Has anyone here worked the night shift as a single parent?

Nurses General Nursing


Hi, I have a question for any single parent (or previous single parents) who currently works or has ever worked the night shift. I normally post on the student nurse board so if you don't go and read anything on the board I will quickly introduce myself. I am 22 years old, a single mother to a four year old daughter. I am currently in a BSN program and will graduate in May 2003. See, this summer I am changing positions at the children's hospital I work for. Last summer I worked in the outpatient clinics of the children's hospital M-F 8am-430pm. Well, this summer I will be working inpatient 12 hour shifts 3 days a week and I am seriously considering the 7pm-7am shift. Questions and concerns that I have is 1) I am so scared about how my body will be able to adjust to that shift, 2)For those who do this shift or has done the shift do you think it was a good shift for you and your children. What are the pros and the cons to that shift as a single parent? My daughter will be start kindgergarten the exact same year I graduate. I figure if I can't be home by the time she goes to school then at least I will be home when she get's out of school. I already have very reliable babysitters. My mom and dad have already agreed to watch her while I am at work. How long does it take to adjust? What are some tips for adjusting. I am just really worried about this. I never have done a 12 hour shift let alone a nightshift before. Every job I ever had has been 8 hour shifts.

Thanks for any advice and help.

live4today, RN

5,099 Posts

Specializes in Community Health Nurse.

Hi peaceful2100, :)

I worked eight and twelve hour nightshifts during both my marriages, and when I was divorced raising three children. I didn't mind the nightshifts once I got use to them, but there were times when working nights did not benefit me family wise since I did not have any reliable sitters for my girls. You say that your parents have agreed to watch your child during the hours you are working at night, so I say go for it if those hours benefit you best.

The only problem is when your daughter is wide awake and full of energy during the day, you will be sleeping to prepare for another long nights work ahead of you. That may possibly present a problem for you.

If you work eight hour days as you have in times past, you will be able to spend more 'awake' time with your child. You'll be able to have supper with her, bathe her at night, read her a bedtime story, and put her to bed. Then, while she is sleeping, you are sleeping. This arrangement is MOST ideal for a parent with a child.

If you work 12 hour days, you'll not be home for her breakfast, lunch, or dinner. You will probably come home around 8 or 9 at night to put her in bed, or to kiss her goodnight after she's already been put to bed and is fast asleep. You'll be gone when she wakes up in the morning, so for the three 12 hour dayshifts you'd be working, you and your child would not have any time together at all. This might make her act out more due to not being able to spend more time with you during her active hours.

If you work 12 hour nights, you will be sleeping most of the day, so you may have one or two meals with her before taking off for work. Also, while you are trying to sleep during the day hours, she will be busy getting into things which may frustrate you if you have to keep trying to wake up to see to her needs. Nightshift tends to upset one's circadian rhythm. It's been proven to cause more heart attacks and other health problems in females, so that's another risk factor you may possibly have to face down the road.

If you work 8 hour nightshifts (11p to 7a), you will be able have one or two meals with your daughter, story time with her before bed, then be home to put her to bed at night. She will be asleep when you leave at night for work, and awake waiting for you when you get home in the morning.

Well, this is pretty much the truth of working the various shifts. Have you considered working 3 to 11 yet? That's not a bad shift for a parent who has a 4 year old child who would be in the care of her grandparents during the evening hours.

I've tried them all, so you just have to be flexible enough to change shifts as your family changes according to their personal needs as well as your own. I'm sure you'll do what is right by yourself and your child. You are very blessed to have parents willing to be there for your child whenever you work. That is something I never had. I hope this information proves helpful to you. :kiss

Thanks Renee, I have thought about 8 hour shifts but of all the hospitals in my area that have 8 hour shifts is very few and far in between. I would say out of about 16 hospitals only 1 offer the 8 hour shift and I would end up passing several hospitals during my commute to the hospital. It is about 30-45 minutes from my house depending on the traffic and it is in a different state. So I don't know if I will be having to deal with extra taxes or not. I think the 11pm-7am shift would be perfect. So, I will have to see about it.


live4today, RN

5,099 Posts

Specializes in Community Health Nurse.

You are quite welcome, Tonya! :) I did like the 8 hour nightshifts the best WHEN I had reliable help with the children. Best of everything to you and your daughter! :)

bagladyrn, RN

2,286 Posts

Specializes in OB.

Have worked the night shift for about 20 yrs as a single parent. Once your child is in school, it works pretty well - I slept during school hours and was sitting over coffee ready to talk when son and later foster sons came home. Weekends and summers can take a little more arranging, but as your kids get used to it, it works. My boys got very protective of Mom's sleep time "No I won't wake her, but I'll be glad to take a message" no matter who was calling.

judy ann

225 Posts

Specializes in obstetrics(high risk antepartum, L/D,etc.

One really big advantage to 12 hour shifts--you have 4 days off. You work less than 1/2 of the week. Once I worked 12's, I didn't want to go back to 8's. It worked for me (no kidlets) and many other nurses I worked with (with kidlets). It was often said that the hardest thing about going to work was going to work. Once you are there, what's four more hours? A lot of it is attitude.

