Yesterday I published a post about the pros and cons of a 24 hour shift. There are certainly pros, and there are certainly cons! But it is what it is, and over the past three years I have learned how to get through these shifts.
Even before I had kids, it was really hard for me to be alone at home. I felt so incredibly lonely, not to mention how scary it sometimes was to come home to a completely dark house, or to hear bumps in the night and wonder if I was going to be murdered.
After having Tera it was rough. Not only did I have to support myself, but now I had to keep a little one alive. It was basic survival mode. When Tera was about 5 months old, I finally got into the swing of it and was able to move beyond survival mode into actually avoiding mental and emotional breakdown each time Theo was gone.
Now that I have two little girls to take care of, I’m back to survival mode during Theo’s 24s. I haven’t quite adjusted to having two that I have to carry everywhere. I often feel tied down to the house and I literally go all 24 hours without hearing another adult speak. It’s difficult, but at least this time I know it will only last for a small amount of time. One day I’ll realize that Theo is on a 24 and I haven’t had a breakdown! Woohoo!
So how do I get through those 24 hour shifts? Well, here are some of my tips:
- Have a special treat. Theo laughed at me when I mentioned this one, but it’s so crucial for me to get through. Theo said it will make me look forward to having him gone, but I disagree. Instead it is something that I look forward to on a day that I don’t have much to look forward to! My treat is usually a coke on the day that he works. I don’t have a coke everyday, so this is my treat for that particular day. There are lot of other treats that don’t necessarily have to be unhealthy or expensive. Just pick something and enjoy it only on those days.
2. Get organized. This particular point actually might not help everyone, but I have found that I need to be organized! Theo is gone one day, then home (but sleeping) the next day, and then on the third day he is able to be awake and with us, only to start the process over again the next day. Since Theo’s schedule is so out of whack, I have decided that I still need to operate mine and Tera’s schedule around his. At least two of us can be on schedule if all three of us can’t have a regular routine!
3. Be flexible. But then again…be flexible. Sometimes I will make plans to go somewhere, but since Theo was up the entire night before, it’s not gonna happen. And I have to learn to roll with it. I have to learn that I might want Tera to sleep in or to have a break from the children, but it’s just not in the cards for that day. And that is ok. It’s ok if dinner isn’t on the table at the regular expected time, and it’s also ok if Tera missed her bath because I was juggling everything by myself. Flexibility is key.
4. Set expectations low. This really goes along with being flexible, but having low expectations is a must. I pretty much just focus on keeping everyone alive on the days that Theo is gone. Honestly, I’m so bad at this one and I usually dissolve into tears at the end of the day when I haven’t gotten anything else done. But if I can teach myself to just lower those expectations, I will be good to go! I can keep myself and two little girls alive! I can SO do that!
5. Get out of the house. This one might not be for everyone, but hey…I’m the one writing the list, so I’m letting you know what works for me. I have to get out of the house. On days that Theo is gone I usually make up an errand to run. Ohhh, darn my library book is due in three days! Looks like we gotta go to the library! Seriously, just the act of driving out of my driveway makes me feel so much better about myself. I think that this is one of the reasons that I struggle more with two children. I now have to coordinate two schedules and make sure two children are happy before I can leave the house. And then there is the issue of my two arms having to transport both children. Some days I just have to settle for a walk. At least I got out of the driveway, right?
6. Enjoy your dinner. This one is so fun! When Theo is at work, I can eat whatever I want! So you better believe I always make food that Theo does not like! I have my zucchini pancakes and my cream of mushroom soup recipes and my tuna sandwiches…and I love that I get so many chances to enjoy them!
7. Enjoy your evening. This one goes right along with the dinner one. Theo has certain movies and shows that he does not like. Well, I get plenty of chances to watch those shows to my hearts content! Of course, this has to happen only after I have wrangled everyone to sleep. But even if it’s one episode of my happy show, at least I got to watch it!
8. Choose to be content. This one is by far the hardest, and it has taken me years to even realize that I need to work on it. I need to be thankful for the job that Theo has, the shift that he has and the way that he provides. It might be hard sometimes to get through a 24 hour shift alone at home with two babies, but I need to remember how good we really have it.
So what about you? Does your spouse work a 24 hour shift, or have to travel a lot for business? How do you get through the long days when he is gone?