Let me first start by saying, my husband is one of those amazing spouses. He will help out anywhere that is needed (even diaper duty!) without much of a grumble. And he (usually!) never points a finger if the house is getting messy. That being said, he is only there so much. I am a single mom a great portion of the time…due to the crazy life of having a shift-working spouse.
This is in no way to bash him or make me seem like superwoman. Believe me, I will be the first to admit I am NOT superwoman! In my marriage, our situation is a little different because he is a firefighter that works 24-hour shifts at the station and then goes to a part-time job. I see him roughly for 2 hours every other night and 1 day on the weekend. Of course all of that time is at the mercy of the rotating schedule. Some days, I am doing breakfast, church, lunch, nap, dinner, bath, bedtime, and everything in between, all by myself. Other days are a breeze with him helping me. But even having him home can be difficult! The girls and I have a nice established routine that every other day is thrown off! I have the girls in bed and asleep by 8 each night. If Daniel is home, I am lucky if the wrestling match or game of hide and seek is over by 9pm. It is a constant battle to maintain control and sanity with such a variable being thrown in.
With years of practice under my belt, here are a few of the things I do to help survive the shift working spouse:
1. Drop the pride and ask for help! I do not ask for help but every once in a while I have to or I will have a meltdown! My mom is awesome at coming over and doing my dishes or folding my laundry. My mother-in-law has no problem watching the girls for a little bit while I take a nap. I have no shame in asking friends who love to clean, to take their OCD addiction out on my house. Sometimes it is hard asking, but I have to remind myself, “it takes a village to raise a child” so go into the village and get the help you need!
2. Have a plan. I am not an organized person. I repeat, I am NOT organized! But I have to have a plan. Just a general understanding of what is going on. With me being in school and the girls being watched by my mom, my mother-in-law, Daniel, or a friend, I have to have an idea of what is going on each day. Same with mealtime. I cannot wait until it is time to cook to think about what to do. I have a school calendar and calendar of where Daniel is and who has the kids each day. I try to write extra notes like dinner, dance class, birthday parties, etc. If I have a general plan for each day, I find it not only runs a little more smoothly but I also am a happier mommy!
3. Make the most of the time you have. Daniel misses a lot. We miss him a lot! We just try to focus on having fun when we are with him. If you come to our house, you will see lots of unfinished projects that are taking a backseat to family time. If you see us on the weekend, we are snuggling on the couch, dancing to Cajun music in the kitchen, or playing outside. Whatever we can do to have fun and be together takes priority.
4. Simplify! This has been hard for me but is especially important now that I am pregnant with number 3. I am trying to simplify everything in my life from our busy schedules to house clutter! I have struggled with telling people “no”, but I have to do it to survive. We do what we need to do to function and above that is lagniappe. When things are running smoothly we add some things. When there is chaos, we tighten up! We have learned to adapt to keep moving forward.
5. Find time for each other. Date nights are important in maintaining a healthy relationship. For us, we cant just have a standing “every other Friday” date night. We have to change it up and be creative. Sometimes it is your traditional weekend date. Other times it is breakfast on a Tuesday. Whenever we find a little time to carve out for our marriage, we seize the opportunity.
6. Be THANKFUL! I say it all the time…I am so THANKFUL for our military spouses! My husband is gone a lot and it is hard, BUT those few hours here and there are my sanctuary. I am so thankful to have my love close and know that he is safe. I am also thankful for his help and support. I don’t think I could make it months or years without him. In those tough moments when he is gone, I remind myself that somewhere there is a wife just like me with a husband overseas but not able to just pick up the phone and hear his voice and know that he is safe. In those tough moments, I remind myself of all I do have and pray for those who are struggling too.