Archive for Monday, December 21, 2009

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Night-shift parenting

On the shortest day of the year, we ask Lawrence parents how they cope with managing family from the third shift

Reneé Mellenbruch, 19, of Lawrence plays Rock Band with her daughter Haylee. Mellenbruch juggles overnight work shifts and raising Haylee with help from day care and her mother.

Reneé Mellenbruch, 19, of Lawrence plays Rock Band with her daughter Haylee. Mellenbruch juggles overnight work shifts and raising Haylee with help from day care and her mother.

December 21, 2009

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Imagine that you clock in to work at 11 every night in a sleep-deprived state. Now imagine that your job is to administer postmortem care to the recently deceased.

“Finding dead people doesn’t bother me as much anymore,” says Reneé Mellenbruch, a 19-year-old single mom in Lawrence who works the night shift as a certified nurse’s aide at a retirement community.

“It’s played with my personality a lot, on top of working nights. I usually walk around like a zombie.”

On top of working her overnight shift four times a week, Mellenbruch raises her 18-month-old daughter, Haylee, and attends classes at Neosho County Community College. Her job chose her more than she chose it, but she’s learned some tricks to get through the night.

“A good diet helps: lots of fruit and natural sugars,” she says. “You just have to take it one hour at a time. Four o’clock is the darkest time of the night and the hardest time to stay awake. If you get tired, you can walk around to get your blood moving. Whenever it’s cold, you can go outside. You just have to have a positive attitude, and, in my career, a sense of humor.”

Reneé Mellenbruch, 19, of Lawrence plays Rock Band with her daughter Haylee. Mellenbruch juggles overnight work shifts and raising Haylee with help from day care and her mother.

Reneé Mellenbruch, 19, of Lawrence plays Rock Band with her daughter Haylee. Mellenbruch juggles overnight work shifts and raising Haylee with help from day care and her mother.

Zombie mom

Mellenbruch can now count herself among the rare species of nocturnal parents who raise their kids in the gaps between waking up in the late afternoon and going to bed in the early morning. For those of us on “normal” sleep schedules, such a scenario sounds like an absolute nightmare. On the worst days, it is.

“Fridays are the hardest, because I get off work at 7 a.m., and I go to sleep from maybe 8 to 11, and then I wake up and go to school,” Mellenbruch says. “There’s no point in me going to the classes, because everything they say I can’t comprehend. … I’m just there for the credit. I can’t retain any information, so I just teach myself at night whenever I’m at work.”

Mellenbruch sacrificed her body to the overnight shift because it allows her to have health insurance and afford a place of her own. Her health and sanity may suffer, but her daughter is still getting plenty of love.

“I can spend some time with her (when I wake up) and put her to sleep and be up with her when she wakes up,” Mellenbruch says. “Luckily I have a great daycare provider, so they help me out a lot.”

Mellenbruch first experienced the occasional overnight shift when she was pregnant and doing inventory for her previous job at Icing by Claire’s in Dallas.

Valerie Ortiz, 22, of Lawrence, worked the overnight shift as a dispatcher for the Lawrence Police for three months while raising her infant daughter, Mishayla. Now that she works day shifts, Ortiz says she never wants to go back to overnights.

Valerie Ortiz, 22, of Lawrence, worked the overnight shift as a dispatcher for the Lawrence Police for three months while raising her infant daughter, Mishayla. Now that she works day shifts, Ortiz says she never wants to go back to overnights.

“It’s worse working overnights when you actually have a kid, because you can’t say, ‘I’m going to sleep and you’re coming with me,’” she says. “Now it’s more like, ‘I’m going to sleep. What am I going to do with you?’”

After nearly five months as a zombie mother, Mellenbruch is planning to start a new job with a daytime schedule. She’s so excited that she’s losing (more) sleep at the thought.

“When I was going into it I was like, ‘This is just temporary until I can find something better or get out of college,’” she says. “It was a good option for a while, but I don’t see myself doing it long-term.”

Motherhood 911

Mellenbruch chose to work overnights, but other young parents, such as Valerie Ortiz, had little choice in the matter. Two years ago, Ortiz was training as a dispatcher for Lawrence Police while raising her newborn daughter, Mishayla. The job required three months of training on the 10:45 p.m. to 6:45 a.m. shift.

