Railroad Family Life

For the past seven years, I have been getting acclimated to “life with a railroader”. My husband is a Locomotive Engineer and has been since I’ve known him. Over those seven years, we dated, got married, added 2 dogs and 2 children to the mix. I’d say I have a pretty decent grasp on this whole thing by now. I did have three other women weigh in who are all moms and small business owners as well.

I feel like I have spent a good portion of the last 7 years just trying to get friends and family to understand our life and I have just had to accept that most will not and that’s ok! I’m glad I have people who do understand that I can vent to and compare notes.

I remember when we first started dating, all of the different terms, inconsistent schedule, and all the questions made my head spin. Not only was I trying to figure all of this out, but I was left having to defend my now husband when he would be absent or tardy to plans. My husband is 5th generation working on the railroad so it has certainly been and always will be a huge part of his life and now has become a huge part of mine as well. That is why I created this list to give you a glimpse into our world.

1. “How don’t you know if you can do dinner NEXT WEEK?”

I hear this so often and if it’s not about dinner plans, it’s about something else. No, I do not know if he will be able to come to game night next week Cheryl! I’m not even sure if he will be home for dinner tonight, let alone next week. His schedule is CONSTANTLY changing and that means we truly never know when he will be home. We decline so many invitations because we just never know if he will be home or not and do not want to have to deal with last minute cancellations and the added stress on us.

2. I literally CRINGE when we get wedding invites in the mail.

Like straight up in my head I’m like whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy. Trust me, I’m THRILLED for you and would love nothing more than to send the kids with the grandparents, get dolled up, and spend an incredible evening with my husband. The hard part is, I can’t RSVP with even the slightest bit of certainty, so often it comes across that we don’t care or do not want to be there. We care ALOT. So much that we typically have to RSVP no because we of course do not want to be tardy or absent when we understand how much goes into a wedding, including the cost of dinner. Often times we respond that we cannot make it and then sure enough that is the day that he’s on his 48 hour rest and we easily could have made it but how was I supposed to know that 9 months ago if I can’t even predict the next?

3. I third wheel a lot!

More so when we were dating or newly married without kids. He would be away at work with no sign of being home any time soon and I didn’t want to just sit at home and miss out on time with our friends.


He has a specific ringtone set for when work calls and I get instantly annoyed when I hear it because often times it goes off when we are smack dab in the middle of literally anything. We then have to drop whatever we are doing so that he can go get ready and be to work on time.

5. You might be thinking to yourself “well don’t you have some idea of when he will he called??”

Kind of but not really. We could be headed out to go on a hike as a family and the boards will show that he won’t get called until later that night and then bam!! A bunch of people decide to lay off, vacations go into effect, extra trains are ordered, etc and then his phone is going off as soon as we set foot on the trail.

6. Embrace solo parenting

Due to the fact that I literally never know when he will be home, I cannot rely on him whatsoever for anything in regards to the kids. I must schedule everything as if I am a single parent. If he’s home, great! But I can’t rely on that because more often then not he won’t be home. I schedule our babysitters for months in advance because I have my own business to run, appointments, etc. and I just never know when he will be home. Many times the sitter will be showing up as he’s getting off of work and we aren’t just going to be like “well I know you cleared your schedule to watch our children and were planning on the pay as well but since my husband is home now, you can leave.” Nope, we just keep our schedule as is, keep the sitter, keep our routine and if he’s around, great! If not, life has to keep on. Most of the the kids are camped out at the window watching for dad when they know he should be coming home soon!

Many nights it’s just me doing dinner, bath time, bedtime, etc. on my own and then once both kids are finally asleep I’m left to clean up, get my things ready for the next day and try to squeeze in a couple hours of sleep before the baby wakes up for the first of many times for the night.


Uhg dinner. You literally can never plan a well thought out meal that they can eat while still hot unless they are already home. Luckily for me, my husband does not like leftovers🤦🏻‍♀️ so that has been fun. I honestly just kind of gave up on dinner. I eat leftovers most of the week. The kids eat whatever I can get them to chew up and swallow🤣 and well, Josh eats a lot of chipotle and Qdoba.

8. Date nights are often on a random Tuesday morning

We can never really plan an actual date night since we try to use his days off for holidays and important events for the kids. If we are both home on a Tuesday morning and the sitter happens to be there then we go pick up a nitro cold brew and stroll around Menards planning our dream home or go drive around neighborhoods looking at actual dream homes. We have amazing parents who also will notice when we are both home in the evening and will take the kids so we can grab a bite to eat together!


I’m extremely type A and love plans! I have learned to embrace going with the flow and it’s truly helped my anxiety and feeling the need to have control. “It is what it is” has become a motto in my life and I’m certainly not laid beck by any means but I’ve gotten much better over the years at accepting the constant changes and inconsistent schedule. I’ve learned that I have to create structure for the kids but also be understanding when my husband just needs a day with no structure. He works all shifts so sometimes he has to catch up on sleep during the day and other times he is fortunate to work a day shift and can be home to have dinner with us and get a workout in!

My husband literally built a home gym to make sure he could get his workouts in because the gym he attends is open limited hours and he likes to keep on schedule with the workouts! He has a weight dropping curfew implemented by myself and our neighbors 😅

I probably made our life seem terrible but it is not in the least bit! This is all I know now and I could not imagine life any other way. There are definitely numerous positives that come with railroad life and we consider ourselves very fortunate!

Thank you for following along if you made of this far!

Published by Kathleen Pielhop - Midwest Mama -Creator

I took over my father’s blog September of 2017 after losing his battle with mental illness. This blog was originally to share my journey through grieving, finding peace, and trusting God in the process...and in many ways is exactly that. This has evolved into life as a family of 4 with 2 dogs, living in the Midwest. I will cover everything from fashion to our family routines. Join us on this crazy adventure!

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