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I just wanted to pop in to say that we made it through B’s first day back at work! And Bubby and I had a bunch of fun and only a few hiccups. He ate his first whole fruit, I gave him a nectarine and he chowed down, we replanted a few things in our garden (I had to remind Bubby a number of times that “grass is for bunnies, not for babies” as he kept crawling to the edge of the blanket and cramming his mouth full of it), we walked to the mail box to post a letter and met another neighbour on the way, and had a few friends stop by as well. All in all it was a good day. It sure was nice to see B again, though.

Thanks for all you guys who sent up some prayers for us. So far so good.

How was your day?

So, after a lovely six month parental leave, B goes back to work in just over a week. I’m not sure how to feel about it and I know it will be a big adjustment for all of us, especially the long days and shift work aspect. I think our little Bubby will find it lonely with out his Daddy around to play with him and spend time with him.

For me I’ll miss B, I’ve loved having him home for so long, but I’m most unsure of how we will handle the logistics of running a home, feeding everyone and making sure there’s time for fun and special moments crammed between loads of laundry and night shifts. I love spending time with our little Bubby and I love making a home for B, making sure he has his huge cooler of food for each shift and clean clothes when he leaves the house, but I don’t know how I’ll be able to do both of them well, at the same time.

So the question will become one of priorities and needs and I, with my (sometimes overwhelming and unhealthy) desire to do everything well (perfectly?), will have a lot to learn about grace, good enough and what is really important. So if we disappear for a few weeks/months you know where we are: readjusting and learning what it’s like to be a shift work family of three.

Any tips on priorities? Things you saw your parents do well? Things you are trying to do well in your family?

It is a curious thing, the ways of time. One moment time is moving at a comfortable pace; you’re comfortable in your skin and in your schedule and life is in balance, the next second time has escaped stealing any peace that it had previously promised leaving us confused and stressed, wondering where it went. On and on this cycle continues, from Monday to Sunday, from weekend to weekend, just like clockwork. This is real life in an age governed by time. This is what my life used to look like, somewhat stressful but comfortably predictable all the same. Now this has changed.

Where time used to be easily sectioned off into days and weeks, months and years, holidays, work days and weekends, I am now living in a timeless land. I live in a family with a rhythm of day shifts and night shifts, days off and 9-5s. Growing up I lived in a family with a life rhythm built around the days of the week. Of course we had school Monday to Friday but in addition to that, Mondays was laundry day, Saturdays was cleaning day, and Sunday was a day set apart from the mundane for visiting and playing, we mowed the lawn in summer and shovelled snow in winter. It was regular, it was comforting.

Needless to say, when I married B, I had no idea how shift work changed one’s perception of time and messed with those daily and weekly life rhythms, and even how it impacted one’s perception of holidays and weekends. From the first weekend I spent alone while B was at work till now we have been on a steep learning curve, trying to find ways of instituting some sort of regularity in the face of an excessively irregular schedule.

For the first eight months of our married life I was a part-time student, finishing off my MA, and worked part time, this meant I was gone three days a week. This meant that if B was working the weekend I would hardly see him at all and if he was working a rotation during the week I would see him even less, about five hours in five days. Add to that the fact that we were newlyweds and there was a lot of stress coming from working and my last semester of school, this was very difficult.

When I completed my degree and finished my work contract we decided that I would take the summer off to recuperate and focus on finding more effective ways of dealing with shift work. We also wanted to focus on building relationships with some of the great people we had been getting to know. When working the type of shift work that B works it is impossible for him to be involved in weekly activities that grow relationships through regular contact, and, since neither of us grew up in this city, we only had a few people we knew well enough to be comfortable letting them see the unpredictability of shift work.

And that is what it often feels like it is, unpredictable. With me at home it has allowed us to reach out more and be more involved in what is going on around us, and even to spend more time on our own relationship since I can get all the chores and food stuff done while B is at work so we have more time when he has a few days off, but at the same time it has removed any sense of regularity.

I have been reading a book about Sabbath (stay tuned for a review of it) and it has reminded me of how much I miss the rhythm that was established when I was growing up, when we took Sunday off. It makes me miss it and wonder how we can incorporate this idea into a schedule where B is working 13 hours many Sundays. So this is our new challenge: we have found ways of coping with the shift work so it doesn’t tire B out for days, now I want to work towards finding a way of instating a rhythm in our home, a rhythm that can be soothing, at the same time I want a rhythm that can be flexible so that when B has Monday to Friday off we are free to travel and explore and Sabbath on those days as well.

Christmas has come and gone and I am back. Much has happened since I last wrote and there is lots to share. Back in November B had almost six weeks of work without night shifts. It was, in one sense, lovely but in another quite difficult. Since I finished school and work B and I have been working extra hard and finding how we can cope with the long hours and night shifts that are part of his job. It has been a tough road but for now we have found a rhythm that works for both of us and allows him space to recoup after working a bazillion hours in a few days.

So we were just on the cusp of finding a solution for the unending exhaustion that B seemed to experience after his normal rotation (two 13 hr. day shifts followed by two 13 hr. night shifts), we had tried a few things that seemed to be working, when we moved into November, a blessed reprieve from night shifts but this launched us into adjustments in the opposite direction. It was lovely to have him home for dinner and for us to be able to spend time with friends in the evenings, but it was tough to find spaces for the time that we needed alone and together.

