Married to Shiftwork
Trying to explain what life is like for moms of little kids is like trying to explain gravity to a chicken. Trying to explain what it’s like to have small kids with a shift working partner is harder.
The Shiftworkette exists in a strange purgatory somewhere in between single parent, and single parent with a roommate whose erratic schedule ensures that routine is never established.
For the record: there is no person in this whole wide world who appreciates my husband’s sacrifices more than I do. He works long hours, hard hours, and often while contending with and managing complex and dramatic workplace politics. Been there. Don’t miss it. Barf.
I am a Canadian woman. I am so blessed to be living in a country where my family’s freedom and resource needs are abundantly met. I’m also increasingly aware that there are a whole bunch of flaws in our system where it comes to balance.
Remember the glow of your first pregnancy? (Yes, I know it was really just sweat from incessant morning sickness, but follow me here…) We were the best of friends with our husbands. They were our ‘rock’. We were going to “co-parent”. Ha! We would continue to share responsibilities equally, and (get this!) balance would emerge organically to support the dynamic of our adorable growing family. Masssssssive eye roll.
And then the shift work offer came in and you thought – wait for it- this will give us more time together. He’ll get a whole week off at a time? Sounds dreamy, thank you!
You didn’t realize though, that when you agreed to that you were giving up the possibility of balanced domestic responsibility. Of balance altogether, really.
I’m Not Built for This
I do about four days before I want to choke the life out of anyone for anything. It isn’t justified and it isn’t fair, but I wrote it down so it’s staying there. I get nothing done the week that he’s away, so the week that he’s home is spent taking turns parenting the kids while the other runs out to do any of the one thousand items that need to be covered.
All the ‘Shoulds’
The problem that I see is that the stay at home mom really cannot win. If you’re exclusively a SAHM, you should really be taking on a part time job. If you’re a SAHM who tries to cram in some work time because you need the break (or you need the money!) your children are now ‘suffering’ in your absence.
If you’re a mother working outside the home, you must actively dislike your kids. And your house needs to be clean, and dinner should be made and you should be able to do all of this with a smile on your face and not a trace of fat on your ass. Subsist on stale closet goldfish crackers and develop the unshakeability of a brick fucking wall because if you crack even a little, the whole structure implodes. And if that happens it’s on you, mama! It was probably your fault anyway, the kids could feel your anxiety. (Don’t you love it!)
Recently, I was told that by giving my child a phone to watch in a restaurant that I wasn’t just giving myself and the other patrons an opportunity to consume an adult meal in peace as I thought. Nope. By letting this happen, I have instead engaged in what this spirited old broad called “raising the next serial murderers of our time”. Silly me. Moms. Can’t. Win.
It’s all barely manageable without superhuman tenacity, and if you add any kind of neurological challenge on the part of any member of the family (ADHD, depression, anxiety etc.) just say goodnight.
Balance is Out of Reach
The fact is, balance doesn’t exist these days. And it won’t for a while; even longer for many of us. All we can do is talk to each other and keep talking. Our husbands are good people, but they’re not here living this, after all. And he’s doing all he can too…maybe. The verdict’s out. I haven’t had time to ask him.
We can talk about positive self talk and self care, but the reality is that you’re probably better off doing away with any lofty fantasies of bubble baths and quiet cups of tea. Get used to the lukewarm bathwater you commandeer after your 2 year old is done for the night. Tell yourself that there’s no pee in there. Nope, no pee.
Reach out to the lonely mommies in your community in solidarity, be kind to yourself so you can be kind to others in your position. And most importantly, if you find yourself living through the small kid years in total bliss and I sound like a total nut bar to you right now, appreciate that with the totality of your being. Dinner together 5 days a week is a novelty occurrence for many of us.
Hang in there, warrior mamas. You’re not alone. Batshit is the new normal.