Keeping your family close and connected when you or your spouse travel/work long hours is always a challenge. With Mike working multiple 24 hour shifts per week, I am realizing how important it is for our family to have certain rituals on shift days. His job as a firefighter requires a lot of flexibility for our family, so having specific times we reconnect on shift days is helpful. There are a few simple things we have incorporated into our family routine over time that help us stay close when he is working:
- Have a shift day ritual with your spouse. There is something powerful about starting the day together. Praying together or simply enjoying a cup of coffee can create a sense of connectedness. Find something what works for you. I try to text Mike mid-morning and talk for a few minutes while the kids have their quiet time (unless, of course, it is one of those days where everyone is refusing to be quiet for more than 10 seconds together).
- FaceTime with the kids. Our kids are still small so we are able to keep their bedtime routine fairly predictable: baths, story and FaceTime with daddy. They love seeing him when he’s “at the station.” We make sure each child has a few minutes to talk about their day. This one-on-one time has made a huge difference in how they respond to him being away.
- Take the time to reconnect as a couple. Even if we only talk briefly, we try to reconnect every day after the kids go to bed. I’ve found that taking the time to talk at the end of the day helps us stay close.
- Have a Specific Day You Visit the Station. If Mike works a 48 hour shift we usually visit him the 2nd day. It doesn’t always work out and there is no guarantee he will be around long (Sunday we were there 30 minutes before he had to respond to a medical call). Even if you can’t visit long, it’s always good to drop by for a few minutes. And the kids love seeing the cool firetrucks. We recently tried having dinner together and that seemed to work well. During the school year we try to visit Mike when he works on the weekends.
- Look for ways to make the shift easier. Often, if Mike is working a 48 hour shift, I try to pack a couple breakfast items and a few leftovers so he has more to eat than PB&J’s. He’s very good about not going out to eat on his shift days (because that adds up very quickly). Packing a few meals is a simple way to let him know I care.
Our shift day rituals have changed and developed over the past 7 years. When we were first married I often visited Mike on my way home from work. While rituals may change, the goal of keeping our family close hasn’t. We are finding that the little, consistent things we do on shift days makes a huge difference in our family dynamic.
How do you keep your family connected? I’d love to hear your ideas!