By CAITLIN CROWLEY
SIX months into parenthood and I have a whole new appreciation for those who start their work day as the sun begins to set.
While I’m very happy to be rostered on my version of “night shift”, I drastically underestimated the impact defying darkness – night after night – would have on my body and mind.
“Nothing good happens after 2am,” was a golden rule in my early 20s. Fast forward a decade and I reckon it’s still accurate, for very different reasons.
3am is easily the hardest time to be awake – it’s the no man’s land of overnight feed times. There’s strong consensus in my mother’s group that time of night is when the jet-lag style heaviness hits hardest.
My sister has worked night shifts at Central Queensland mines for years and my new schedule had me feeling sorry for her in a way I hadn’t before.
Then I remembered the mining industry has fatigue laws.
When my sister knocks off night shift, a day crew is rolling in to relieve her and her colleagues. There’s no such luck around here.
New parents are lucky to get smoko or an outfit change before night shift blurs into another day.
Maybe the National Heavy Vehicle Register could lend new parents the logbook system it has for truckies, because we should probably be stopped from making any kind of significant life decision if we’re running on 45 minutes of broken sleep.
Then there’s the injustice of being awake when everyone around you is asleep. While mine sites or service stations glow with neon light, parents are in stealth mode, navigating in darkness.
Heaven forbid your shin connects with the sharp edge of a bed or table. If it does, it’s critical you suffer in silence.
I wonder if it’s hard for nurses to patrol dimly lit hospital wards while patients are tucked up in bed.
It’s a similar situation at my place – except here it’s not just the tiny person I’m looking after who’s asleep; my one colleague is always napping on the job.
My husband’s ability to fall asleep in almost any conditions was already legendary, but now it’s how much noise he can snooze through that defies belief.
He can literally be mid-sentence, in a near vertical position and slip into peaceful sleep. It’s unreal.
But no matter how tired I’m feeling, when the pitch black starts fading to grey, the night shift hangover begins to lift.
Sunlight soothes my weary eyes and foggy head, especially when paired with a flat white from my favourite coffee spot down the road.
Whether it’s Blend 43 and energy drinks on a CQ mine site, or a quick cuppa with a mum mate, there’s nothing like that first caffeine hit after another long night.
Now when I see police or paramedics stopping in for a takeaway too, I have a new level of awe and respect – and hope that coffee brightens their day as much as it does mine.