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The Night Shift Syndrome
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The Night Shift Syndrome

How will it be if one or both spouses work nights permanently? Or one works nights and the other works days? If they say “hello!” and “goodbye” as they pass each other in the hall way?

It is slowly happening and moving on from the first smiles of congratulations, the niggling grumbles have begun! What we are discussing here is the mammoth adjustments families, spouses and children are making to new jobs which entail working night shifts. Call centers, 24-hour banks, discos, hotels, events, you name it! These jobs have changed working hours from 9-5 to 5-9!

People ask, “How do you adjust to the owl in your life?” Or “Is being the lark in the relationship fun?” They want sane answers and jocular dismissal will just not do!

Apart from the mental and physical fine-tuning the person living with these arrangements has to make, there are more adjustments to be made in the family, in romantic relationship, etc, which need to be focused on! Here we are looking at parents who feel rejected because their children are completely out of their day lives catching up on sleep, spouses who wonder why they remain married to the invisible one who never shows up and children having to understand why Papa, Mama or Bhaiya/Didi, never have time because of their job hours.

“The first time Kunai, who is in Delhi, told me he would work nights because his event managing company required that, I did not think much of it. But one foggy dawn when I called him long distance and got no reply, I went cold. He is still at work?

“Or maybe...? Grim thoughts associated with nocturnal forays, because my ’chick’ was not safely in bed as he should be, played havoc with my reasoning! I freaked out completely.

“My husband tried to calm me down with no success! Since the mobile was switched off, it was nerve-racking! Later, the matter was humorously sorted out, but I’m still not able to completely accept the situation!” Thus explains Nimi Mehta, a house wife, who stays elsewhere, while her son works in Delhi.

Nandini, a 12th standard student, inspects her nails and shrugs, “My brother lives his own life now. He works night shifts you see, that means his day goes in sleeping! At first I found it very odd and was often disappointed since he was too tired to be a part of family sessions, etc, but now we are adjusting, I guess!”

“My son works nights and is in bed the whole day, catching up on his sleep,” complains Asha, whose son works at a call center. Off days see more sleeping, and more partying than ever before! He attends no family functions and well... I do not mind since it is a good job but...!” She cannot pinpoint the reasons for the frustration of having to adjust to unconventional schedules!

Sanjay admits that things are not the same. “I am out of mainstream existence! I have adjusted, but not my wife who is a stay-at-home wife! I took this night job because it was an excellent package and there were wonderful opportunities. Weekends are off. I think I am happy but things are not too good on the home front!”

Another couple sees nothing wrong in this “owl” existence. They both work for the same MNC and sleep through the day and work through the nights. “Awake” life is now the world of the office! People are protesting and that is their parents, both sides, who find all this unconventional and funny!

Then there are couples who work different shifts. The wife in the day and her husband at night or vice versa.

“It is awful... I feel I am losing him... we have no marriage actually. We fight so much now, that even our holidays are ruined!” grumbles a friends bitterly.

So what are we missing here? After all, a job is a job! Lots if you actually analyses it. Shared times are less. The sweet joys of couple-dom and together waking up are gone. Parents cannot expect anything but yawning progeny demanding that the lights be put off. Siblings miss evenings out. Meal-times are vague and topsy-turfy.


There are shapeless, vague apprehensions about night time travel! Forget watching movies together, planning parties together, meeting friends together or family outings! Of course there is some shared time, but mostly it is early morning when the birds twitter!

One mother complains about trying to be awake for her daughter who works night shifts. “I would rush home at 4 pm from wherever I was, or regularly forgot my afternoon sleep, cook a dinner fit for a queen for my daughter, wait up till she left at 5.30 pm, then again cater to my husband who returns at 6.

“I’d socialize, meet all expectations of me then get up at 3 am to greet my girl when she returns from work. Not surprisingly, and in a few days, I became a gibbering idiot with bags under my eyes. Then I simply gave up!”

All this sounds so dismal, but it can be turned around to one’s benefit if one tries. The mother in question is trying to fit into a schedule which is unbalanced and is trying to fulfil all the high expectations people have of her. Experts, however (other housewives, parents, etc), have worked things out. They have schooled themselves not to crib and they focus on the brighter side of things. Believe me, they seem to be enriching their relationships with these mind sets!

Take it this way, in our daily 9-5 world how often do we sit and actually talk to our spouses and children? How often does the husband or wife or parent, after battling traffic, office and pressures, want to go out in the evening?

An executive, working in an export house with regular hours and regular overtime, quips, “I return after 8 pm and my hubby even later. Believe me, I am so exhausted that we hardly even talk! Have you seen the traffic out there? Morning sees me off again and the routine begins all over again, so night shift or day shift, it is the same!”

Another wife says of her husband’s night shift. “We get to do morning chores together now. After my hubby crawls into bed at 3 am. I wake him up at 11.30 am. Earlier he slept the whole day, leaving me bored and frustrated! So we worked out this schedule and it is doing fine. From 11.30 (including lazing in bed) to the time he leaves in the evening we are together!

“The children come back from school and love having Papa home for lunch. They spend the full time with him and are not packed off to bed, as used to happen in the evenings!”


One stay-at-home acquaintance who does not want to be named advised that people shouldn’t be bitter because this schedule is permanent, for some time at least! They should work around the “it is not going to change” theory and try and be happy. So, if you have this problem, engage yourself in other activities rather than whine that your spouse has no time for you any more.

Join those evening classes you could not join previously. Hang out with friends who are in the same boat! Create fun schedules so that you can tackle a tired wife or husband with understanding.

Do not wallow in self-pity. Remember he/she is not purposely being away! It is the job he/she is doing. Accept this.

Give yourself an introspective talk and firmly decide to shun feelings, which bring out the worst side of you in this situation!

Spend weekends entirely with each other and the family. Take the phone off the hook on Sundays Those who work days while their husbands work nights, can also make out a schedule in which they spend quality time with one another.


Plan holidays and short breaks, and enjoy yourselves. You are surely working at jobs (not in jails), which give you time off! If you examine your holiday schedules, you will find lots of options when you are both off at the same time. This is for the spouses working different day-night routines.

Do not forget phones, love notes, and those special concerns, which need no timetables! Different routines are actually good news for romancing couples, because when you steal time to be together, your relationship will become a closer one. Positive people adjust to these schedules perfectly and wonder what the hullabaloo is all about!

“We get clear streets in the early hours of the morning, so we face less strain!” laughs one, who works night shifts. Support, positive thinking, patience, teamwork, maturity, understanding and a good sense of humor is needed to handle someone leading a dissimilar life under the same roof! It does not necessarily need to turn into an “I am the martyr here” attitude. Chant the mantra of “Let’s work this out!” and stick to schedules, which are winning ones

Night/day time relationships survive if you are willing to work on them. Is it not terrific to meet the people you love at strange hours and forge lasting relationships of understanding and maturity with them? Or should you risk losing them forever by your short-sighted stubbornness at not understanding the situation. Think about it!

Street Talk

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