My husband switches shifts every 28 days and on top of that he has rotating days off. We never have a set schedule. And ironically his favorite shift is second (usually 3-11 or 4-12) and that is my LEAST favorite shift.
Second shift is just really tough for me. He usually leaves about the time the little kids are about to wake up from their nap. On top of that I usually cook our big meal for lunch so that he has a good meal and leftovers to take for his lunch. Therefore, I have to do my regular schedule of feeding kids breakfast, homeschooling and doing laundry and dishes and then making a big meal, cleaning it up, more homeschooling, taking care of the husband before he leaves. Then once he leaves I usually still have a little bit of homeschooling left to do and the kids are waking up and I am ready to run out the door screaming because I haven't had any down time.
Here is the part where I should say that I am very thankful that my husband has a good job and that he never complains about going to it. I am also in awe of all of you single moms out there who do this all the time by yourselves. It is VERY hard work.
Having lived this way for about 5 years now, I have a few tricks up my sleeves to make things a little easier.
We eat very simply when my husband is not here. At night I usually will fix a snacky meal and we will often have a picnic in the living room while watching a cartoon. Sometimes, if it has been an especially hard day we will load up the van and head to Chick Fil A and I will let the kids play and we will just eat supper there.
We make a weekly outing of the library. We go to the library and pick out books and movies. When we get home I let them watch one of the shows they picked out or we read a few of the books and then they go to bed. It is fun for all of us and it makes the night go by quicker. And it is free!
The kids go to a Bible club once a week in the evening (or class or whatever you want to call it). It is Word of Life but a lot of churches have Awanas. Sometimes moms can use this time to run a few errands or to sit at Starbucks and just relax or she could go to her own Bible study. I use this time to serve in my church with our junior highers.
Find other moms whose husband works crazy shifts. No one can sympathize with you more than a person who knows exactly what you are dealing with. I have some friends whose husbands work second shift but I also have friends whose husbands work late on occasion and I will get a hold of them and ask if they might want to get together one night either at my house or their's.
When all else fails, popping some popcorn and watching a movie together isn't the end of the world. I know lots of people don't like watching television or don't allow their kids to, but there are some good educational movies out there like all the Leapfrogs on Netflix. Renting a $1 Redbox movie is always an option too.
Visit family! If you have family in town just call and see if you can bring the kids to see their grandparents or their aunt and uncle. You could offer to bring a pizza or split a pizza. It might give you some time to just relax while the kids play with their relatives or at least play with different toys at a different house.
Go for a drive in the country. People, seriously, Sunday nights during the summer are so hard for me. I don't know why but they are. I usually have some sort of small break down about then. I find getting the kids in the van, rolling down the windows and just driving through the country gives me a little peace. It usually calms my nerves and a lot of times the kids usually fall asleep. A quiet van on a quiet country road is heavenly. Sometimes I will drive to a nearby town we used to live in and drive by my grandparents old house and it just brings back good memories for me.
Let people know you are having a hard time. I am the worst at this. My husband is usually the only one who knows when I am having a hard time. Some of my friends are good at picking up on this, but I am really bad at letting them know. If you have a community of people around you let them know that you are struggling a little. Maybe some older couple will have you over for dinner or offer to watch the kids sometimes so you can have some time to yourself or get things done. Pray about that specifically!
The days can be very long especially if your spouse is on call or working double shifts. I know you can't always leave the house but if you can get out a few times a week it helps to break up the days.
I could tell you to do some activity or a craft or something but I am just too tired at night to do anything like that. I don't want you to get the impression that they are all bad days. They are not.
We are adjusting better all the time but we still have our days:)
How about you, do you have any tips for staying sane with kids when spouses work crazy hours?
And just a tip for ladies whose children are older or ladies who don't have children - you might think about having a mom with young kids over for dinner or maybe bring her dinner or maybe offer to babysit so she can run errands or just have a night out to herself. Trust me - it would make a world of difference for that mom.