My husband works some very strange and unpredictable hours. Sometimes he does really early mornings, late nights, weekends, public holidays. It’s all over the place. And sometimes I find this quite frustrating because it’s hard to maintain any kind of routine. But when Birdy was first born, his boss took pity on him and gave us three months of solid day shifts. It was amazing. It made all the difference just to know that help was coming at the end of the day. When the baby was crying, and I had no idea what we were going to eat for dinner, and I was worn out, it was so nice to know that in a couple of hours Daddy was going to walk through the door and I could pass the baby to him. Ever since, I’ve had a secret little fantasy about being married to someone with a regular nine to five job. (Assuming that someone was still my husband!)
But I’m not sure if that fantasy actually exists for many people. I often find myself talking with other Mums and Dads about the impact that their working hours have on their family life. I have quite a few friends whose husband’s travel a lot for work – they might go away for two or three weeks at a time, and the Mums find it really hard to adjust to being the sole carer while they’re away. I would be a complete mess if my husband went away all the time. I find it hard enough just to cope with the odd working hours.
But whenever I complain too much, my husband reminds me that it could be worse. My own grandmother was, like many women of her generation, effectively a single parent during the Second World War. My grandfather was in a prisoner of war camp in Germany for almost five years, and for at least some of that time she didn’t know whether he was dead or alive. I think she must have often wondered whether he was ever coming back. In the meantime she had to bring up two young children (my father was maybe five or six at the beginning of the war) and she had to do it with very little income. It must have been quite lonely at night, because when the kids went to bed, there would have been nobody to spend the evenings with. So here am I complaining about my husband working weekends, when my grandmother didn’t even see her husband for five years. And, of course, my Dad grew up without a father for a very formative part of his childhood. So when you put it in perspective, I guess I don’t have so much to complain about.
Does your husband/wife/partner work strange hours or travel a lot for work? How does the family cope when Mum or Dad is away? Do the kids feel it when one parent isn’t around much? If you’re a single parent, how have you learned to cope on your own?
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