David Botts, 44, usually works -- and prefers -- the midnight shift (11:15 p.m.-7:15 a.m.) as a Smithsonian power-plant engineer foreman. His wife, Rose, 45, works days, 9 a.m.-5:45 p.m., as a credit-agency clerical superviser.

Botts has worked a shift schedule six of the seven years he's been with the Smithsonian. "I got out of the service in 1972 to help Rose raise the kids four children, now ranging in age from 24 to 20 ." Before that he was a Navy combat photographer, and after the Vietnam war, went to the White House as a presidential photographer.

Because Botts' time off alternates with weekends for a month, and then Tuesdays and Wednesdays, he sometimes has dinner ready--"as a surprise"--when his wife gets home.

During the day, he pays bills and does "most of the housekeeping, whatever has to be done, taking out the trash, that sort of thing."

His daily chores don't bother him, he says, "As long as I can be finished by noon and can watch my soap operas." He also does air-conditioning work on the outside and other part-time work "on my own schedule."

The Bottses try to avoid calling each other at work "unless it's something important." "On her birthday and things like that," he says, "I will have flowers sent to her at the office."

The midnight shift, says Botts, has "a lot of advantages. At the Smithsonian now I'm more managing and watching than doing," which is why he has taken on the outside work, to "keep up with advances in the field."

The couple trades off on buying the groceries. Weekends are devoted primarily to family activities. When the weather is good, "It's the whole family," says Botts, "including the grandkids boys, 15 months, 2 1/2 and 5 years old . We'll go places, to a beach or a park.

"We always do things as a family, even if it's no more than a cookout in the back yard."

Their division of labor, the Bottses agree, suits them well. "You can make it work," says David Botts.

"The midnight shift is better," says Rose Botts, "because when I get home he's at home and we get to spend some time together.

"I don't know why I like the midnight shift. Maybe because we're used to it. In any case, it just works out fine."