Marriage stays strong by communication

For most of their six years of marriage, Agostino and Tracy Ragozzino of Niles have worked opposite shifts. He works from 3:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. as a quality control operator at Lear Seating Corp. She works 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. as a nurse at St. Joseph Health Center. Her lunch hour is late morning, his is early evening.
"For us, this is part of being married. We don't know anything else," said Ragozzino.
The family doesn't have to deal with topsy-turvy sleep cycles. However, being separated most of the day does present challenges for the couple. "Basic, everyday things that people take for granted -- going out to dinner, doing projects around the house or watching TV together -- we can't do," he said. Ragozzino misses birthday celebrations, anniversary dinners and other activities that take place during evenings.
During the time Ragozzino was completing his college degree, he missed even more family events. "If Tracy was off, I'd be on my way to class. We just adjusted," he said.
Making it work
Statistics show that many marriages suffer from the stress of conflicting schedules. But the Ragozzinos believe their commitment to each other and a stable lifestyle has strengthened their relationship, not harmed it.
Communication is key to making the situation work, according to the Ragozzinos. They set aside time to talk through problems and concerns and devised a plan for sharing household chores. "I do the laundry, she does all the cooking, and we split the cleaning," said Ragozzino.
The two also rely on cell phones. The working spouse checks in with the at-home spouse during breaks and lunchtime. This method keeps both up-to-date on household matters that need attention and the latest activities of their 3-year-old daughter and just gives them a chance to talk.
Both enjoy their jobs, but Ragozzino said the hardest part initially was being alone. Unless they have the same day off, the two don't see each other during waking hours. "It was a kiss goodnight and a kiss good morning, and that was it," he said.
Valuing time
They compensate by making the most of time they do have together. When his wife has a weekday off, family dinner is eaten at noon. Shared days off are catch-up time to cut the grass, tackle household projects, visit family or enjoy a rare night out to dinner.
The main benefit of opposite shifts is child care, said the couple. They need a baby sitter for their daughter only during shift change. For that one hour stretch of the day, Ragozzino's mother fills in.
For a 2-month stretch, Ragozzino was on day turn but said that proved to be more difficult in terms of child care. His wife started work earlier, so he got their daughter up, fed and dressed her, then dropped her off at grandma's before work.
Nonetheless, Ragozzino said it was worth the pain in the morning to be together as a family in the evening. "Working the same shift, we do need a baby sitter, but things get done quicker and easier," he added.

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