It’s only been a few weeks that I’ve been managing this site so far. First let me just say that you all are A-MAZING! I knew there were others out there having the same troubles I do but these are like too many scary coincidences. You are truly walking in my shoes and I’m so happy to be walking beside you all now.
By far the most common question I’ve seen pop up – through the comments forms, private messages and through seeing what people are googling and then coming to this site – has to do with being a newlywed or soon-to-be fire wife. They want some pointers. Since this is my first blog post on this topic, I’m going to miss a MILLION points, so I’m begging you experienced firefighter wives to chime in with comments. For now, I’ll just attempt to answer a couple really good questions from one reader:
How easy is it to keep a job with kids and his crazy schedule?
In some ways, it can be easier. If you are in a field with shift hours, like the medical profession, I’ve seen lots of fire families make that work great. The kids don’t have to do much childcare (huge cost savings!) and as a mom, those schedules tend to let you be home more for the hours your kids need you. The downside is that you can end up tag-teaming in and out of the ring as you pass each other going to and from work. You definitely must find a balance there and time to communicate the important kid stuff. Such as, Luke is grounded from the Wii no matter what he tells you he is not allowed to play it until Friday. And Maya already had 2 Oreos so do not let her tell you she didn’t have any!
I work a M-F 8 – 5 kind of job and this can get challenging, especially if he gets overtime and we don’t have a sitter lined up! Plus I have travel and finding a sitter for 24 hour shifts, well, we don’t even try. Mawmaw and Pawpaw are saints and travel 2 hours to stay with the kids when I have to travel. Crazy? Definitely. Achievable? Absolutely.
But I LOVE that the firefighter schedule lets Dad’s get to spend daytime hours with their kids, attend school functions, etc. So many dad’s working the corporate hours really miss out on so much of their kids best hours of the day and come home tired only to have to pick up the computer for more work.
I have seen some households where the firefighter dad works a second job, frequently at a second firehouse, meaning more 24 hour shifts. This leaves mom home to tend to most all household and family responsibilities. If that matches up to your passions and calling in life, so many people make this work as well. But I would caution that Daddy can easily become a stranger in this scenario and Mommy may easily turn to drinking to keep her sanity (just kidding!)
What do you do when you can’t sleep at night?
I have personally not had much of a problem with this but there have been occasions when I’ve woken up in a panic, my heart racing, with the sensation that something isn’t right. This happens especially if I fall asleep waiting for his call and he gets to busy with runs to call me at a reasonable hour. Finally, after 10 years of marriage, he understands this and will at least send me a text to say good night and that he is fine.
When I wake up in this panic, I take some deep breaths, focus myself mentally and not let my thoughts race. In some moments I have found myself literally planning his funeral in my mind, tears streaming down my face, before I catch myself and pull out of it.
“For real brain? If something happened, someone would have called. No reason to think those irrational thoughts. Life is too short. Focus on the positive, the happy.”
To be brutally honest and transparent, I sometimes look at the local news to see if there was a big fire, SWAT team incident, shooting, mob, gas line leak, 10 car pile up, you name it. Silly, but effective.
How can you talk about all the gruesome things that he sees without taking it in and making yourself a stress ball!?
If he is telling you these stories, be a listener (of course!) Some guys tuck this stuff inside and it spills out in other bad ways – anger, depression, lethargy – that leave you wondering, what the heck did I do and what is wrong with him? So if he is talking, that is HUGE. The firehouse can be a testosterone laden gruff and rough place. So to have the gentle ear and soul of a wife to come home and share these things is s0 valuable.
Now, there are some disgusting stories my husband has told me which left permanent visual scars in my memory…..and I wasn’t even the one who saw them! My brain just took them in and gave them their own nasty picture. (And now they are recurring as I write this. Ugh!)
But the ones that really get to me, and to him, are about the innocent children in awful living conditions. Not to mention those who lost a mother or father that day. Or who that got into harms way by accident – drownings, hit by a car, shot by a stray bullet.
Whenever I hear those stories, they do stick with me all day. Not in a fixated, can’t focus kind of way. Because I’ve learned that while I can do little things, I can’t do everything. And that’s where I must pray for those people and let God step in. Letting myself turn into an emotional stress ball isn’t going to help anyone! And when thoughts of these victims creep into my head throughout the next day or so, it helps to remind me how abundantly blessed we are to have our health, a home, food and loved ones still with us.
My evil twin sometimes schemes about stealing these babies from awful living conditions in the dark of night. So in quiet moments, I fantasize of starting a massive non-profit to reach into these gaps that our firefighters see everyday.
“Isn’t bad enough for Children’s Services to take the kids but……”
“Disabled and can’t work to earn money but social security and unemployment are not enough…..”
“Elderly and alone and unable to cook for themselves but their busy grown children live on the other side of town….”
There’s a reason God made him a firefighter and you his (soon-to-be) wife. Because you can handle it! You were designed for this.
Sometimes when it seems like there may be an easier way to make a living than firefighting, I remind my husband of all the people he’s saved, all the babies he’s birthed (4! how cool is that?) and how many more there are to come. God put him in their path to intercede and be their helper.
One final thought…..PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome) is very real in the fire service. And something that needs more exposure and understanding. I hope to bring more light to that subject on this website. In the meantime, keep listening and being the gentle sanctuary for him to recoup and recover after a long duty day.
What are other questions you have as a soon-to-be Firefighter Wife? You’ve come to a great community of women for support. We look forward to having you around.