This week, my husband worked the night shifts on his floor at the hospital. This means that he is at home all day and I am home all night. It makes for a strange altered reality where you live with someone and know they have been there, sleeping in the home you share all day long, but when evening falls they are nowhere to be found. That is, until the weekend comes around and I’m home during the day too. It is now Saturday afternoon (a rainy one, at that) and our curtains are drawn, lights off, and I’m sneaking around the apartment in sock-feet cursing the loudness of the refrigerator door.
Having a nocturnal spouse is certainly an aspect of being married to a resident I had not anticipated. The late nights – check. The long hours – check. The missed social events, stress, and exhaustion – check, check, check! However, when we both have a Saturday afternoon off it feels like a waste to spend it with him sleeping all day and me then sleeping all night. The obvious answer is to go out and do something.* The other day I met a physician, recently done with residency, who counseled me that ‘having my own life’ is key. She told me that not waiting around for the spouse who is extra busy to be home is important for creating space for both people. She is right. The first few months of residency, which were also the first few months of marriage, I tried to spend every free moment that he was not at the hospital with him. It was hard.
Coordinating schedules between two people is difficult anyway, even without the ever-changing shifts of a hospital. And the issue of how much time you have together v. how much you spend alone or with your friends is certainly not unique to marriages with odd schedules. You have to do activities that are you just for you, so that you do not feel like you are just waiting. Waiting for them to come home, waiting to get his schedule to book a vacation, waiting to make dinner. I understand that this situation is especially applicable during residency, however I think many people in relationships struggle to find common time. This means using time apart to do things for you, and time together be a couple.
Before we got married, someone asked us if the time we spend together is valuable. I had never thought about that before. Do we just vegetate in front of the tv, or do we talk and be present for each other? It’s sort of a quality time over quantity time idea. Since the start of residency, my longer commute and all of the preoccupations that go with both of our jobs, I will admit that there have been more evenings of dinner with the tv on. However, we still make an effort to go out, to talk and to connect, which has become even more important now that out schedule so rarely align.
*I did go to the gym the today! See Resolution #3