The Shift Worker’s Boyfriend

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A Step by Step Guide to Living with a Shift Worker

An Ode to my other half, and his patience and graciousness at living with me: the pseudo-person. Part loving girlfriend who relishes going out, occasionally staying up late and always saying yes to another glass of wine. Also, part grump who delays household chores, naps incessantly and is constantly asking him to turn the TV down! This is a little satirical post that I decided to write because it has occurred to me that there are very few people that actually understand how my mind works (particularly after minimum turn arounds, or working all day and then staying up all night. I refuse to let my choice of work affect my social/home life!). I think it must be hard to be a shift worker’s partner. Here are some of the things that James does that are so great and helpful!

Here is the main phrase to avoid;

“You look tired”

THE GOLDEN RULE OF NOT IRRITATING A SHIFT WORKER IS TO AVOID THIS STATEMENT AT ALL COSTS! Only James, my parents and fellow shift workers seem to realise that if they say this to me my head will implode and I will either launch into a very theatrical tirade of the perils of shift work, or simply burst into uncontrollable tears. Neither is particularly attractive or desirable, especially in front of passengers.

Of course shift workers look tired. WE ARE TIRED! We are neither night owls, nor early birds. We are a very common breed of permanently exhausted pigeon, with excellent customer service skills. The trick is not to mention one’s appearance, unless giving over- the-top positive feedback, such as “You hair/eye makeup/nails/tan/ smile is amazing today” No compliment? No comment!

Some good things to say if you are unsure:

“How was work?”

This will give the shift worker the opportunity to explain how their day/night/ past 24 hour shift has been. If they feel like talking, it would be a good idea to offer coffee or wine to them while they tell you about their day. These magical potions heal all wounds!

“What is your roster like this week?”

The first time James asked me this in advance I almost wet myself. He was planning ahead! Thinking of me! We could see when I was working and plan both of our lives around it. It was honestly the best feeling ever. I love to plan my life and my work together so that I make the most of my time and spend time together and with our family and friends. In our situation, it is helpful that only one of us works odd hours and the other works a “normal” job. This way, we only have one roster to consider. Also, sport commitments, exercise and housework all have to come in somewhere. The past few weeks, they have been ranked well below sleep and just above giving the bathroom a good scrub. I.e- non existent.

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Being considerate of the following will result in a GENUINE smile and not the Customer Service Version above! 

Living with Shift Workers:

Never, EVER call them unless you know they are awake and/or work. If unsure, text them. No one likes to finally fall asleep at 8pm for a 2am wake up and be jarred awake by the persistent buzzing of a text. NO ONE! Hell hath no fury like a shift worker woken!

Don’t ask why they are packing their clothes for a shift in three days’ time. Sleep is a rare and luxurious commodity. If preparing my uniforms (right down to undergarments and socks) gives me an extra 10 minutes sleep, I will happily do that! 100%! I will also pack my clothes for a workout and leave them in my car in case I have time to exercise. Similarly, when I was flying, I used to keep a set of summer/winter workout clothes in my work suitcase at all times, just in case I had a schedule change or felt like spontaneously exercising in the crew hotel at 1am. *FACT* this actually happened.

Don’t be surprised if they want to go out on a Tuesday night, or refuse to go out on a Friday. Our shifts regularly change, without warning! A Monday/Tuesday days off usually means that a Sunday night is our weekend, so when everyone else is snuggling in for a night on the couch, we feel like rearranging the whole house, staying up ‘til late and ordering Uber eats! Although I sometimes (often) grumble about being tired, there are so many perks of having a flexible lifestyle that I couldn’t imagine my life any other way. The change in our rosters keep me on my toes and ensure I never become bored or complacent in any area of my life, be it work, exercise or personal relationships. It really is so lovely to be able to go out on a weekday (not during school holidays) and be able to go to the shops/post office/ do boring adult things and not have to line up with the rest of the general public.

I hope this post has made you laugh! Also, hopefully it makes you think twice about questioning whether or not someone looks tired; regardless of of they are a shift worker, a new mum or plainly just going through  lot. OR JUST SLEEPY!

Restful Days off and Long Slumbers,


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Ever the optimist, thank you for being you!

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