Monday, June 24, 2013

Quality Time on Non-Traditional Schedules

I always imagined that I'd grow up, get married, stay home with my babies and my husband would work 9-5. Then for a while when we thought I'd work while having kids, I imagined us both working 9-5 and then spending the evenings together with the family. You know, like most families do. Then I realized that what I had growing up was not what all, or even most, families experience. And then I met my husband who worked varying shifts between 6-3, 10-6, and 4-midnight. For a while, it was really hard for me to reconcile in my head. The first year or so that we were together, our 'plan' was that we'd both work after we were married and had kids. His work schedule really stressed me out because all I could think about was how most of the household duties would probably fall to me with his schedule, including lots of the evening things like PTA meetings and other school events. For a while, I pushed him pretty hard to find a more traditional scheduled job, and he worked really hard but nothing worth accepting came about. Once we decided that our 'plan' is for me to stay home and homeschool, his job made total sense. If the children and I are always home, it doesn't really matter what hours he is working.... we'll be with him when he's not, and I'll do the chores/the kids will do their schooling while he's at work. Maybe not the rigid routine I do well with, but it could totally work for our family.

Let me take a quick break to tell you why I say 'plan' instead of plan. I have learned the hard way that God's plan and my plan tend to be different, and that, no matter how much I previously thought I could foretell the future.... I can't. So yes, our 'plan' now is for us to have babies, me to stay home, and for them to be homeschooled but I am 100% open to God's plan which could mean children or not, me staying home or not, the kids being homeschooled or not. Who knows? We will continue with what we think God's plan for us is until the point if/when we figure out otherwise.

Back to your regularly scheduled programming. Where were we? Oh, spouses working non-traditional hours. So Steven got a promotion last year and his hours are different and longer. His current shifts are 6:30am-5pm, 9am-7pm, or 2pm-11pm. This actually works out to me seeing him a bit more than I used to since he is home by 6 when he gets off at 5, and he tends to work the open shift more than the other 2. But when he gets off at 7, he's at least not home until 8... once we eat dinner and clean up, the night is pretty much shot. And on a closing night, we don't even see each other because I leave around 8:30 and don't come home until after he's gone to work for the day, and he gets home an hour or two after I've gone to bed.

Hanging out on the porch. Unfortunately, it rarely involves pizza!

So what can couples do when they work different and, sometimes, opposing schedules? We have to be a bit more creative because we can't take it for granted that we're going to see each other 7 nights a week, or that we will always both be home at X time. Every day is different. I might get home at 4pm one day and he is getting home at midnight from a close shift. I might get home at 5pm one day and he is getting home at 8pm from a mid shift. It's hard to have a routine when our days vary every time. It's hard to plan dinner or evening activities, at least without doing it last minute. More importantly, it's sometimes hard to fit in quality 'couple time' because we get caught up in what needs to get done once we are both home. But here are some things we've discovered through trial and error (*ahem* lots of it!) that help us maximize our time together, or that help us create time together when we're really feeling like we're missing out on it:

  • Get chores done when the other person isn't home, to maximize our time together when we're both home. We were both bad about this for a while, because we enjoyed having the other person home doing their own chores as we did ours. Misery loves company? ;) But then we realized what a wasted opportunity for quality time together it was! 
  • In that vein, have specified chores if you need them. This works well for us because I don't have to ask Steven to do certain chores. He just has certain things he does and I have certain things I do. This way, we are really efficient with stuff around the house which of course allows more free time to have fun together! On a day where he closes, he will most likely do his cleaning during the day, and I'll do mine that night when I get home. Then the next evening when we are home together, we have the whole evening to relax! House cleaning was one of those things we used to do together, and now we always save it for his closing night, so our cleaning day changes each week.
  • Help your spouse out! I've had to suck up some extra chores around the house now that Steven is working 50+ hours per week. If I don't, then he comes straight home and is still having to do laundry, while I've possibly been sitting for a few hours after work waiting on him to come home. Well, if I don't help, now I'm sitting here another hour waiting on him to finish laundry AND he is getting even more exhausted doing laundry after a long day's work. Then I'm anxious because I want to spend time together, and he can barely keep his eyes open by that point. It's a bad combination and life is so much better for both of us when we work hard to ease each other's load (it goes both ways- Steven will empty the dishwasher, my chore, on a day where he is off and I'm at work all day, so I don't have to spend time doing it when I get home.)
  • If you find yourselves wasting too much time on the computer (or tv if that's an issue), schedule things you want to do together. We both love the internet and can eat up an entire evening doing our own things on our computers without even realizing it. When we both have a rare day off together, it doesn't matter as much because we've most likely spent the last 8 hours together interacting. But when we only have 2 hours together in a day, using it all on the computer is not a wise decision for our marriage. So we will often times sit down to the computer and one of us will say something like "You want to have computer time for 30 minutes and then have together time?". During together time, we either watch a tv show we've been following together and enjoy a nice couch cuddle, or play board games, or just sit and talk. It's so important to us to feel like we had time to connect at some point during the day.
  • Go for a walk, even a quick one. It helps us sleep better, helps Steven relieve some job stress, and gives us time to talk. We'll sometimes follow it up with a little time on the front porch. It doesn't matter if it's cold out by the time he gets home, we can bundle up really well and take a night time walk! And on hot summer days, an evening walk is actually a better choice anyway.
Sometimes we go for a quick drive together, and more likely than not we end up with an ice cream treat! 

I know from reading lots of your blogs that you also have varying schedules from your spouses. What are some things you do to make sure you are connecting and spending quality time together even when you are sometimes two ships passing in the night? I'm especially interested to hear from those of you who have kids because I would imagine that makes it a lot harder!  How do you maximize parent/kid time if their/your schedules are different? 


  1. I could write a whole post about this! The one thing we do every evening, whenever the husband gets home is to ask each other, "what do you want the night to look like?" That way, before we even have dinner or get the kiddos down, we know if it is going to be tv, computer time, special project time, etc. soooo helpful.

    1. You SHOULD write a whole post about it; I'd love to read it!!! :) I love that question. We might have to start incorporating it.

  2. My husband and I worked nontraditional schedules until this past November when he got a new job and I remained on my evening hour schedule. I had toddler duty in the AM and he had it in evening which meant we were NEVER happy or on the same weekend schedule at all. You inspired me to write a post about it on my blog...

  3. My husband doesn't work a traditional schedule--he does three 12 hour shifts per week--they used to be night shifts when we were first married, that was much more challenging--but now, after being so used to this schedule, I'm not sure I'd even want a five day work week for him anymore! We do have to make adjustments. My body doesn't handle eating late at night very well, so we sometimes have to give up having dinner together when he works because he won't get home till after 8 at night. We just do other things together instead!

    1. We are trying to figure the dinner thing out. Right now we're doing dinner together, but I'm kind of like you... dinner late at night doesn't sit well! Last night we were finishing at almost 9pm so we might have to change what we're doing!

  4. We are one of the lucky couples that works together and has evenings and weekends off. We feel like after we put the five kids down to bed, it's a date night every night! Hmmmm, maybe that's why we have so many kids....