Come December we jumped back on the night shift merry-go-round and tried to find our groove again. Needless to say that caused quite a lot of re-adjustment again. Add to that an art show that I was privileged to help organize, an early Christmas visit from B’s parents, a new and delightful hobby, and other Christmas themed things and you have your answer as to why I have been silent over the past few months.

But life has been good, so many lovely visits with family and friends and the promise of another year full of adventures.

B and I were not sure how we would handle the long winter months since the past few winters have been very difficult for both of us in part because of the unbearable cold that can be part of Manitoba winters. This year we received a special gift that is making winter much more enjoyable. First, the weather has taken quite a while to get very cold so winter does not yet feel as long as in past years.

We also have a plant that’s just about to bloom. In the fall we cleaned up our balcony garden and put the pots away till next year but we took in two dead plants because there was some lovely ground cover still alive in the pots. A while after we brought them inside we noticed that there were shoots coming up from the lily bulb that we thought was dead for the year. Over time it has grown tall and produced buds that look like they are ready to bloom any time. It has been such a joy to watch life grow in the midst of winter.

How have you been adjusting to the new year? Has there been anything that has brought you hope this winter?

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”┬áin 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?

In the past few weeks it has gotten cooler around here. If you look closely you can see fall peeking in around the edges of a fading summer. Everyone is heading back to school again, that or they have been there for a while now and life is taking on a new routine. This is the first time in three years that I will not be returning to school at all and, in all accounts, I may never formally be going back again. This is bitter-sweet to me.

I love to learn and, since I enjoy interacting with and learning from other people, I consequently love school and all the people I get to meet. While the three r’s of grad school, reading, writing and research, sometimes seem to drain all the fun out of life I still liked being ‘forced’ to spend time growing my mind and changing how I think. Now, if I want to continue to intentionally learn something specific I will need to be self motivated to take the steps to read and think.

Life has changed a lot for me in the past year. Not only have I completed a two year graduate program in three years, I have also gotten married and moved to a familiar but new city, I completed my term at the part-time job that was helping me fund my education, and am now trying to figure out where to go from here. Ultimately, I am in that endless process of transition that is part of being human. This time I am transitioning from being an independent student/employee with a regular schedule and a school full of friends around me to being the wife of a shift worker with a non-static schedule living in an apartment building where we know only a few people.

Lets just say that life has changed completely for me in so many ways. Now before you think I am complaining or that I hate my life please know that I feel so blessed to be right here, right now. I have been given a wonderful husband who has taken such good care of me in so many ways. He has been key in giving me the opportunity to do what I am doing now, something that I have desired since I was a girl. It is really because of his hard work and support that I am able to be home and have the opportunities that I am blessed with because of it.

It has been neat to see the opportunities that have been given us to connect with people and each other over the past few months as I have finished with school and work. Since B has such a crazy schedule, sometimes working long days, sometimes working all night, it was difficult to see each other some weeks when I was working and studying. This was super tough in our first few months of marriage and brought up some things we really had to work through early on. In those weeks, when we could not count on seeing each other, very often it was difficult to think of reaching out to others as well. That was our story at the time and so we worked in that framework, and we made it through.

Now, with me at home most of the time we are better able to connect with each other and we are able to connect better with the people around us, building friendships that we are so excited about. I’d like to think that it also helps that I love to bake and cook so when we hang out with people there is usually (good?) food around. I am also better able to support B in his work and work with him to figure out how we can live a full life even with shift work taking so much of his time and energy.

For those of you who have ever worked shift work you know what I mean by that last sentence, and for those of you who have lived with someone working shift work you also know what I mean. One of the biggest things we have had to work on in our marriage of almost a year is how to function with shift work. It was really tough at first, who am I kidding, even now there are times when it is really tough, especially since there don’t seem to be many resources for living in community with shift work. It seems that the most helpful thing many shift work resources suggest is just to become friends with other people who work shift work too and hope your schedules allow time to get together. This isn’t always possible so we have been exploring ways to be as ‘normal’ as possible with a very abnormal schedule.

The best thing is that B loves his job, which is helpful if you’re working different hours. It allows me to support him in it and helps us work together to find solutions to combat shift work’s control over our lives. It is also helpful that, because of his hard work, I am able to take time to be home and do some of the things that need doing differently because of his schedule and not feel pressure to find a job. I have always wanted to be able to have a home that is open to those around us, a place for people to come and connect and feel comfortable for a while, a place with good conversation and good food, a place to rest for a little while. I feel that right now I am able to do this in some small way with what we have and I have been so blessed by the many friends that we have been able to spend time with.

And that is how I feel right now. So blessed. I want to enjoy the moment and experience the feelings and events as they are happening. Through my studies one of the things that we talked about a lot was how important it is to just be. In a world where it can be easier to live in the future, perhaps in a place where we are judged by our output or busyness I think it is intensely important to ‘breathe in the moment’ as it were, to be in the here and now, experiencing it as a gift. Easier said than done, I know, I have often lived my life in the future or the past, fearing what the present would bring, but now, right now, I want to be here, I want to experience what is now. I want to revel in the many wonderful gifts and blessings that are all around me and work through the many fears, stresses and difficult times that come with really living life. I guess I’m just saying that I want to live.

And you? How have you changed or been changed in the past year? What are the blessings that you have been given?

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