At my institution, night float is a 6-week block. Each week you work 14-hour shifts, five nights per week. As a mother of a toddler, 6 weeks of nights in a row are rough. I get home just in time to see her off to preschool, and I leave for work in the evenings before she gets home. I get to see my child for about 30 minutes each weekday. On the weekends, the toddler doesn’t understand mommy wanting to sleep during the day and be awake at night, so I have to try to switch back to being awake during the day for the weekend every weekend. I get up at 6:30am with my kid so we can spend some time together. I do manage to do it every weekend, but even though I’m awake, I never really feel like I’m present with my family. I have to take a nap in the afternoon in order to make it through the day, and I can rarely muster up the energy to do anything significant with my day off; the house never gets cleaned, the laundry never gets done, and I rarely go on outings with my daughter beyond the grocery store. It gets harder each week, as the sleep debt from staying up in the mornings to see kiddo and switching back and forth adds up. I would rather work more, shorter blocks of nights. I’m switching from days to nights every weekend anyway, right?

My single colleagues have said the exact opposite. They stay “nocturnal” during the weekends, so they switch over once at the beginning of the block and then switch back at the end. They have asked to do all 12 weeks of nights in a single block – switch once, get through the 12 weeks, switch back and be done for the year. They don’t need to get up at 6:30am on Saturdays, and they don’t have a spouse who has to put the kids to bed alone and do all the laundry that a potty-training toddler produces.

So how do you balance the scheduling desires of different groups? Who “wins”? Does scheduling around family trump scheduling around sleep hygiene for the single residents? How do you balance the two?

My husband was active duty before we got married. He was gone a lot, as were all of the other guys in his squadron. He always used to complain about the married folks getting special treatment: time off to go to the wife’s prenatal appointments, getting out of weekend “mandatory fun” activities because of family commitments, etc. Just because you have kids, does that entitle you to special treatment?

When are you being accommodating (especially in a job that is really hard on families and can only be accommodating so often), and when are you giving special treatment?

What do you think?

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