Shift Work

I get asked all the time about Tom’s job. One of the main questions is “What shift is he on?”

There are some departments that have their officers permanently on a shift. Fortunately or unfortunately depending how you look at it, Tom’s department switches every month.

Typically, he works four days on and four days off. Sometimes it is five days on and three days off. They are all ten hour shifts. However, due to the nature of the job, sometimes the shift turn into 12+ hour shifts due to the calls.

So it feels like our schedule is always changing, which as a family can be hard to adjust to some days. It is also not a job that is M-F. He works weekends a lot. So even if we are on the same schedule we may not have the same days off. It is super fun to make plans. We have been trying to have some friends over for dinner for the past 6 months…

Do you want to know what I think the pros and cons are of every shift? If not, then you should probably go somewhere else today.

Most of these statements are family oriented, but the italicized are Tom’s thoughts on the cop side of things.

Let’s start with my favorite shift:  the Day shift. This shift is from 6:45am-4:45pm.

Day Pros

  • Tom is home every evening. We get to eat dinner, do bedtime routines with George, hangout, and go to bed at the same time.
  • Tom can actually do Dad stuff and not be pressed for time to get ready for work. George is the most active in the evening, so they can actually interact.
  • Tom does George’s bath. I hate doing the bath, so it is nice that Tom likes to have that one on one time with Gdubs.
  • We have the same sleep cycle, so we aren’t interrupting each other. Even if he is up on the weekends for work, generally I am getting up at that time for George, so it’s not a huge bother.
  • I don’t have to cook for 1.5 people, so we have actually real meals.
  • Tom’s days off are more productive because they are a “normal” schedule to do errands or housework.
  • Tom likes to work day shift because there are a lot of people out so there is always a call or something to do. The shift goes by fairly quickly.
  • Tom also likes it because his sleep time isn’t ruined by court proceedings. Again this goes back to the day shift being a “normal” close to 9-5 schedule with the rest of the world.

Day Cons

  • Tom is super chipper when he wakes up. I need a lot of quiet time to warm up to the day. So unfortunately I am a little short and grumpy with him at times with my half-asleep self.
  • We get up within minutes of each other, so we have to take shorter showers to make sure we have enough hot water for each of our turns.
  • The dogs are alone a lot on this shift since we are both working at the same times. We have had very minimal issues since moving to this house, but it still is sad they are home alone a lot.
  • Because we are up at the same time, Tom and I end up eating breakfast together. This is normally when I do my daily devotional, so I rarely get this done because my lovely husband is a chatterbox and I get distracted.
  • Tom hates this shift because he hates the daylight. He has severe light sensitivity. Thank you Army.
  • Tom isn’t fond of this shift because it is really hard to be sneaky in a cop car when it’s light outside.
  • He also says that it takes forever to get anywhere in the cop car during the day even with lights and sirens because the traffic volume is so high.
  • Along with the traffic volume, it does make it harder to find bad guys.

Evening shift is the devil. It is our least favorite one, and I honestly don’t know how other people do this shift all the time. This shift is from 2pm-12am (Sun-Thurs), and Fri and Sat it is 4pm-2am. As you can see how that gets tricky when I am at work all day myself. But in the spirit of finding the good, I did come up with some positives for this shift.

Evening Pros

  • I get a lot of 1:1 time with George.
  • I have complete control over the remote
  • Tom always gets to work out with no rush to get home.
  • The work is a good mix between a high call volume (responsive calls) and self-initiated stops.
  • There is a lot of over time potential because of the timing of the shift and when things go awry.
  • We send goodnight selfies to Tom so he can still be part of our nightly routine. We have got some goodies. I should really put these all in an album.

Evening Cons

  • We can go 4 or 5 days without seeing each other. Granted there are nights that we talk to each other when Tom gets home between 2 or 4am, but let me remind you I am not the most engaging after being woken up. George literally will go a week without interacting with Tom. This will change some as he talks more and will be able to use the phone, but it is still hard when there is no face time for days on end.
  • On a related note, because he comes home when I am sleeping, usually I get woken by the sound of his boots on our wood floors or the dogs will inevitably bark at him trying to be a good security system. Tom then gets to sleep just a little before I wake up so I know George and I will interrupt his sleep with our morning routines.
  • Cooking for just myself and George is awful. Our food choices are pretty dismal during these weeks. George eats a lot of peanut butter sandwiches, and I have a lot of cereal. It is hard cooking for 1.5 people! Especially when one of them changes their food preferences every other minute.
  • Not to sound “woe is me,” but evenings are hard on me because I have no help in the parenting department when he is working. So where as on other shifts we can tag team, with this shift I am at it solo. Props to all the single parents out there.
  • I have to do George’s bath. I don’t know why I hate this activity, but it really stresses me out. And this kid needs a bath almost daily.

Midnight shift is not bad for George and I, and it is Tom’s favorite. The shift is from 9pm-7am.

Midnight Pros

  • We get to see each other every evening.
  • Most nights, Tom cooks dinner, and it is ready when we get home.
  • Tom still has time to do George’s bath as long as we stay timely.
  • Even though we get to have dinner together, once Tom goes to work and George is in bed, I still get some quality me time. Which is important for this introvert heart.
  • Also, I don’t have to share the bed with two dogs and a husband. The dogs generally will stay more on Tom’s side when he is working which is nice because they sometimes make me claustrophobic with their snuggling otherwise. They have to lay on top of me when Tom’s also in the bed.
  • The dogs are hardly every left alone since we are home at opposite times.
  • Tom is a night owl so this is the best shift for him with no daylight.
  • “Nothing good happens after midnight, unless you are a cop.”
  • Tom likes doing investigative police work instead of just all responses, and this shift leads to more time to do the self-initiated stuff.
  • The drugs.-Tom’s favorite thing to get off the street. They are more prevalent when it is dark outside.

Midnight Cons

  • When Tom is working on the weekends, George and I have a hard time staying quiet all day so he can sleep. We usually try to find stuff to do outside of the house, but it is hard to find free stuff in the dead of winter.
  • No one really understands his midnight schedule. The cable company will call at 2pm when he is sleeping. The mailman irritates the dogs while he is sleeping. The sun decides it wants to bath our bedroom in golden goodness while he is sleeping. So sleep is usually rough during this mouth because most of the world is inconsiderate to those who work nights.
  • Which leads into this statement-“You have tomorrow off right?” No he doesn’t have tomorrow off. He goes in at 9pm, gets off at 7am, then sleeps during the day to go back in tomorrow night at 9pm. Your day time is his sleep time which doesn’t mean he has it off to do your things.
  • God bless him, but on his days off Tom tries to cycle to our schedule so he can spend more time with George. (I have not asked him to do this. Tom just wants more family time.) Because he does this, he changes his cycle every couple of days which is hard on any body.
  • A slow night on midnights seem to be the longest days ever. They just drag on.

So there you have it. Just one couple’s perspective on cop life.

Changing shifts can be a little hard to manage. And I am sure that our pros and cons will change as George grows even though we may be more used to the life style.

I don’t think you ever really get used to being apart from your family. There are still a lot of things that Tom misses out on. I am not looking forward to the days when George is more aware of his absence and having to explain that. However, we have to be present and enjoy the times that he is off. And it does make for some pretty sweet moments.

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As always feel free to ask questions about our life as a law enforcement family. It is interesting to say the least!

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