When your spouse works an opposite schedule, how do find time for each other?
Unfortunately, our bosses donít tend to consult family schedules before assigning our hours. And when you and your partnerís schedules donít meshóespecially over a long period of timeóit can wear on your relationship. Fatigue, loneliness and miscommunication can all take their toll, but there are plenty of couples making it work, including some who have chosen opposite schedules for childcare purposes.
Day Shift vs. Evening Shift
Mary Ellen, a PR writer, works 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday. Her husband, Craig, is an autoworker who works 4:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., Monday to Friday. They have been married for 15 years, have no children and live in Lebanon, Indiana. Mary Ellen shares their story.
The challenges: After being a free agent Monday to Friday, itís sometimes hard to switch gears on Saturday and Sunday to accommodate each otherís needs. If we had children to mix into that, Iím sure thereíd be a lot of conflicts.
Communication is the other difficult aspect. Youíre never quite sure if youíve told the other about things that happened during the week and you donít remember being told things. Urgent matters, even apologies, need to be conveyed by notes, and thatís not always the best means to convey the complete message. Weíve developed our shorthand way of writing and speakingólike "XO XO" at the end of a noteóso it doesnít feel like youíve been passed an office memo. Sometimes, though, I just have to wait up and talk to him at 2 a.m.
How they make it work: Our opposite schedules work because we were already settled in our routines and used to planning our own time. Craig enjoys his quiet days at home before work; I need a bit more noise than he does, having come from a large family. I'd still like to be on the same time, but maybe we'd drive each other bonkers.
Advice to couples in the same situation: Be creative. You donít always have to have long conversations to communicate. And try to accommodate your partner as often as you can, but donít let all the accommodations be in one partnerís favor. If you want some of your partnerís time, ask for it.
Office Flextime vs. 12-Hour Shifts
Wendy, a media relations manager for a national disaster safety organization works from home two days a week and from an office 80 miles away the other three days of the workweek. Her husband, Mike, is a police lieutenant who works 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., four to five days a week. They have been married three years and have two children from Mikeís previous marriage and live in Venice, Florida. Wendy shares here thoughts on how they make it work.
The challenges: We so enjoy each other that I really start missing Mike. I often get home at 6 p.m. and he's out the door at 6:20, so it's "Hi and bye, and is there anything important I need to tell you right now?"
I'm also active in fitness and don't want to fall into my previous trap of not working out to spend time with him. We tried working out at the same time, but evenings are so late in the day on his days off, his energy level isn't there.
How they make it work: Attitude is everything. We have so many professional friends who are out of work, struggling financially or in unbearable job situations, so we know how fortunate we are on both the home and work front. That helps us make the necessary commitment to make it work. But if someone needs to "waste" an entire day off to regroup, refresh and recharge, we're game. A lazy day on the couch can be just what the doctor ordered.
Advice to couples in the same situation: Understand sleep is not as manageable as you think it is. A good eight hours is not the same as sleeping four hours now and four hours later. Youíll be tired and itíll affect you in ways you never expected. If you have a difficult relationship to start with, this will exacerbate the problems; however, if you go about it the right way, youíll solidify your feeling of unity.
Scheduling for Child Care
Jenni, a publicist, works 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and her husband, Tim, a graphic artist, works 2 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. so they can both spend more time with their 5-year-old son. They have been married seven years and live in St. Paul, Minnesota. Jenni shares how they find time to spend together as a couple.
The challenges: For me, the most challenging thing about opposite schedules is missing my partner combined with feeling like a single parent every evening. For example, if thereís water leaking in the basement, Iím the one who has to take care of it while trying to fix dinner for our son.
How they make it work: I jealously guard our time together on the weekends. Itís extremely rare that Iíll go out to do something without Tim on Saturday or Sunday. We call Saturdays and Sundays our family days and we mean it. If Tim and I go out as a couple, itís after our son is in bed for the night.
Since he and I are both parenting alone during the week, for all intents and purposes, we understand what the other is going through every day. There isnít much couple time in our lives, but we try to make the most of what we have. Weíre lucky we have a child who goes to bed early.
Advice to couples in the same situation: Donít take your time together as a couple for granted. Talk to each other, listen to each other and share the details of your day so you donít lose touch.