My husband works for the railway as a conductor/engineer. This job isn’t your typical blue-collared gig. Railway life is its own beast of a lifestyle challenging and draining on family life. For my family, working for the railway is dictated by a two-hour call windows and 24-36 hours away from home. As a Conductor/Engineer working 14-hour shifts, he comes home to sleep, eat, and go back to work. There isn’t much time for family.
As a mom, railway life has been one of my biggest challenges because of the unpredictability of his work schedule, mixed with long, difficult hours. It’s challenging me every single day to give up expectations and dreams I had for raising a family. It’s not easy to give up these expectations. It’s fucking hard, and it makes me a little crazy. Sometimes you just want someone there for you; sometimes you just want to be able to plan a doctors appointment.
Don’t get me wrong; railway life was also tough when we were dating, engaged, and married. However, throw in a couple of children, and a whole new set of challenges appears. Before kids, I got to do my own thing. My job required me to travel, and I would find the dogs the very best kennel in town, and peace out for work. But, with kids, it’s not that easy, because his job makes me the primary caregiver. He can’t just come home in the middle of a shift to a sick kid; it doesn’t work like that on the railway.
Maybe you’ve stumbled upon this list because your partner is thinking of joining the railway or because you’re looking for someone else to relate with. Like everything on the internet, this blog includes my perception and my story. I would love it if you told me your story in the comments below. If you’ve managed to come to peace with the craziness, let me know, because like you, I’m just looking for someone to relate to.
Family Life Things I’ve Given Up for the Railway
As I drove across town the other day, I needed to put into words how I feel my life has been changed and impacted by my husbands less than an awesome family job. So, I bring you this list in an attempt to come to peace with some of this.
- Weekends: Weekends just don’t exist on the railway. Every couple of weeks my husband earns 48 hours off from the end of his shift till the time he can be called for his next shift. Typical 8-5 jobs get 60 hours for a weekend. 48 hours isn’t a weekend, and it’s barely enough time to do anything but catch up on life, and maybe go to the lake for a day. I miss weekends at the lake, weekends camping, or weekend getaways to the nearest town. I want more than a day of family time.
- Family Dinners: My husband is home for dinner about three times a week, and most of the time he’s sleeping because he has to go to work sometime in the evening. I grew up on the notion of family dinners, and man do I miss having him at the table every night for dinner. Eating dinner alone with two children who just cry is not the same. I miss adult companionship most evenings.
- Birthday Parties, Thanksgiving Dinners, Christmas & Planned Vacations: You never know when its time to go to work, so planning big family events is shot in the dark. Probably one of the reasons, our families never do anything because they just assume we can’t make it. #butistillwanttocome. It’s 50/50 on whether he’ll be home in time for my birthday, or go to work in the middle of Christmas Dinner. That’s just the life and fuck its hard. You also can’t guarantee he’ll be home in time to start his vacation as he can be called until the last minute before his vacation begins. #truestory Always questioning if I can book the flight the day he’s scheduled for vacation, or not. Usually not.
- Sleeping In: Because I’m always the parent who has to wake up in the morning. If my husband is home, chances are he got home at 3 and needs to sleep. Otherwise, he’s not usually there. There’s just not the opportunity to sleep in. I hear stories of parents letting one sleep in on Saturday and one sleep in on Sunday. I never get to sleep in. I always have to wake up and deal with the kids.
- Honey Do Lists: It might be the railway life, but it might just be my husband. I’ve given up on the honey-do list, and now I just hire people to do things I need done (and can’t do myself). Because he’s rarely home, and when he is home, he’s sleeping to go to work again, there just isn’t enough time in the day. Tasks, like completing the deck, mowing the lawn, and cutting down trees now, get outsourced. Would I rather him mow the lawn in the brief window of time he’s home or spends time with the kids and me? #pickyourpriorities
- Going Back to Work: This is a tough one, and some people might make it work, but it’s just not feasible for me, my wants and needs, and our family. I’ve given up the notion of returning to a typical job while raising kids with a husband who works as a railway engineer. It’s just not feasible to be the parent whose always on. Going to work still leaves me with the sole responsibility of pick up/drop off/sick days, and managing the household. Because he doesn’t get weekends, and only three weeks of vacation a year, it might be a month or more before we had a day off together. Is that really a life worth living?
Maybe one day I’ll go to work, but in the meanwhile, I’m scoping out opportunities that would let me work from home, work casually, or work part-time. I need to work, but I also need my family. How do you find balance in that? I’m not sure yet.
Does your partner work for the railway? How has it impacted your quality of life?
My husband loves his job. He’s oddly passionate about it and will drive trains until he retires at 55. In the meanwhile, I’m trying to figure out parenting with a mostly absent husband. It’s exhausting. Mostly, I’m immensely jealous of friends and family whose husband is home for dinner, available to watch the kids on Friday Night and let them sleep in on Sunday. And weekend getaways, because I’ll never get to take the weekend off to travel or relax. #alwaysoncall