Tuesday, June 3, 2014

second shift

That's the real trick of working full-time and having a family.  The second you arrive home, you start working all over again. Nobody fetched me a newspaper, slippers and pipe when I strolled through the door at the end of the work day.  Nobody had supper ready on the table.  Nope, I'm a wife and a mom, so you know what it looked like.  It looked like this:

Generally I'd roll in around 4:00 to find Team Testosterone slouched in front of the TV, dulling their minds with Sponge Bob and carbo-loading on whatever they could grab out of the pantry.  Backpacks, jackets, shoes would lead me to their spots--a trail of debris from door to couch.  I'd start second shift by barking orders to empty backpacks, put their crap away, ask what anyone wanted for supper and turn off that damn TV!  Inevitably there would be homework, followed by someone needing to be at a game or practice by 5:00.  People would need food, gear, various forms signed and I'd have to sort through the mail and check emails for any last-minute schedule changes.  Then I'd change into appropriate bleacher attire and load the Momvan after reminding somebody to feed the dog.

We'd return home around 7:00 or 8:00 depending on how many games or practices in a night.  Second snack and family bonding before hustling people to bed by 9:00.  Then I'd run a load of wash (school clothes, uniforms, practice clothes--good grief!), assess the pantry, read emails, start the dishwasher and manage any miscellaneous chores like plunging a toilet or finding out I'd missed somebody's birthday and writing a quick card.  Shortly before 10:00 I'd flop into bed and read for a half hour before falling asleep.

I'd be up by 6 to shower, unload the dishwasher, check email, switch around laundry, get dressed and pack lunches.  I'd rouse Team Testosterone by 7, have us en route to school by 7:30.

Notice, this schedule did not accommodate working out or gardening or blogging or decorating or shopping or marketing my books (please review it, people!  I need reviews! Here or here or here!) anything other than the bare essentials of getting by.  Mr. D works a 50 hour week and coaches, which presents logistical challenges under normal circumstances.  Me working made life abnormal.

You're probably asking, how did you cope?  

* Wash and wear hair.  I was already low maintenance, but this is vital.  I don't have more than a half hour to get ready, so a 15 minute make up regimen isn't going to cut the mustard.  I'd shower, shake dry, moisturize, get dressed, daub on mascara, brush teeth and GO.  The biggest obstacle here was not really having a proper work wardrobe, and since Wisconsin hung out between seasons for the entire spring, I couldn't really fix that issue.  I tried shopping once and found racks of summer clothes even though the temperatures were lingering in the 40's.  I could only wear the same skirt/sweater/pants/top combo in rotation for three months.
* Delegation.  I have three kids, so when I'd walk in at 4:00, I'd assign three chores.  "Pick a chore! Unload dishwasher, collect laundry, feed dog!"  Team Testosterone also discovered they could load the dishwasher, take out garbage, hang laundry on clotheslines, feed themselves and vacuum floors.  This was a good thing, my children are entitled monsters, so having to pitch in made us all appreciate the family unit a bit more.  Also, men are not mind-readers, nor are they particularly observant.  If I want something picked up or cleaned up or tended to, I have to TELL THEM EXACTLY.  They don't take a hint, but they respond well to direct commands, like "YOU NEED TO PAUSE YOUR GAME AND PUSH THE DUMPSTER TO THE ROAD IMMEDIATELY."

* No social life.  Seriously.  I hardly wrote or read blogs.  I worked through my lunch hour at school instead of making new friends in the teachers' lounge.  I barely emailed, talked on the phone, or hung out with anybody.  I didn't volunteer beyond the essential shifts at ball tournaments.  It's helpful that I've become more introverted with time and need to be alone.  Working with people all day really drained me, so I didn't miss stuff like Thursday morning Bible study.  I had yoga on Saturday mornings and monthly book club.  It was enough.

Example of letting go:  Normally we'd have taken this End of Awana photo at church before going out for ice cream.  Instead we got a photo at home on our couch with fudge bars from the kitchen freezer.
 * Giving up.  Yep, you read that right.  I gave up on all kinds of stuff--reading the newspaper (instead I'd cram in about 20 minutes of NPR while getting everyone's breakfast), gardening (just planted it last weekend and still don't have porch plants), eating well (yogurt and cereal is FINE for supper.  Trust me.).  No karate, no writing, no watching TV.  I didn't switch out to spring decorations, just left framed photos on the shelves.  I didn't fret when Mr. B's room became a total pig sty--I told him he could go to school naked or in dirty clothes or clean it--then I walked away.  (You guessed it, he went to school wearing dirty clothes after a while and I didn't really care what the teachers thought of me--eventually he figured out how to keep his room clean and bring down his dirty clothes to the laundry room.)  I gave up on having a clean house.  Heck, I was hardly home anyway.  My standards got lower.  I let the layers of dust settle.  Washed a couple windows a night instead of all of them at once.  It was easy to let things go when I had no energy to give a damn.  I ignored all kinds of things and ultimately I learned that almost none of it mattered very much.

