Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Supporting Role Can Be a Tough One

Give me a week or two, and I may completely lose it.

On the other hand, it may not be so bad having my routine, which is hard to find in the chaos anyway, upended and transformed. It has happened several times and once the adjustment passes it hasn't been a bad thing.

No little people will be coming today, or tomorrow, but when they come back it will be with vengeance. They'll be rolling in somewhere between 5 and 5:30 a.m. on Monday, just as unsettled and cranky about the change in their schedule as I'm liable to be about the the change in mine.

What has been a noon to 8 p.m. weekday babysitting schedule for me for most of E1's nearly 5 years is changing as my daughter makes the move to a 12-hour night shift. The weird schedule has always been brought on by her work as a 911 dispatcher, which she enjoys, and the late day or "prime time" shift had worked well for years.

One of the unexpected discoveries of E1's school trial, however, has been that she never sees her oldest child during the week. Knowing that won't change as she begins school for real in the fall, and will only get worse as her two sisters follow in her wake at two-year-intervals, she began to look for alternatives. The 6-6 night shift emerged as the best option. Finding a person on night shift who wanted her prime time hours was unexpected and brought the change much sooner than anticipated.

Yes, it's going to be hard on all of us for a while. But by the time August rolls around and we're all adjusted to the routine, she'll be able to take E1 to school and pick her up, fix dinner for her family every night, and while she's sacrificing every other weekend to working nights, she'll have several days during the week to spend with her little family.

The children's father, on the other hand, gets to take on the new duties of shuttling them back and forth to Ma's house and getting them up and putting them down at night. His work schedule will dictate the times they are here on the days Mommy has been working or needs sleep for the coming night. Right now he goes in at 6 and gets off in the mid-afternoon. Our hope is that small children can be loaded without being completely awake, delivered to my house and sleep a little more before starting their day, but we'll see. Much of it will be a play-it-by-ear scenario that he and I both manage much better than my daughter or my husband who hate uncertainty in a plan.

And just as there will be weekdays for the girls to spend at home with their mom, there will be days that I don't have childcare responsibilities. I'll get my evenings back, and I'm already anticipating more adult TV time and an additional Zumba/PiYo outing each week, at least until my husband finishes his evening class. I'm also looking forward to reconnecting with some of my friends during the week for occasional lunches and, for those who have random weekdays off, maybe more.

I'm hating the fact that I'll be losing the chance to sleep in every other Saturday -- not that I usually do -- but looking forward to perhaps having some activities with Popi and the girls, instead of just us gals. Maybe the brush burning and weenie roast that E1 has wanted, but which I didn't have the ability to tackle on my own. Maybe we'll even be able to try some fun sleepovers at Ma's house, which we haven't done because the necessity of everyday meant it just seemed like too much.

Even though I'm essentially a morning person who gets up without an alarm, I have to admit that 5 a.m. is going to be tough. To make it doubly tough, once I get used to it, I'll pretty much get up that time all the time without an alarm. I guess my bedtime will have to be a bit earlier than the 11-12 I'm used to, but with the DVR recording my evening programs, that won't be a big sacrifice.

The staggered work schedules and hours will also mean that out of a two-week span, there will be more days that I don't see the 3Es, and I find that makes me sad. There will be a couple of days during the week when Mommy is off and they won't need to make the trip to my house at all. Instead of working 10 days out of 14, she'll work seven (if I remember the rotation right) and one of those will be a Sunday when Baby Daddy is off. Sure, we'll probably wind up doing some girl outings on some of those days, and it may wind up being a positive thing all around, but right now I miss the thought of them.

In the wake of losing my son, I suddenly realized yesterday how much I count on seeing my daughter every weekday as well and that may be what I miss the most. Even though cell phones mean we talk a lot, especially when she's in the car and the girls are all fastened down, I will miss her physical presence and the chance to look at her and hug her, even if there are days when the child exchange is so busy we don't manage to touch more than during the baby handoff.

I'm sorry that after losing her brother she's also saddled with the emotional responsibility of being my only child, but there isn't anything I can do about it. I don't know how to compensate for what I've lost, other than leaning a bit more on what I have -- the whole limbs of my family tree have to be stronger to make up for the one that is gone.

Beyond that, I have to remember that I'm one of the people who encouraged her not to look for a more "normal" job with hours other people think of as typical work hours, not only because she is good at a job not everyone could do and enjoys it, but because I'm proud of her as well. On my darkest days, she's the torch that I follow to keep going and I recognize the importance of her burning brightly and doing what she needs and wants to do with her life.

So I'll adjust, to fewer days, to early mornings, to whatever I need to do, and when I'm tired and out of sorts from the changes, I'll remind myself to be grateful for the chance to play this supporting role in their lives.

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