It has been just over a year since B headed back to work for that first rotation after our wedding and honeymoon. Consequently, it has also been a year since I became intimately aware of the impact this shift work can have on those around the shift worker, even if they are not the one working through the night. The issues that come when learning how to live together were amplified by the fact that B’s non-static shift schedule left little space for any type of routine to anchor us in normalcy.

B started his life as a shift worker a year and a half before we got married and was still trying to figure out how to minimize the impact of his irregular 24 hour schedule when I entered the picture. Though he had been working the same non-static shift schedule the whole time we dated it was still a big adjustment for us when we began to live together. Previously, he would disappear when he was working a rotation (a combination of two 13 hour days followed by two 13 hour night shifts) and then I would get to see him during his days off (usually 3-6 days). But now, as a married couple, I was there when he came home and missing him when he was a work for the night.

Though I had some experience with shift work, my father worked regular shifts for a few years when I was younger and I worked a summer or two of shift work, I still had no concept of how much I would be impacted by the schedule that B worked. This has been, by far, the big “issue” in our marriage as we learn how to interact with and care for each other in the life we have. Both of us have had to work very hard to learn the delicate dance of marriage within this context.

Since shift work is a part of the profession that B has chosen and loves we are learning how to live with it without letting it control our lives and dictate everything. Right now I have a huge wall calendar on our wall marked up with his schedule so that we can see when he works at a glance, see our schedule for August and September on the right. We have also worked out a routine for when he finishes night shifts so that he can recover more quickly and minimize the exhaustion that can come not getting enough sleep. In this way we are seeking to slowly build routine into our irregular schedule.

I never realized what a gift a regular schedule can be and how much comfort can be found in the simple routine act of having weekends off. Now as I learn to live within this new schedule I am learning how to find constants and create routine in what can sometimes be chaos. Do you have a regular schedule or do you work or live within an alternate schedule? How do you craft your life around your work or relationship?