Mom's midnight shift means adjusting
By MARY ELLEN PELLEGRINI
Beth Kovach of Youngstown knows the moon and the stars more than she knows the sun. As the night manager of a 24-hour retail establishment, her workday begins after sunset and ends with sunrise. "My world is just the opposite of somebody that has a 9 to 5 job," Kovach said.
She arrives at work at 10 p.m., eats lunch at 3 a.m., leaves the store at 6:30 a.m., rushes home to see her two sons before they leave for school, has supper at 8 a.m. and then tries to catch six hours of sleep. Kovach has followed this routine since her divorce four years ago.
At that time, Kovach's main goal was not to leave her children home alone. "I looked at all the different angles and decided it would be easier for me to work midnights," she explained. That decision proved best for her family, but there have been adjustments and tradeoffs along the way.
How they get by
Medical appointments occur first thing in the morning, and family activities take place right after school. When Kovach's older son attended the prom this year, she saw him before but not after the dance. "I wasn't there when he came home to see the look on his face," she said. Missing those moments is hard for Kovach.
Still, the manager believes the benefits of her shift outweigh the disadvantages. Kovach said a day shift wouldn't give her the freedom to take her older son to school, pick him up and be home when her children are sick. Extended family support makes her choice viable.
She and her children live with her mother, Anna Marie Gay, who herself worked midnights. Kovach considered having her own place but knew the boys would still sleep at her mother's while she worked. That would complicate getting them to school on time in the morning. Moving in with her mother offered a practical solution. "My mom's a godsend," Kovach said.
A calendar on Gay's refrigerator records Kovach's schedule and that of Kovach's older son, who works at a local restaurant. His hours sometimes run from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. or 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Either scenario overlaps with Kovach's overnight shift. Getting everyone where they need to be requires "a lot of effort, a lot of talking between my mom, me and my brother [who assists with transportation]," Kovach said.
Gay provides an overnight presence, helps her grandsons with homework, wakes them in the morning and prepares breakfast. She and her daughter divide household chores. Kovach also comes home to the daily responsibilities of every working mother. "Beth has some days where she doesn't get much sleep. I feel bad for her because I know what it's like," said Gay.
The family follows an everybody-pitches-in policy which Gay instituted when she worked midnights. "It's the little things that make a big difference. You pick up your own shoes, hang up your own clothes, carry dirty clothes to the basement and put dirty glasses in the kitchen sink," said the grandmother.
Family time's a challenge
Divided responsibilities help ease the burden but fitting in other activities presents a challenge. Family meals are rare and recreational choices are limited. "The biggest thing I miss is going to the lake," Kovach said.
Sleeping, especially during warm weather, proves difficult. "In the summertime, I have a hard time sleeping because I'd like to be outside cutting grass and doing yard work. You get restless because no matter how dark the room is, you know it's pretty outside," she added.
In spite of the drawbacks, Kovach has no plans to change her schedule. "If I had to give up the midnight shift, I think there'd be a lot more adjusting. I feel like I would have to start all over to get my family organized," she said.