When we first got married, adjusting to Zac's ever-changing and always packed schedule was quite challenging. Four years later I still have a lot to learn, but these 8 things have made our lives a bit simpler because life is just easier when I accept reality for what it is rather than trying to change it. As I was compiling my list, I realized these are probably true for quite a few fields...anything that requires non-traditional hours, traveling, is open on weekends and/or holidays, is out of the state or country, anything with the Armed Forces, and probably many others. I'm very happy to be an 8-5er. Thank you to all of you who are not for doing what you do!
1. Do not plan anything that is dependent on your spouse's shift ending on time.
We learned this lesson the hard way so many times that we finally made a rule, no plans can be made that are dependent on Zac leaving work on time. If we have plans, I bank on meeting him there and we always forewarn anyone else involved that we may or may not be making it to the event.
2. Holidays will not get celebrated on the actual date and days of the week become irrelevant.
The plus side to this is it has helped us truly cherish the time we do get to spend as a family. As for days of the week, there are two: on-days and off-days.
3. Just because your spouse hasn't responded to your text (that you sent 5 hours ago) doesn't mean they're not ok.
This became an issue when Zac started working on a helicopter. More times than not the explanation was simple and far less dramatic than what I imagined (phone died and/or no service).
4. Sleep in the same bed.
After your spouse has worked nights for long enough, you start to forget what it's like to sleep in the same bed. It is so tempting to just move to the couch. As hard as it might be to get sleep after Zac has been on a stretch of nights, I try to never move to the couch because I don't want to forget what it's like to have someone to wake up next to, it's one of my favorite things about being married.
5. You will probably be the default parent.
A while back there was a hysterical article circulating on Facebook about the Default Parent (disclosure: some language is inappropriate for children). When I read it I thought, "my life makes so much more sense now!" I don't mind being the primary for daycare drop-off and pick-up, go-to if a child needs to be picked up early, primary comforter and consoler, etc., but it's a lot easier being the default when it has a name. We have an understanding that I am the default parent. For example, it is not an option for Zac to pick Finn up if he is sick at daycare. My job is able to be flexible with such events, his is not. Ownership of the default role has been a huge stress reducer.
6. When kids are involved, long shifts require breaks.
I'm sure this isn't true for everyone, but I've found that if Zac is on a 24-hour shift, I need to plan a break. If it's a day I have off from work, I make sure Finn and I go on at least one playdate. If I get invited to do something in the evening, I try to arrange a sitter. If it's during the weekdays, we try to work the same days rather than opposites. When Finn was a newborn we arranged to work opposite days to avoid daycare. It worked for a while but left us with zero family time. Because weekends don't really exist in the medical field, we try to designate at least one family day per week. Sometimes it's a Tuesday, sometimes it's a Sunday. We still manage to only need daycare 2-3 days a week which has been great for Finn as well as our budget.
7. Talk about your marriage.
We don't talk about cheating, divorce, and affairs very often, but we do check in. This field will require your spouse to spend a lot of time with alone with their partner, which might be someone of the opposite sex. This used to make me very uneasy and started to take a toll on our relationship. Because this is a reality of Zac's line of work, we agreed to have honest and open conversations about our marriage whenever one of us feels the need to, no questions asked. It's brought us closer as a couple and makes it easy for me not to think or worry about it.
Everyone has hard days at work, but some fields have days which are filled with grief, pain and critical decisions far beyond what I will ever experience at my desk job. Paramedics, EMT's, firefighters, police officers, military personnel, and so many other public servants leave their families each day having no idea what they will be met with on shift. Make time to listen. Most days will be routine, but always ask, and be prepared to really listen. I have found that entering into a conversation with an attitude of genuine care and concern will rarely end in an argument and can help with the sometimes difficult transition from work to home.
"Know this, my beloved brothers:
let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger."