together? It’s the best. We’re the best. We have the best kids, and he’s the best father, and the best partner. We’re lucky to have him. We’re lucky in general.
So yeah, I get greedy. That’s why I’m complaining. I know, I know. Poor me. Break out the tiny violin. But I’ve never been very good at keeping things in perspective, and right now the best I can do as far as the long view is concerned is to skip over Saturday and Sunday and look forward to that moment on Monday afternoon when my husband’s weekend starts. That moment when the cat sprints down the hall because she’s the first to hear the bedroom door creak open, that moment when the kids call out “Daddy!” when he calls back “Hi guys!” still hoarse and groggy but smiling, and the fun– the best– can begin.