“Those three months were a blur,” says Ortiz, who now works a day shift as a dispatcher.

“To me, everything was upside-down,” she recalls. “I slept while everyone else was awake, and I was awake while everyone else slept. I didn’t see my family very much or my friends. I just can’t adapt like that. My body is set to sleep at nighttime.”

Ortiz says that the hardest part of those three months was having less time with Mishayla.

“It was hard to send her away to daycare and only see her for a couple hours before she had to go back to bed,” she says. “I felt like I was missing out on stuff. I would feel bad about sleeping eight hours, because the whole day was gone by the time I got up.”

Lori Alexander of Jefferson County raised three kids while working overnight shifts at the Lawrence Police Department. “I’d try to get everybody to remember not to call during the hours I was      sleeping,” she says.

Lori Alexander of Jefferson County raised three kids while working overnight shifts at the Lawrence Police Department. “I’d try to get everybody to remember not to call during the hours I was sleeping,” she says.

Ortiz’s co-worker Lori Alexander also worked the overnight dispatch shift while raising three children in elementary and middle schools. Unlike Ortiz, she found it to be an ideal situation.

“For the children it was great, because I was able to go to school functions,” Alexander says. “To me, working evenings sounds worse, because you wouldn’t see your kids much.”

Ortiz also discovered advantages to getting off work in the early dawn hours.

“Sometimes 7 a.m. is the best time to go shopping, because nobody else is out,” she says. “You can get all of your shopping done and get home and get the house clean while the kids are at school. My house was never cleaner.”

Of course, there were also disadvantages to waking up at 3 p.m.

“I completely missed 9/11,” Alexander says. “I went to pick up my son at school and he was like, ‘We’re not having football practice tonight because of what happened.’ I was like, ‘What do you mean?’ I was on the TV the rest of the day watching and catching up with the rest of the world.”

Comments

kidscount 5 years, 8 months ago

I think , if you have the right support and your kiddos are off to school (so you can sleep), third shift isnt so bad. I have woked it and so long as you are able to have a set schedule, not bad! Most important thing would be getting sleep.

mdrndgtl 5 years, 8 months ago

It's a shame you missed 9/11, but glad you were able to catch up on all the twists and plots. Very exciting stuff...

Stimulus and Posercare live unprecedented

Darwin bless you all

geekin_topekan 5 years, 8 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Christina Hoffman 5 years, 8 months ago

 I worked 3rd shift and my husband worked 2nd shift for the first almost 4 years of our first daughters life.  yes i was sleep deprived but she never had to go to daycare dad or i was there 24 hours of the day.  i came home in the mornings asleep by 9 till noonish got up had lunch with them, spend a couple of hours with them. my husband would leave around 2, we would take a nap then up for the rest of the night. she got a great sleep schedule down always in bed by 8.  I never got more then a few hours alseep at a time but our relationship now is so worth those lost hours of sleep.  Our second daughter doesnt have the greatest relationship with daddy and we believe its because i spend all day with her, not much one on one with daddy like our oldest did.  (he sure misses those days)

Yawnmower 5 years, 8 months ago

My wife worked weekend graveyards when our first child was born. Also while going to school.

Hang in there Renee ! It does get easier down the road.

r_mellenbruch 5 years, 8 months ago

Thank you! Yes...with the help of my mother, my aunt, and my wonderful daycare providers Mark and Stephanie I would not have been able to do it!

loloen 5 years, 8 months ago

tumbilweed: I love you. barrypenders, Donnuts, mdrndgtl, whoever, WHAT A LOSER!

alicenevada 5 years, 8 months ago

I might be a little oversensitive, but I find Mr. Gintowt's wording of "freshly deceased" and Ms. Mellenbruch's comment of "finding dead people doesn't bother me as much anymore" offensive. I worked for a private care-giving company in the past, and I remember quite well the spectrum of emotions felt by both the families, their loved ones, and caregivers during end of life stages and at the moment when a loved one has passed. Often times a death was preceded by months of physical and/or mental debilitation by the elderly individual. Their family members were faced with the emotionally draining process of making serious quality of life/end of life care decisions. I sat by many clients, holding thier hands in the final stages of death and felt honored and humbled that I was able to care for them as long as I had. I feel that Mr. Gintowt and Ms. Mellenbruch could have worded their sentiments with a bit more decorum and kindness. If she is "not bothered much anymore" perhaps she ought to find a different line of work. I certainly would not this woman caring for my aging parents. She's not working in an animal hospital, for crying out loud.

