Working nights is no joke. It is a double-edged sword in that you can enjoy your children by day while continuing to work your brain and further your career by night but, and it is a big ‘ole BUT, how you manage your sleep and what little free time you have is an art form in and of itself.
Some have said working a night shift is the perfect solution for the mom looking to have it all…or is it?
When I left New York, I struck up a deal to continuing working back to the US with the advertising agency I was employed at. A fantastic and trusting team with wonderful flexi-time and work at home options, they were glad to keep me on while our family adjusts to our new life in New Zealand. We agreed that I would finish up with them by the end of January, in just a little over 2 weeks from now. I thought I’d figured out the piece to a puzzle many moms before me tried to put together. I would wake at night, work then stop when my kids woke, get Mr P ready for school, drop him off and spend the morning with Little Miss before she went down for her nap. Sounds like a good plan, no? Especially over New Zealand summer where the country sorta dozes off into a snooze while families vacation and businesses go on slow-mo.
In principal it has been great. I was able to be there for Mr P as he adjusted into school plus I can think of worst things to do than spend my mornings at the beach and playground with my little firecracker. The problem is that the time difference to the US is abominable this time of year. In order to be on 9AM calls and attend to client needs during the US work day, I have to be up anywhere from 2AM to 3AM. I then should be going offline around 7 to get the kids up and at ’em, but emails and other incidentals mean I’m often checking emails on my phone at breakfast and replying right up until we leave. I then sometimes hear a bleep from my phone that I cannot ignore when I am out and about with Little Miss.
I learnt that just like any other work at home situation, I have to set boundaries and stick to them. I’ve blocked off time on my calendar when I am not available and my co-workers know not to expect me. I still need to get up in the dark of the night – that was my choice, but at least I am focusing on work when I need to, and the kids and home when I need to.
I’ve also learnt that working from home does not mean that the kids do not need to be in some sort of program whether it is school, preschool, daycare or a summer holiday programme. It’s not like this is a new lesson for me – having worked both at home and from the office in New York, I know that it is not enough to plonk the kids in front of the TV while I work. They need to be stimulated and even the most die hard TV-aholic will not sit for long in front of the TV, instead they will pester mom who is trying to work. So I had nannies in New York for Little Miss and Mr P was at school. The joy of working from home meant that I gained the 2 hours a day that I would usually spend in transit to Manhattan and back.
I suppose because I am working while the kids are sleeping and my days are free (as free as a mom’s day can be!) I struggled with getting help in the day so I could catch up on zzzzs. I mean, after all wasn’t I doing this to spend more time with them? But the reality is, I needed to get some more sleep! The kids now do part-time preschool and holiday programme for the rest of January until school starts up again. Even thought I may feel guilty, they both love it and can’t wait to see the back of me leaving every morning. Do I still feel guilty about spending less time with them? Yes, but it still much more time than I would get in a regular 9 to 5 scenario (which I am likely to return to in February).
Working nights is not easy, I remember asking a few friends beforehand how they had handled doing it. All three hesitated, not wanting to either encourage or discourage me – all agreed that it is definitely a scenario to revisit frequently and check to see that it still works for you. I’m lucky that I had 2 weeks over Christmas to recharge my batteries. My hat goes off to any mom that works the night shift, especially so that she can be more involved with her kids.
It’s not normally a scenario that you would be offered for a job with an advertising agency, but I was lucky. I thank my stars for the last 3 months of sleep deprivation as I learnt a thing or 2 about both my limits and my families. I also wouldn’t take back snuggling at my desk during a typical monsoon like mid-morning rain in my damp-ish Auckland house for anything, particularly as it meant extra time the next day being with my kids that I know I was fortunate to have.
So can a mom have it all working the night shift? I say you probably can gain alot working night shift, but I think you also have to be willing to compromise on how you spend your time. In saying that though, my days working nights are coming to an end and my next full-time work adventure starts soon…I see a post about my endless mommy guilt in the near future!