I’m a homeschool mom of 4 with a wonderful husband who has a weird work schedule. For three days in a row, he has to be up and out the door by 4:30 a.m. Then he gets three days off with no set wakeup time. So, we all sleep in to catch up on what we missed the previous three days.
Every two months, he switches to being out by 5:15 p.m., working all night long and arriving an hour before the kids get up. I stay up late to see him over his “lunch” break at 11 p.m. The problem is, I’m tired the next day.
It seems once we finally get a rhythm of going to bed and getting up at a regular time, it gets switched. Do you have any advice on how to get up early when we have such a weird and ever-changing schedule? -a reader
This was such a great question — and I think it’s one that probably many people struggle with and I thought it’d be great to address it in a post.
Now, full disclosure here, I’ve never had a husband who was on a second shift. However, Jesse was in school and working part-time for the first few years of our marriage. When we were in Kansas City, he had a long commute. And when we moved back to Kansas, he had ever-changing hours and night court multiple times per week as part of running his own law firm.
Now that we both work together from home and homeschool our kids and travel regularly, our schedule is always changing and no two days are alike. So, even though Jesse hasn’t worked second shift, I have experienced what it’s like to have irregular work hours and a constantly changing schedule.
With this in mind, here are a few thoughts and words of encouragement:
1. Don’t Compare
I think it is so easy for us to think: “If only I had a husband who worked an 8-5 job.” Or, “If only my kids would sleep through the night.” Or, “If only I didn’t have to work.”
It’s so easy to think that if we were in someone else’s shoes, we could get some sense of normalcy in our lives or we could get more organized or we could get on a better schedule. But here’s the truth: These thoughts will only lead to dissatisfaction in our lives and beat us down.
Embrace where you are. Stop wishing you were in a different place or had a different life. Stop waiting until you make it to a different season. Start right where you are to make changes in the right direction.
As it has well been said, “If we wait for perfect conditions, we’ll never get started at all.”
2. Get on the Same Page as Your Spouse
Learning to communicate with your spouse and getting on the same page with them is key to not only having a great marriage, but also to being able to find a routine and rhythm that works for your own unique family and situation.
Again, the comparisons have to stop. Don’t look at the way another couple is handling a situation and think, “Look how they do their life! We should do our life like that!”
I’ve done this before… and I’ve nagged and dragged Jesse into changing our schedule in a way that isn’t right for us. The end result is tension and frustration. Do what works best for YOUR family — that’s all the matters!
Hear me clearly on this: Your marriage is so much more important than having the perfect go to bed/get up schedule. Do what you can to get on the same page with your spouse and stop chasing someone else’s perfect schedule. Relationships are so much more important than schedules.
3. Focus on a Routine
I know how easy it is to stress out about having the perfect schedule. Instead of that, I want to challenge you to stop stressing over getting it perfect. Life happens, there are hard things that come up, and there are a whole lot of imperfect circumstances that are going to take place.
Stop worrying about getting up at the perfect time each day or going to bed at the perfect time each night. Instead, focus on implementing a good bedtime routine and wake-up routine. No matter what time you go to bed or get up, do the same few things before bed and the same few things when you get up.
Figure out what you want to accomplish the first two hours you are awake. Then, challenge yourself to do the same 3-5 things each morning no matter what time you get up. This can make such a HUGE difference in your day — even if you get up at completely different times every morning.
Sure, I have issued the go to bed early challenge and the get up early challenge to you all, but that doesn’t mean I expect all of my readers to participate in the challenge or be shooting for the same times that we are trying to go to bed and get up. This is what Jesse and I have determined is a priority for our family, but it may not be the season for your family to be focusing on it. Again, do what is best for your family in the season of life you are in.
4. Plan Two to Three Different Kinds of Morning Routines
Here is another place where you have to stop trying to reach perfection: Instead of trying to come up with the perfect routine that will work every single morning, come up with a few different morning routines based upon the common variations in your schedule.
Plan one morning routine for when you are on one shift. Plan one for the other shift. And so on. Then, whenever you and your family roll out of bed and get going, you can choose which routine to go with and you aren’t “off plan”.
Planning for the interruptions in life will help you deal with what life throws at you. Instead of feeling like the constantly changing schedules are constantly throwing you off, you have planned for the variations and can just roll with punches!
What advice and suggestions do you have for this reader?
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I am working on Crystal’s “5 days to a better morning” and was frustrated because it was so difficult to draw up a schedule for the morning routine since every morning for me is different. Now I am encouraged: I will create a different morning routine for every single day with the basis of getting up at 5:15 am.
