A little over two years ago (November 8, 2011 to be exact), I ventured back out into the working world. After working from home for 12 years and seeing my kids through diapers, sleepless nights, first steps, Nickelodeon on the TV 24/7, more sicknesses than I can count, first days of school, etc., it was time. And I found a perfect job for me, not too far from my small town in West Virginia, which was very surprising… not a huge demand for editor types who are obsessed with commas around here!
So when I was offered a job as a legal proofreader, on third shift, I didn’t hesitate to accept it. I knew the third shift thing would take some getting used to, but I’ve always been a night owl, and it actually worked BETTER than a first shift position would have, because I didn’t have to worry about before/after care for my kids… or who would watch them during Christmas Break or when they got sick, etc. Nick and I would be able to tag-team parent with our opposite work schedules… I would still see my family in the evenings, I’d just sleep while they were at work/school and I’d work while they slept. Sounded pretty perfect, actually.
Well, it was far from perfect. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it was a nightmare. And even though there ARE some conveniences to working third shift, it was in no way worth it for me. The cons absolutely outweighed the pros. For almost two years, I was a walking zombie. Sleeping during the day is just not natural, and I was never able to sleep for more than 2-3 hours in one stretch. When I wasn’t at work, I had no time for anything other than TRYING to sleep (and failing most of the time). I was tired and grumpy and became a horrible mother, wife, friend, etc. When the weekend came, I spent more than half of it unconscious, trying to catch up on the sleep I missed out on all week. And my relationships suffered, all of them. Looking back, I feel like I really lost myself on third shift in many ways.
A few months ago, I was fortunate enough to switch my schedule to first shift. An EARLY first shift even… so I now get home from work at the same time my kids are getting home from school. And Nick goes to work later than I do, so he’s able to get the kids up and off to school every day. So we’re still doing the tag-team parenting thing, but now, I’m back in a normal rhythm… sleeping at night when it’s actually dark, next to my snoring husband; spending an evening with my family, not consumed with squeezing in an extra hour of sleep before I head to work for the night; enjoying and appreciating sunlight that comes through the window during the day, instead of cursing it.
I can’t even express what a difference this has made. And how grateful I am that that period in my life, my time as a third shifter, is a thing of the past. I have promised myself, and my family, that I will never put myself, or them, through that again. If it’s a choice between being unemployed and working nights, I will gladly clip coupons, turn off our cable, or sell an organ before I will go back there, to that dark place and that dark version of myself. If I had known two years ago what I was getting into, I wouldn’t have been so quick and excited to accept that position. I look at it now as a learning experience… a very painful one that I’m glad we all survived and thankfully don’t have to live with anymore.