Magazine article Working Mother

Up All Night

Magazine article Working Mother

Up All Night

Article excerpt

Most of us rarely pull all-nighters -unless the baby has colic or the whole family suffers a stomach bug. But for a growing number of moms, it's business as usual to work the wee hours. "i joke that i'm a stay-at-home mom with a secret alter ego," says Beth Blair, 36, a minneapolis-based flight attendant who works "standups." that's airport lingo for crewing the last flight out and the predawn flight back in. when the weather cooperates, the schedule means Beth doesn't miss a beat with her kids: She puts Jeb, 7, and maddie, 6, to bed, leaves her husband on duty as she heads to work, sleeps while they're at school and greets them when they illustration by marta antelo/ step offthe bus in the afternoon. "they don't miss me when i'm flying nights," she says. "when i used to work days, i'd be gone on four-day trips, and that they noticed."

Fire dispatcher Shannon lane hurst, 38, also understands odd hours. when evening rush hour starts, the married mom of two teenagers is just putting on her headset. From 5 p.m. to 6 a.m. she dispatches fire trucks all over east Baton rouge, lA, to handle blazes, car crashes, hazardous material spills and all manner of accidents. the phones ring nonstop, stress mounts-and then there's the wall of exhaustion she hits at 3 a.m. "that's the really bad time," she says. "Sometimes i'm thinking, Just let me make it past 3." Still, the job comes with health-care benefits, and she sometimes gets long weekends with Benjamin, 15, and lauren, 13.

Night owl Nation

the night shiftis a lot more than factories cranking out widgets. yes, emergency services-hospitals, police, fire-go round-the-clock, but if you've ever gone for a late-night burger, picked up an emergency prescription or dialed a help desk, you've encountered a whole lot of other folks who work nights, too. in 2004, the last year the Bureau of labor Statistics tracked shiftwork, one in five Americans worked the majority of their hours outside of the traditional workday or had a rotating shiftthat included some nights, with women covering these jobs nearly as often as men. And experts believe the percentage of women is increasing.

"the population of shiftworkers is growing," says Andrew moore-ede, director of publications at circadian, a Boston-area consultancy that helps companies implement 24-hour work practices. "we're becoming a 24/7 society, and we expect services to be available to us at all hours."

For some moms, it's a "best of both worlds" scenario. working evenings yields more flexibility during the day. Some tag-team with a spouse and save a bundle on child care. And because fewer people are willing to work them, night shifts may pay more than comparable daytime jobs. then there's the less traffic commute and the more casual dress code. "i don't wear makeup, because you come home with your mascara under your eyes looking like you spent the night bar-hopping," jokes Shannon.

The Biology of Bedtime

the big drawback? Fatigue. try paying bills or taming a toddler's tantrum running on a major sleep deficit. "it's a struggle," says single mom rebecca couper, 30, a customer service rep at Ford Airport in kingsford, mi. She doesn't just print seat assignments; she also loads baggage, positions ramps and, when necessary, de-ices the planes at this tiny regional airport. her "day" starts at 3:30 a.m. She lives with her mom, who helps care for rebecca's 3-year-old daughter, riley. By the end of the week, rebecca's conking out as she tries to read bedtime stories to her child. …

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