We dont have weird schedules, but because of my health issues and needing 10-12 hours a sleep per night, I dont get up early! And that is ok! That is what works for me. I dont go to bed late, usually between 9 and 10, sometimes much, much earlier. And I dont get up until 8 am. I still have a morning routine that works for me and my kids and my husband, it just doesnt involve getting up early. As my kids get older, things will change and we will have to find a new routine, but right now, this is the phase of life we are in. This is what works for us, and no matter how much I compare myself to someone else, that wont change what works for us right now.
Is it possible on the days that Hubby comes in for the late night lunch break that either the whole family takes a late nap time or an early bed time so that mom can get a an hour or two of rest before he comes home?
lynn m. says
Echoing some of the same advice, you need your own schedule even if it is different than your husband’s. My husband has worked different shifts since before we go married 12 years ago. He’s done everything from 530am-5pm, 2pm-130am, 6pm-530am, and currently he is 730pm-7am. This is with 4 days on work then 4 days off of work. I’ve almost always have kept a different schedule with him b/c if I tried to keep to his schedule I would end up crashing after a few months of lack of sleep. You need to sleep and have your own schedule to function, it’s the whole put your air mask on first then everyone else’s. What we usually do is before I go to bed I call or text to tell him goodnight. We briefly see him when he gets home while I get my son ready for school, and we have dinner together at night before he goes to work. What you might want to do is leave a note for him when he comes for his lunch or if his job allows it call him before you go to bed to have a check in. YOu can also ask him to leave a note for you for when you get up. Our focus for our family is to have one family meal each day. Sometimes it is brakfast, sometimes it is lunch, dinner, or even at times it is just an afternoon snack. On my husband’s off days he is usually up a bit later than the rest of us (usually around 1am he will head to bed) and on one day off he does drop off for school, but the other days I typically let him sleep until 8 or 9. He does try to still work his schedule around us on his days off so we can have more couple/family time. It is about figuring out what is important to your mental and physical well being, and for your family as a unit.
Love the “oxygen mask” reference. That’s perfect!
What is perfect? It doesn’t exist. But, we (i) think someone else has it better. Only when we are with Jesus, right? We are looking for satisfaction all places, but in Him. Thank you for your encouragement.
This is really helpful and something to think through I think for anybody. Like us who have a regular work schedule. My husband is off 3 days one week and off 4 days the next and that rotates. So that makes me think what routine would be good for our family on his days off and for when he works. Because I always think I can get back on schedule when he goes back to work, but if I set up a routine when he is off I can be on schedule too. But he is off for multiple days, so need to have a routine that works for us. Thank you Crystal for sharing your thoughts!
What perfectly awesome advice! While my family doesn’t have odd schedules, I feel like steps one through three are just sound, practical advice for any couple.
I love the little meditation image too 🙂
I’m trying to figure out a good routine for us. I feel like we are in a tough season. I have a 3 year old and a 6 month who is teething about 4 teeth all at once. He still wakes up in the middle of the morning. He’s also not gaining weight well so we have been to the doc multiple times in the last few months! So, trying to establish a routine with these issues, potty training the three year old, working out of the house about 22 hours a week plus trying to be consistent with my blogging has been a wee bit stressful! These are some great tips though! I especially like having different routines!
I have my schedule with the kids and my hubby has his work schedule. I’m not sure why 4:30 a.m. Wake up for husband would change when the rest of the family starts the day. When children are old enough to understand a clock they may get up and use the bathroom but most stay quietly in their rooms until 7:30-8 (whatever your preferred wake time is) this then gives the mom staying up till 11 plenty of sleep when on that schedule. We never started the homeschool day until 9pm, mom served breakfast, we had clean up chores and got prepared for the day , that’s the thing about homeschool it’s more flexible then the school attending family. My schedule and my husbands are different as it goes with most families, but keeping kids on a consistent schedule during the week is key. They sleep better, I sleep better , but my hubby wouldn’t be offended either if I was not up at 11pm when he arrived home , especially if he had been home all day with myself and the kids . Do other wives get up with their husbands when they have early work hours? Seems odd to me, we both prefer quiet me time first thing and like getting up at different times so the bathroom and coffee pot are not being shared.
I was also wondering this-why does husbands start time alter the entire rest of the family. It seems like it would be easier to keep the rest of the family on the same sch (especially if there are young children or school age kids) and for the dad/husband to catch a nap or alter his sleeping if need be.
