The night shift life is not for the faint of heart. Take the demands of a night shift job, add in the demands of a stay-at-home-mom, and you’ve got yourself an uphill battle. Working all night and momming all day is hard, but I’ve discovered some truths along the way.
You do not “go to sleep.” Instead, you “get a nap in” before and/or after your shift.
Working at night frees you up to be a SAHM during the day…and that is the expectation. In theory, since you’re home during the day, you should be awake during the day, because taking more than a four hour nap is considered being lazy. Cooking, cleaning, educating and playing with the kiddo is on you 4 or 5 days of the week–not because of traditional gender roles, but out of practicality. If you’re home, you’re on mom duty.
Your sleep cycle does not exist.
There are three phases in your cycle: tired, exhausted, and falling asleep. Usually you fluctuate between these categories with no discernible reason. You try to make the switch back to days after a stretch of nights, but it isn’t as straightforward as you’d think. You’re inevitably awake at 3 a.m., falling asleep at 5 a.m., then awake at 7 a.m. with your family. You’re tired again by 10 a.m., exhausted by noon or 1 p.m., and falling asleep by 2 or 3 p.m. You try to nap when the toddler does. (Nice try.) But by the time you’re falling asleep with him, he wakes up ready to party.
Husband comes home at 5 p.m., another second wind kicks in, and you realize you haven’t eaten all day. Kid gets to bed around 7 p.m., and tired progresses to falling asleep. Husband thinks you’re boring and lazy for falling asleep before 8 p.m. He also knows you’ll be wide awake at midnight. Midnight to 4 a.m., I’m tiptoeing around the house, ravenous, writing down what needs to be done later that day, catching up on e-mails, cleaning quietly, etc. When 4 a.m. rolls around, it’s back to tired, and the cycle starts all over again. You’re always wishing for more hours to catch up on sleep and get back in sync with your family.
You have no idea what day it is, and you are always confused.
Military time is necessary. When your work day spans two calendar days, figuring out childcare during 4-hour naps requires more mental calculation than anticipated. I’m lucky that my nanny and my mom can both read my mind, my work schedule, remind me when my husband will be home with our kiddo, and coordinate the nap schedule to maximize my sleep time. Without them, I’d need much more brain power and clarity that I just don’t have coming off of a 12+ hour night shift.
You are starving and have to pee at least once in the middle of the night (off-work).
On my nights at work, I can be so busy I forget to eat. I often have to force myself to eat something. At home, I consistently wake up around 1 or 2 a.m. with a voracious appetite and need to pee ASAP! Because eating in the wee hours of the morning isn’t conducive to sleep or a desirable figure, I go for 2-3 tablespoons of peanut butter. It never fails to tide me over until breakfast and I’m not going to feel guilty. A small quantity of peanut butter gives me protein, stabilized blood sugar levels, a substantial enough fat content, yet little sugar.
You realize how much you must love BOTH your job and being a mom.
It requires being willing to run on an average of 4-6 hours of sleep. You have to put all your mental energy into work and physical stamina into being mom. Being a mom to a toddler can be mind-numbing and redundant, but it provides a refreshing break from the cognitive demands of my job.
My husband and I are the main caretakers for our son. We have a Nana and a nanny that watch him between 4 and 15 hours per week–that’s it! I am extremely proud and humbled that my husband and I can pull off being full-time employees AND full-time parents! We don’t have it all figured out by any stretch of the imagination. Our impressively non-existent life outside of those realms is a sacrifice we’ve had to make, along with any hope for intelligent conversation between us.
The benefits are worth the costs
Life won’t always be this limiting, exhausting endeavor, luckily. However, our only child is little for a snippet of time, and I am so thankful that I don’t have to miss anything. At the same time, I don’t have to give up a career I love, either. I’ll take the exhaustion and night-shift work, even as hard as it is on my body and mind. I’d rather live my life purposefully, passionately, and consciously than live a life of regret, helplessness, and inauspiciousness.
Can any night shift moms relate?