To the legions of moms with jobs out there, I salute you.  Working both shifts is a logistical nightmare.  If I don't take on another job next fall, I promise to keep filling those volunteer spots and offering to drive car pool and keep your kids with me for a couple extra hours so you can catch a little break.  I promise to grocery shop and run all essential and nonessential errands between the hours of 9 and 2:30.  I promise to offer to buy joint birthday gifts when our kids get invited to party and you can pay me back whenever.  It's the least I can do if I'm only working a single shift.
 © 2014 Melissa Westemeier All Rights Reserved


  1. It is hard work! But you did it!

  2. you made me feel better about my life. second shift indeed. also, it is a good reminder that men follow direct instructions and don't take hints. boy, isn't that the truth.

  3. Our school's principal was asking me what I was planning on doing once our youngest went to school, hinting at job opportunities. I flat out said I won't be teaching full time. I will be a helpful sub, but that's as far as I'm going. I gave up teaching for a reason. I love working with the kids, but there was no way I could be both the best mom and the best teacher I want to be at the same time.
    Funny how cleaning moves down the priority list so fast, isn't it? :)
    True words about boys honestly not seeing what we see. Specific instructions are imperative.

  4. I have one child and I realized very early on I was not cut out to work full time and be a mom. I just can't do it.
    It's Wednesday and between the lawn mower ordeal that was my weekend, Pat being gone & working, I just pulled the Sunday paper out of the bag yesterday afternoon. Not that I've read it, but at least it's out of the bag.

  5. Hot tip from the Voice of Experience: Include the stinky job you're going to do in the list when you're delegating. My boys HATE washing dishes. They would rather do anything. So I add 'wash the dishes' and when it's the only job left after they've picked, I say "And I'll wash those dishes!" They feel like they've been let off the hook and I REALLY don't mind washing up - it's peaceful and I can dance to whatever's on the radio while I do it!

    And yeah, lowering your standards - heh heh... But I confess I now have someone come in every 2 weeks for a few hours to dust and vacuum and give the bathrooms an extreme makeover. It is BLISS for a single working mum of three boys!!

    And I am getting on those reviews asap!

    -Nan at work :)

  6. Dad is coaching? So helping to raise other peoples' kids while his wife works two shifts, including the one where she parents his children almost single-handedly? Why is that a priority?

  7. Well, I can say I appreciate this validation :-) I only have one child, but my house is always dusty, and meals are often scrounged. If I can get fresh fruits and veggies in the fridge, Emma will include them in her meals --she's been making herself balanced meals for years now. And I gave up volunteering at her school early on --her school has a lot of SAHMs, and I assume they'll pick up the slack.

    The only problem with this picture is that being the SAHM is just as hard as working outside the home, and should at least generate Social Security. Our society doesn't value it, perhaps because it's patriarchal and too many men have never experienced the incredible workload involved in raising kids and keeping a home running.

    Here's hoping that working outside the home isn't necessary for you, either for the money or your own sense of self, so you can return to a system that worked well for you, your husband, and your boys :-)

  8. Man can I relate to THAT! I'm a working Mom though I only have two boys. :) I've had a rough week and it was nice to read that someone else can relate!

  9. While I have it easy now, I remember the days of having 2 young kids, working full time, and commuting. I let a lot of things slide and it all worked out.

  10. OH GOSH.....wow. I mean, I am pooped just doing my work and household, but yeah, if we had kids!!!!

  11. Hear hear! At least I don't hate my second-shift work as much as I do my paid work, but it is really hard to juggle all my responsibilities and I have to spend my weekends accomplishing everything I don't have time for during the week. Part time work is ideal. Unfortunately, in my job you have to work full time or not at all.

  12. You washed windows? That is above and beyond!
    Second shift is HARD. It's hard with a husband and busy kids, and it's super-hard for single parents. A busy sports schedule is more than I could handle. I salute you!
    I only work part-time but after 22 years as a SAHM, I am so very grateful to have my retired husband at home to do most of the cooking and shopping. (He's not much on cleaning beyond sweeping the kitchen floor, but I'll take what I can get!)


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