I agree. While I think it might be nice to have one on one time with my husband in the am, he wakes up several hours earlier that we do, and we need our sleep! My husband and I have one on one time once the kids are in bed, and we’re ok with that. Also, he works a job that is considered “seasonal” so he works 6 days a week and very long days in the Summer, then he has about 8 weeks off in Winter. We treat that time off as our “weekend”. I agree that comparison is a very bad thing. I could get envious to the point of being bitter about the fact that he does not have any Saturdays off, and we go to church on Sunday mornings, so we never have one day that we can just do a day trip when the weather is actually nice. He does not get any vacation days, so any time off is a day without pay. So I go from not seeing him much in the Summer, and having him too tired to do anything after work, to seeing him for 8 weeks straight, when the weather is too cold to do a lot of the fun stuff. Maybe this is an entirely different issue, actually, now that I’m writing this out! Anyway, I agree that you have to make your own routine for what works for you. I will say that once the kids and I have been on our own routine for 10 months, and then Daddy is home, the routine goes out the door. I would prefer that to not be the case, because it is a source of tension, but it is what it is. Regardless of how I explain the routine to my husband, he does what he wants when he is home. S
I def think it depends a lot more on the kids than the husband. I have 5 kids. 6yr old twins in Kindergarten, a 4 1/2 yr old preschooler, a 2 1/2 yr old (who goes to speech and OT twice per week) and a 10 mth old. I Also work from hm as an RN 8-12hrs per week. My hubby is in law enforcement and his sch changes every 2 weeks-from 2 weeks of call, 2 weeks of follow up to any homicides they got, 2 weeks of days, 2 weeks of Pms and then repeat the process….bc my older 3 are in school and my #4 has a therapy sch, we’re pretty set so the times he’s not at work and the kids aren’t at school/therapy we spend together. That’s just the stage we’re at. There’s not a lot of wiggle room. I get up at the same time everyday (early). There are times we don’t see a lot of each other, but unfortunately that’s kind of the nature of his career and we know military families who see each other much less. So we feel fortunate.
Victoria Wilson says
Thank you for this post, Crystal! My husband and I are working on building a home-based business that will allow us both to spend more time with our kids and pursue passions. Getting mornings right has been key, we’re finding. And this post was really encouraging to me!
I loved this post! My husband has always been a night owl (and works 2nd shift) and more than once I have wished for a more normal schedule – especially when I’m up with the kids early and he needs to sleep in til 10! But I love your statement that our marriage is so much more important than the perfect schedule. You are so right; sometimes we just need to be reminded to see the blessings amidst the chaos 🙂
Reader, my heart goes out to you as we are in much of the same type of situation. After 3 years of my spouses crazy work schedule these are some things I learned.
I am a (homeschooling, stay at home) mom of 4 kids 7 and under and my husband works a rotating schedule between nights and days with days off in between and this schedule can be quite a challenge for any family with kids.. Here are a few things we have learned.
-As much as I wanted to stay up late or get up early to match my husbands time home I have learned that if I don’t get proper sleep I am much more likely to get sick, be irritable, and not a great mom, teacher,or wife to have that day. My kids are early risers also, so I need to be rested in order to meet their needs (and my own) during the day. And give yourself some grace here. Try and squeeze in a 15 min nap during the day if possible. There are many days where when I have had a newborn, teething babies, sickness, or just tiredness from parenting where I have realized I need a nap to make it through the day. This is where I have scheduled in afternoon “quiet time”…(see below)
-Consistency and routine as much as possible is needed. It is hard for the kids trying to understand daddy’s works schedule, so I try to have a plan each day or things the kids know are expected of them: morning routine (ie…chores, Bible reading, prayer, homeschool, outside time quiet time….) I had a child that really struggled with the uncertainty of my husband schedule so I made him a calendar with a picture of a moon, sun, or the word “off” on it so he could better understand. He loved crossing off the days each month and in a short period of time didn’t even use it anymore.
(Quiet time is an established hour or so each afternoon where my kids are sent to their assigned rooms to have just that.. quiet time. They can read, play quietly, or nap..if they are still young enough. Usually I put on music, a book on tape, or even a short movie. This is the time I recharge and rest. The kids have really come to love this time and I am thankful for it also.
– Use your spouses time off to your advantage..especially as a homeschool parent. Since my husband will have off a tuesday or wednesday these are great times to do field trips of take the day or two to do something as a family and just be together..(many times I will make up any homeschool days, if needed on Saturdays)
Another thing we do is my husband takes on subject that he does with the kids on his day home. This might be an art or geography lesson, or just helping me homeschool in general. He loves to be involved this way.. even though its on random days. We try to read each night to our kids. When dad is home he read to the kids at night and I usually do some cleaning up or prep for the next day
I hope this can help someone. I would love tips from any other moms also!
Jamie @ Medium Sized Family says
I think your point about making sure any challenge you take on is a good fit for you at this stage in your life is such an important note! I often want to take on every challenge I see, but it pretty quickly becomes clear whether it’s something I should be focusing on at this time… or not.
K Ann Guinn says
I agree with Crystal’s main points about accepting what season we’re in in life and doing the best we can, as well as the excellent scheduling ideas (different schedules for different times).
I also understand that some difficult situations (such as a sick or handicapped family member), cannot be avoided. I love Jennie’s realization that she needs to prioritize self-care over chores.
