Ashley is the sister of our all-star FBG assistant editor Erika Morgan. In her first post on Fit Bottomed Mamas, she shares her experience as a shift working mom of two kids.
Let me begin by saying I haven’t always disliked shift work. I started my career in my early twenties, and I used to love working the crazy hours. I frequently worked the evening shift, which started in the early afternoon and usually ended by midnight. Being single without kids it seemed to work out perfectly for my social life. I could still meet my friends for a drink after work, and I didn’t have to worry about setting my alarm in the mornings. I have always worked a “4-10 schedule” which is four 10-hour shifts with three days off. Sure, the day is a little bit longer but having that third day off is nothing short of amazing. I also didn’t mind working holidays or weekends because I either made extra money by working the holiday or saved money by going out during the week.
Now I am in my thirties, married with two young children, and my love of shift work is fading. My husband also works shift work, which makes our life a whole other level of crazy. Since I’ve had children I have always felt it is important to keep their lives as normal as possible in terms of their schedules. They did not choose this job, we did. For example I make sure they have a normal sleep schedule even if it means I have to wake up at 6 a.m. after not getting to bed until 1 a.m. Frequently I have to sacrifice sleep, and I mean a lot of sleep. My youngest is 4 months old, and I am still breastfeeding which some of you know means even less sleep! Sure, it is also a struggle for my husband (at times) but let’s be real here. We are moms and we usually are sacrificing a lot more in terms of sleep and time for ourselves. My husband and I have to work as a team in order to make sure we both get the rest we need for work. Currently we are both on evening shift schedules with opposite days off. This works out great in terms of not needing as much childcare but we do miss out on days off as a family, which sadly sometimes includes holidays.
Being a working mom is hard. Being a shift working mom, in my opinion, can be even harder. There are a lot of us though, including doctors, nurses, police officers, firefighters, paramedics, and many others. We have chosen a job that is not your typical 9-to-5 gig, and it comes with a hefty price. We sometimes have to miss out on Christmas morning with our little ones, taking our family to church on Sundays or tucking them into bed each night. Some of us are gone overnights or work a full 24-hour shift before returning home to our families. But I would argue there are also some positives to shift work. We can go to places during the week which means fewer crowds, and it allows us to take our time at exhibits or events. Since my children aren’t in school yet, our mornings aren’t rushed, and we have more opportunities to make those cute little animal pancakes and watch cartoons in our PJs. My oldest is in preschool so I am able to attend his classroom holiday parties during the week, which may not happen if I worked a normal daytime job.
Tips for the Shift Working Mama
1. One day at a time. Take it day by day and don’t let it stress you out. Tell yourself everything will work out and be OK in the end.
2. Prioritize health. Take care of your body by eating healthy, exercising and catching up on sleep when you need it. You’re strong because you’re a MOM, but you’re also human.
3. Get a system in place. Make sure you have a good support system such as family or close friends to give you a hand when you so desperately need it. Like they say, it takes a village.
4. Please don’t beat yourself up about missing out sometimes. If you need to cry, let it out, but understand that your children will someday recognize the sacrifices you made for them. Know that when your children look at you they see you as super woman and they couldn’t be more proud to call you Mom. How do I know this? My mom worked shift work too!
Shift working can bring unique challenges, but also have huge benefits. What’s your favorite thing about being a shift working mom? —Ashley