Shift Work - Does it Work?

How to Raise a Family When Married to a Spouse Who Works Shifts

by: Maija

If you were to ask me before I had children if marrying someone who worked shift work was a good idea I would have said ABSOLUTELY.  I am an independent kind of girl and enjoyed having time to myself to do whatever I felt like at the time.  Fast forward to three children ages seven to 18 months and if you asked me now I’d have to tell you truthfully it’s not for the faint of heart.

My husband is a police officer.  He works 12 hour shifts which fluctuate between days and nights and means every week the children go at least 48 hours without seeing their father and 4 ½ days out of every week my husband is not around for the routine we call life.

There are definitely pros and cons to being a shift working family.  But if you want the truth and are considering and/or currently partnering with a shift worker (especially one in a 911 environment) if we were sitting on my couch with a glass of wine this is the advice I would give you:

 Make sure you have friends who are also spouses of shift workers.  They are the only ones who truly understand that committing to yoga class every Monday night is impossible.  They are also the ones that will hang up quickly if you say my partner is home because they understand that your time as a family is precious.

 Decide what’s important to celebrate on what day.  For me it’s Christmas morning so my husband does everything possible to always be home on Christmas morning.  Birthdays, anniversaries and Mother’s Day get celebrated on a day he’s home and almost never on the day they fall.

 Recognize early on that if you can’t do it, it may not get done.  I learned the hard way that Saturday morning skating classes and Tuesday evening ballet classes are fine and dandy if your partner also works until 5pm and is home on weekends, but they become increasingly difficult when you have to drag three children around town at dinner and nap time.

 Co-parenting takes work.  Sometimes I forget to tell my husband when school concerts are and when projects are due.  In my defence – by the time he gets home the homework is done, the school forms are signed, the kids are in bed and I’ve moved onto the next thing on my to do list.  I’ve learned to email calendar appointments for the important things but it took me seven years to figure that out.

 Sometimes it’s important to just throw routine out the window.  Yes, when you single parent 95% of the time routine is VERY important but on the days Daddy is home I’ve learned to skip bath time in favour of light-sabre play and extra cuddles.

 Take time for YOU both as an individual and as a couple.  While most couples get to spend time together in the evenings and on weekends many of my friends take turns sleeping in, a shift working couple needs to work harder at finding that time.  Make it a priority from the beginning and find creative ways to get the time you need both to rejuvenate as an individual and as a couple.

The shift working family dynamic isn’t for everyone and some days it isn’t for us either but it is our family and we do our best every day to make it work.  Nonetheless, I’m always up for a glass of wine and a (virtual) chat with any other spouse of a shift-worker so feel free to drop me a note!


Maija is a working mother of 3 + 1 (the +1 being her teenage sister and NOT her husband).  She is the proud wife of a police officer for the last *gasp* nine years and regularly relies on drive-thru dinners on ballet nights.  You can find Maija and all her mayhem at, or