So Your Partner Works Shift Work....

Whether your partner was able to take two weeks or wasn’t able to take any time at all, having your partner return to work can be scary. You’ve adapted to life at home as a new family and now need to adjust to spending a good portion of the day/night alone, completely and entirely responsible for your new baby.

My son was born on a Sunday, we were discharged from the hospital two days later on the Tuesday, and my partner returned to work at 7pm on Wednesday. He worked 12 weeks of continental nights - that is, he worked Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and every other Saturday 7pm-7am. His shifts were then switched to 5 days a week, 8-hour rotations of midnights (11pm-7am), afternoons (3pm-11pm), and days (7am-3pm).

No matter how many visitors you have and how long your partner was able to stay home for, it’s very easy to feel alone the moment he/she leaves for work.

But I promise, you are not alone! I was that new mom who fought back the tears but cried as soon as he turned his back. One year later and there are still days where all I want is for him to call in sick.

It sucks having your partner leave, even when it’s just for work. It sucks even more when they are gone for work all night and sleep all day. But there are things that you can do together in order to get through the week and ensure that you feel confident and supported during the times you are alone.   

Remember, what works for one couple might not work for your family.

Creating a system is essential. It will take a bit of experimenting and compromising but it’s worth it. Establishing a routine will make it easy for your partner to know exactly his/her role depending on what shift they are working and take away the feeling of frustration when you were getting overwhelmed.

For example, when your partner works midnights, is it better if they go to bed as soon as they get home at 7am and sleep until 4pm? Or is it best if they stay awake until noon and sleep until just before they go into work? For us, my partner goes to bed between 8am and 9am (he has troubles winding down) and sleeps until 4pm or 5pm. He then wakes up, showers, cooks dinner, and puts our son to bed by 8pm.

Open communication is key. It’s hard to keep an open line of communication when you are exhausted and your partner is working shifts, especially when his/her family is at home sleeping. But in order for your partner to know how you are feeling and how they can best help you, you need to communicate with them. It’s important for both parties to take the position of the other in order to understand each perspective.

Here are some tips for keeping communication open.
1. Message board. Have a board where you and your partner can add notes of appreciation or concern. This could be extremely helpful when you have a busy week and don’t have time to have a full conversation regarding the issues.
2. Texts. Texting is so convenient, especially when you need help or need to discuss something with your partner right away.
3. Weekly check-ins. Once a week, you and your partner could touch base. Discuss what is working and what is not.

It is important to keep the following in mind when creating your family routine:

Be open. The last thing you want is for your partner to feel that you are not listening or judging what they have to say. This includes obviously being antsy to “cut in” and respond. Keep an open mind and remember that they will do the same for you.

Time of day. It’s probably not best to discuss any concerns or problems after a long day. Find a time when you are both able to relax, open up, and are mentally “there”.

Appreciate. Be sure to show your partner respect when they voice a concern; let them know how they help already and that you appreciate this help.