Best of luck:) :p :chuckle ;)

I worked 12-hour night shifts for years as a single parent. It was brutal trying to find decent babysitting (at least your parents will help you with this). I worked a Baylor when she was little (weekends didn't matter), so I worked 2 12-hour nights every Friday and Saturday. It was impossible to sleep. When I could, I had a kid come in for the day on Saturday to keep the baby amused, but between the kid and the regular babysitter, that didn't leave much money for me.

When she started preschool, then I had half-days to work around--also not good for sleep. And the hospital had done away with the Baylor, so it was either work full-time or take a big pay cut.

I never wanted to work 8s back then. It just meant more nights to work. As I got older, the 8s looked better and better.

I feel for you, I really do. My child is 12 now and I don't work nights (except a few rare times on my on-call weekends). No babysitting issues, no child care expenses, and a better sleep. I don't know if I could ever go through those times again.

The other posters are absolutely right--it's having good babysitting that makes all the difference. You're very lucky to have parents who will pitch in for you, and the baby will benefit, too, from being around their loving grandparents.

Trauma Columnist

traumaRUs, MSN, APRN

97 Articles; 21,237 Posts

Specializes in Nephrology, Cardiology, ER, ICU.

I have worked nights for nine of the ten years I've been an RN, worked days as an LPN. Had to do several months as single mom when hubby moved and the house wasn't sold yet. Hated it. I lived in Vegas at the time where 24 hour child care was the norm. My son was 5 at the time and it was during the summer. He went to daycare when I worked and then I left him there until noon. I tried to nap in the afternoon, but that didn't always work out well. You are so very lucky to have wonderful parents! Cherish them. I was a military wife and had no one.

Now, my children are 16 and 21 and I'm back on nights. My husband doesn't really like it too much, so am looking at going back to dayshift. But...we'll see.


4,516 Posts

I worked nights for 20 years...worked well for my family...my hubby functioned like your parents will Tonya so if you think nights is for you, go for it! :)

I liked the pace at night and it's great to stay away from much of the 'politicking'. My night teams always seemed to get close, we had potlucks, celebrated birthdays, and in general worked better together than days, IME.

What I liked was splitting my 12's---and sleeping normally on my nights off. Some like doing the 12's all together and having a 4 day stretch off.... some even do 7 on 7 off kind of things...see how it goes and adjust to what works best for you would be my advice! Good luck!

Tonya, I bet you're Peaceful from the aol nurse board, aren't ya? I enjoy your posts! I am Texas Deb...nice to see you here...I like Allnurses much better so I'm hangin' out here these days! Hope school is coming along well for ya!

Thanks for the advice everyone. I guess this summer working as a care assistant before I graduate next year and become a RN next summer will give me some kind of clue about nights and 12 hour shifts. I will try it and see. I guess everyone is different and everyone has to find what works best for them. I would probably prefer days over nights and I know I will end up doing days because my over all career goal is to work in the pediatric inpatient setting for a few years and then I am one of the few that has an interest in becoming a public health/community health nurse. I never thought I would be interested but I do have an interest in it.

I also would like to go to grad school in a few years to become a nurse practitioner. I don't know though my GPA is only a 2.9 as it stands right now. At the end of this semester it will be a 3.1 if my grades for this semester stay the way they are and I am 99% positive that they will. It has been really tough boosting that GPA up. My very first semster of college was rough for me. I had just started, I had just called off the wedding of my daughter's father who put me throw some things that no one should ever have to suffer from. I should have listened to my parents when they told me to wait but it was my dream and I started when my daughter was just 6 months old. You would never believe what I took for one smester my very first semester I took Chemistry, algebra, anatomy, english and history. Plus back then I had a full-time job so I could support my daughter. YEAH not exactly the smart thing to do and I thought I would be ok. Well, I ended up with a 1.4 GPA. That killed me even though each semester after that I did really, really good. One semester can haunt you. Well, after the first semester I started listening to my parents, advisors and myself and started doing much better four years later and much wiser too. So I don't know if my GPA will be good enough for Grad school. We will just wait and see.

Again, Thanks everyone.

You may find that when you are ready for grad school that they will look at your overall performance and not just the total GPA. If you show them you've been getting better and better, and have good GRE scores, and good work references, that is going to impress them. I graduated college with a 3.18 GPA for essentially the same reason as you--did less than stellar the first year, and then made the dean's list the rest of the way. I still got into law school even though my GPA was lower than their average student's, because I did well on the LSAT and because I showed them I had accomplished a lot more in the ten years since I'd finished college than the average cookie just getting out of school. If the program that interests you requires an essay or an interview, that's your chance to strut your stuff!

Some schools may let you take a few classes on a non-matriculated status, and if you do well, they let you into their program.

Good luck! Single mom nurses are an exclusive club, and we wear our membership badges proudly.

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