The only thing I would add is that there are times to discuss with our spouse if a certain work or job situation is doing more harm than good, and could be changed. No judgement here, and you may not feel you have a choice (or a better alternative), but perhaps it is worth discussing and considering.
Otherwise, we can realize that life’s difficult seasons are usually just that….a season which won’t last forever. Do the best you can to care for yourself and your family, and don’t try to do it perfectly.
My girls are 18 (yikes!) and 12, but our younger daughter has health issues so she has a nurse with her at night Sun-Thurs nights. Work schedules and nursing schedules, the night nurse doesn’t come until 11pm and it takes me until at least 11:30 to fall asleep. And back up around 6:15 to help her get ready for school. Until health issues sidelined me some, there were days I would be up at 5, got to work at 6am, worked until 3 and off to the races from there again.
Anyway, the lack of sleep and health issues really caused me to prioritize sleep. My body and health demand that most days, I REST somewhere and at least lay down for an hour or so.
But at least in the morning, once my husband and daughter are out the door, I have a few household things I do, my devotion, write/work, plan the rest of the day. If I stick to this, things run much more smoothly.
Weekends are different because I’m the nurse. The younger kiddo knows she isn’t allowed out of bed until 8am. That usually gets me enough sleep despite the brokenness of it.
Caring for a child with chronic health issues can change the rules daily. Caring for these children when battling your own chronic health issues is a game changer. But it can be done. I just have to realize that rest is more important than that last load of laundry. (Is it ever REALLY caught up?)
I have lived with my spouse being on first, second and third shifts our entire married life. We homeschool and have a ministry. Not one day looks exactly the same. It’s ok, though. It is what I agreed to when I said “I do”! Embrace it. Understand that others will not “understand”. Your weekends may be weekdays. I personally like it! We get to do things when crowds are slim or costs are lower. I schedule our Dr appointments during his “weekends” so he can watch the kids or help take them. Our homeschool days are flexible to a certain point, too. I try to maintain a morning routine so that after breakfast, we start school. If we have a “weekend day” during the school week, we may do some school on Saturday when my husband works.
Also, find other families with unpredictable schedules. You may have a hard time getting together for family fun, but they will understand the craziness of a different schedule.
Overall, I feel like his schedule has helped us depend on each other more and brought us closer as a family.
What a perfect answer and a lot of wisdom …so thankful for your website!!!
The reader did not say the age of her kids. I am here only imagining what it could be like to stay up super late with my spouse, with a toddler who is a super early riser and thinks that if it’s light, she must be up. I have met some young children who are able to also have odd sleeping hours just like the parents, and some children naturally sleep in just fine, so of course, I don’t know this person’s situation.
I will suggest this, as a person who lives where it’s light by 4 a.m. in the summer: consider using blackout roller blinds to trick the kid’s bodies to sleep in past light, if you need them to sleep in. You could try a temporary hang up to test and see if it works.
I would love to hear some more from anyone else who is living with an irregular schedule and could give a few specific examples of how their routines vary for different days in their families. Just to get a few ideas. Thanks!
Katie M says
My husband is working swing shift weekends (till 3 am), I work 1 night shift a week 830 pm to 9 am and get 20 more hours a week on office time. It is 530 am and I am up for a class. He will go to nights this summer, and we both take call and my schedule is different every week. We use minimal child care and have a 2 yearold that has a couple issues and has therapy 4 times a week plus a 7 year old and 5 year old boy. Basically we make sure our kids have a consistent schedule and some times that means we are up for linger than we would like. It changes everyday. One thing we do is when I work my night the kuds get to sleep in bed with dad. They LOVE it. It is consistent. One of us always gets up and takes them to school (our 2 year old is in preschool 3 days a week). And one of us picks up. We do find time as a family and in the end, just don’t compare yourself to itjers. Give grace. I gave to remember the days we aren’t home laundry isn’t not going to get done, but I will live on my kids. Also I can’t do everything I want. I can’t budget, excercise, make perfect meals, and read etc.. everyday. It’s impossible. You give yourself grace and I know days I’m home I have a certain schedule and days I’m not it’s different.
My husband works a rotating shift (between days and nights), 12 hours each shift. So he either goes to work at 7am or 7pm. When he is switching between days and nights, he keeps odd sleep hours and patterns. I couldn’t keep the hours he does and still care for our kids (which is my “job” as stay at home mom). So, although it causes some short term stress on our relationship, I keep a steady sleep schedule to make sure my attitude stays as positive as possible.
My husband has nearly the same schedule and it is very hard to adjust, I think Chrystal is absolutely correct, with my kids, we try to get up at the same time each day or if we are awoken by dad we have extra cuddles and book reading then start are day at a set time like 7:00. For us it allows time for the kids to sleep in or to just relax.