When I went into nursing, I never gave much thought as to how my nursing career would affect my family. I never thought about if I would be working day shift or night shift once I had a family. I figured I wouldn’t have children until after I’d gotten seniority and would be a day shifter by then. Little did I know that being a “night walker” would be the hardest aspect of my job for my family, but also a blessing in disguise.
The Hardships of Working the Night Shift
One of the most difficult aspects of working night shift is when you have small children who are home while you are trying to sleep. Unfortunately, these small children do not always understand why mommy or daddy needs to sleep all day. They will come in and ask questions, even though the other parent is available to help them.
“Mom, can I have some milk?”
“Mom, what’s for lunch?”
“Mom, are you done sleeping?”
Fortunately, my daughter is not old enough to ask many of these questions, like my coworker’s children do. Instead, I frequently hear her at my bedroom door saying “Mommy? Mommy? Mommy night night?” When you have been up for the last 16ish hours, depending on if you slept the day before, these questions can become very irritating. I hope anyone who works the night shift has someone caring for their children who is understanding of their need for sleep. Someone who will try to prevent this mid-sleep question game from happening.
Missing out on activities during the day or evening due to needing to sleep prior to or after working night shift is always hard. Whether it’s school activities, local kid-friendly events, or even family celebrations. Sometimes, you end up weighing the option of depriving yourself of sleep, so you can be there with your family. This part never really gets easier as a night shifter. You learn to pick and choose what you can and can’t miss.
The Benefits of Working the Night Shift
However, working the night shift is not without benefits! Being able to see my daughter more is definitely the biggest benefit. Although this can be different with every job/family, I never saw my daughter on the day shifts I worked. Now, when working night shift, I get to see her when I return home in the morning for a little bit and a few hours before I go to work. Although having to adjust back to a regular day schedule so quickly is hard, it is much easier knowing I will get to spend time with my family. I now have the opportunity to be home or available with my daughter more frequently than I did before. Sometimes this means a lack of sleep, but if she has an activity or appointment, I can be there now.
Working any job can be difficult, no matter what the hours are. We all make the decision for what works best for our family and ourselves. To anyone who may be starting a night shift position, there are a few simple tips that may help: Talk to your family and your children on what to expect. For instance, when you’ll be sleeping, and what to do if they need anything. Then, buy yourself a nice set of black-out curtains, maybe even a sound machine or ear plugs. Anything that will help you sleep during the day will end up being well worth it.
To my fellow night shift workers:
May the house be quiet to sleep in, may the weather be cloudy while you sleep, and may there be lots of strong coffee when you wake-up!
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