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Split-shift marriages

Struggling to find ways to keep your love alive while you and your spouse keep opposite schedules? Writer Michele Lightfoot provides some insight to keeping your marriage a healthy one.

Single moms with spouses
Margaret's husband calls around seven each night. Their kids say that Daddy is calling to tuck them into bed. This is a ritual for their family when he is away, and he is away a lot. Margaret and her husband are partners in a sometimes-complicated marriage: complicated by the fact that he is a truck driver and is away more than home. Like thousands of others families across the United States, they have found solutions that keep their love alive while struggling with opposite schedules.

Call them single mothers with spouses or part-time wives, their plight is the same: to provide a semblance of normalcy to an otherwise chaotic work-style. The women whose partners work odd hours rely more on themselves than their spouse. There is little reprieve from the tasks of parenting and maintaining a household. Women who work shift-work are also burdened with the notion that they must do it all. They often feel guilty for not being home to tuck kids into bed or cooking dinner.

While shift-work is on the decline, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the end is not yet in sight. And for some occupations, like medicine or hospitality, there is no end. Keeping a marriage healthy when traditional advice doesn't apply can be a matter of good planning and communication.

These tips are derived from women who have had to make the best of a frustrating situation.

Couple-time
If you only share one meal a day, make the most of that meal. Who said you can't have bacon and eggs by candlelight? Also, just because it is light outside doesn't mean you can't have a romantic evening in. Close the curtains and snuggle on the couch with a favorite movie. Children are optional. If the kids are in school during the day and staying in isn't what you want, go to lunch or a matinee: perfect date for less money.

Kids
Have consistent rules for the kids. If rules are consistent, as well as any punishments, you will spend less time arguing over these things. Let the school know that one of you works odd hours. Many times, teachers will accommodate you by offering to meet during a free period.

Let the kids play hooky once in a while. Call them off school and take a day trip together or get them out early for a ballgame. If getting them out of school isn't an option, try letting them stay up late once a month. They get a chance to tell Dad about school or just talk.

Around the house
Have an understanding about who is responsible for what around the house. He feeds the dogs in the morning when he gets home from work and you take the trash out in the evening. By knowing what is expected, home-life will be more pleasant. It will also prevent squabbles over whose turn it is to do what.

If he keeps his work schedule even on weekends, that means he may have a lot of free time on his hands. Ask him to do a little grocery shopping for you. The stores will be almost empty and he can take his time. When he's gone for weeks at a time, he may not want to do a lot of work around the house. Ask him to complete one or two simple projects and leave it at that. This will also give you the opportunity to stretch your wings and learn something about cars or carpentry or plumbing.

Compromise is essential to marriage, but more so for the family that spends little time together. Hopefully, these tips will spark ideas in your own home and make the part-time wife gig a little easier.

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