Shane Rogers 5 years, 8 months ago

Yeah, I was thinking that she worked in a funeral home or something......but she's a cna. I'm not huge on the whole "freshly deceased" thing either.

alicenevada 5 years, 8 months ago

I also have to add that it is a little disturbing to see a toddler playing "Rock Band". Wouldn't a book or a box of blocks be more conducive to her learning and cognitive development? I hope I am not the only person who finds this woman unsettling. There must be more honorable parents/CNA's in our community who would be worthy of an interview.

alicenevada 5 years, 8 months ago

(I am shaking my head, here): The comment about not paying attention in class is interesting...being a KU student, I find that not only is there a positive correlation between paying attention and receiving better grades, it is also a more rewarding experience in that I am actually there to learn, not "just for the credit".

HootyWho 5 years, 8 months ago

I'm sure this young lady didn't mean anything bad with her comment. Maybe its not so shocking anymore, having worked the night shift, I did it for 12 years so my kids wouldn't have to go to day care...You have to get hard or you can't do the job give her a break and i don't think her kid is going to remember playing rock hero,,,there is plenty of time later for blocks and books

BigPrune 5 years, 8 months ago

How to survive on 1 1/2 hours of sleep: Take two Alleve, lay flat on your back, try to relax every muscle in your body starting with the top of your head, don't move an inch, and relax all the way down to your toes. When the alarm goes off, surprisingly you'll be able to function throughout the day. Did it for 5 years (4 days a week) and I am still alive.

The naproxen bit isn't very healthy so mix it up using ibuprofin as an alternative.

alicenevada 5 years, 8 months ago

HootyWho, "Later" is now, my friend. That child is in the most formative years of development. I have worked night shift before as well, and I agree you have to be "hard" as you say. But working with human beings, particularly those who often cannot physically or verbally defend themselves, such as the elderly, is not the place to "get hard". She frightens me, and the fact that LJWorld is portraying her as some kind of wonderful, nuturing mom who is just doing her best is shameful.

pissedinlawrence 5 years, 8 months ago

alicenevada,

Please SHUT up. You don't know anything about the nursing field. We all (Nurses, CNAs, PCAs) get used to finding dead pts. Happens. ALL the time, because guess what, old people die. I know that is shocking to you. This girl is a mother, going to school AND working. So you take the horse you rode in on and leave. Your the one that makes me sick. Third shift is so hard, throw in 12 hour shifts with that as well. We work our butts off and we are not sorry that we become desensitised to the deceased. By the way, your just a witch with a capital B for taking a shot at her parenting. If I had children I would play Rock Band with them all the time, what fun.

lounger 5 years, 8 months ago

The night shift is awful at times! I remember loosing my cell phone and then finding it in the toilet! I had no Idea how it got there-A total blur indeed....

midwestarts 5 years, 8 months ago

the funny thing is is that I guess the Lawrence Journal World doesn't check the facts of the stories that they run. I know for a fact that Ms. Ortiz had her mother look after her daughter while she was working the night shift, and that she hardly ever had to be "put out" because of her job. Until recently, she lived with her mother who looked after her daughter until recently when Ms. Ortiz moved out to live with her police officer boyfriend (from what I've been told). The only thing that may have been effected by her "third shift" was her social life and really nothing else.

r_mellenbruch 5 years, 8 months ago

I didn't mean to offend anyone with my comments regarding my job, and I do apologize for them coming across as harsh, but your comments, alicenevada, are completely unbased and uncalled for. I don't see your motivation to spam this comment board with negative comments about me, but it sure shows a lot about your character. I am not ashamed of my parenting skills. In fact, considering my situation, I am rather proud of myself and do not appreciate your unknowing self making comments on my life. Also, although you may attend KU, I don't believe they offer courses to teach you what it's like to be a full-time student, employee, and mother. My mental and physical fatigue when attending classes is expected, and not that it's any of your business, but I maintain a fairly respectable GPA as well. My purpose is not to seek sympathy for my situation, but I do appreciate the support and understanding of the other posters in this thread.

Thank you all, Renee'

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