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The effects of shift work on family life

Necessities for shift work
Necessities for shift work
Brielle Collins

Shift work can provide a family with extra money because of the increased pay that is involved with working while everyone else is sleeping. It also involves changes for everyone in the home. People should consider the stress it will cause their family before they choose to accept shift work hours.

The most obvious benefit of shift work is the extra money. Employees who are willing to work the ‘night shift’ are generally paid more than the person who works 9 to 5. Along with extra pay, there is also no sharing the bathroom in the morning and less traffic getting to work. They can schedule doctor’s appointments and complete errands without taking time out of their workday. For couples with children, there is often no need for daycare after school.

They and their family are always on different schedules. For example: Dad works 4am – 12pm. His lunch break is at 7am, which is an hour after everyone else eats breakfast during the week. By 2pm he is ready to eat dinner, and the rest of the family will not eat until 6pm. He is ready for sleep by 7pm, while the rest of the family is entering the noisiest part of their day at home.

Changing their sleep pattern is difficult, even in the best conditions. When on shift work, it is usually daylight when they go to sleep and pitch black when they wake. While trying to sleep, the house is full of family noise, as they eat a meal, need help with homework, chatter to each other, or relax and watch TV. Ear plugs are definitely a must. Their sleep pattern changes again on the weekend, when they try to enjoy time with their family. This makes it impossible to adjust from week to week, often resulting in very little restful sleep.

No matter what, there is always some kind of noise. Imagine a baby taking a nap while the rest of the family is awake. The phone rings, the timer goes off on the oven, the toilets flush, the TV gets turned on. The parent who works on a regular schedule will be constantly shushing everyone else, in an effort to provide some quiet. It’s unfair for the rest of the family trying to get through a normal day.

Something will always come up that is not the norm: School concerts, plays, athletic events or sickness. Although the shift worker is not working and can attend these events, it will cut into their sleep time considerably.

Important time spent alone with a mate is virtually nonexistent. The shift worker is gone before their mate wakes and goes to sleep soon after they return home from work. Even something as silly as enjoying a TV program together is difficult to accomplish. Intimacy, which is an important part of any adult relationship, suffers greatly and strains your relationship.

Everyone gets moody and irritable at times. Shift workers are irritable and short tempered most of the time. Too little sleep, no family time, and lost intimacy results in this behavior. The rest of the family gets jumpy also, because the extra tension and moodiness can be felt from a responsible, dependable, loving family member.

It all comes down to what is best for you, your family and your situation. If you are single, require very little sleep, or are a natural night owl then shift work may be perfect for you. If you have a choice, consider everything involved and how it will affect your life. If you are in a loving relationship and have a young family to care for, your shift work will affect your loved ones as well.