Meet Lisa Green. She has been married to David for over 16 years, they have two children (Leon age 14 and Seth age 11) and they live in Orlando, Florida. David has been a volunteer firefighter since he was a teenager and a professional Firefighter/Medic for over 16 years. I asked Lisa a few questions and this is what she had to say…
How did you two meet, was he a fireman already and what did you think about it?
David and I met at a Jewish singles event at our local Jewish Community Center ; the day started off with a comedian and this guy sitting next to me had the most contagious laugh…it was David. I like to say he took me to France and Japan for our first date…it was really France and Japan at EPCOT; we were married on May 25, 1997 (exactly one year from our first date).David was a volunteer FF and had a full-time job when we met…he was looking for a full-time FF job, his first day at his first professional FF job was one month before our wedding. I told him to just show up the day of the wedding. He used his one vacation day for our wedding day and we cancelled our honeymoon. Someone was kind enough to swap shifts with David and we had a couple days after the wedding to get away. We took our “official” honeymoon on our first anniversary. I never really thought twice about David’s profession…it was part of him, part of the package, part of his identity.
What has been the toughest thing the fire service has placed in your marriage and how did you deal with it?
Before we had children nothing bothered me about the fire service. I liked having some time to myself. For me, it was after we had children when it got tough…not in a bad way. I was adjusting to being a new mom and getting what I consider my first real taste of the FFW life. I remember when David went back to work after our oldest son was born. I was too afraid to leave the house with a newborn (I didn’t know what to do). And sleep (or the lack thereof). When David came home from a 24 I would say, “Don’t tell me how many consecutive hours of sleep you had.” The hardest thing for me then, and even now is being unavailable. When he is at the FD he is unavailable. Unavailable to help with the big decisions or stop the overflowing toilet. Unavailable to share the driving when our children have to be in different places at the same time. Unavailable when a child gets his arm stuck in a cement-based t-ball stand (yes…that happened and our local FD came). Inevitably, everything hits the fan on shift-day. Earlier this year one of my sons had some health issues and we were seeing different specialists. Sometimes the only appointments we could get were on shift days and I had to make some pretty big decisions by myself….they were the kind of decisions I would have liked to discuss with my husband. We don’t always have that luxury and I had to just do it on my own.
I don’t know how I dealt with it when our children were babies. It seemed like I was living Darwin’s “Survival of the Fittest.” Resentment built up and I was jealous of the time he had at the FD – he got to talk with adults and use the bathroom without a child walking in. After 15 years of marriage I found FFW.com…that is what helped me gain insight into a day in the life of a FF. We have always lived too far away from the FD to visit and I don’t know many of the fire families. I never had anyone to talk to about this life…not someone who could truly understand it. It was when I found FFW.com that I learned everything I was feeling, experiencing, seeing and living was completely normal.
What is the best advice, if any, you’ve gotten about being married to a firefighter?
Keep those communication lines open.
Part-time single parenting, best and worst parts?
Worst: Murphy’s Law (everything happens on shift day); events/holidays/birthdays alone; FF missing our sons’ school events; my sons asking, “When is Dad coming home?” They still ask…even as teens. Not being able to see family for Thanksgiving because no one is nearby and my husband will always have to work one of the days (Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.)
Best: I do love to have the bed to myself. Don’t get me wrong…I want David home but there isn’t anything wrong with having the bed to myself.
Do you worry about his safety while on duty? How do you cope?
It is always in the back of my mind but it doesn’t paralyze me. Some days are easier than others but it doesn’t stop me from doing anything. I have to just push it out of my mind. Having said that: Every shift I give my husband to the public; to put his life on the line for strangers; to put strangers first even before his own family. For 24 hours I give my husband away knowing the dangers of the job, knowing he may not come home.
Every time my husband comes home from work I say a silent, “Thank you.”
What is your best Fire marriage advice for soon-to-be or new fire wives?
-They don’t truly relax at work. They are always waiting for the “next” call. Yes, they watch TV and joke around and eat together but the tones are always going off. Even when in bed they have to be ready for the call. When he comes home from work he may want to sleep/relax. He may not want to talk about work. It is okay and not personal. When my husband comes home from work he likes knowing he can walk in the door and leave the FD at the FD. The same way many of us would like to leave our work at work.
-Realize our guys are FFs and regularly have to tune things out (like the tones). Don’t be surprised if the kids have a mudslinging argument while the FF sits quietly and doesn’t do anything. That drove me crazy until someone pointed out that is what he does…tune out the small stuff and react to the big. Arguing children is not big in my FF’s world.
-There will be times when he can’t talk on the phone or send a text message. There will be times when you are on the phone and he will have to hang up. It is the job and nothing personal.
-Trust yourself. Know you can make decisions on your own. Give yourself lots of credit because FFWs are a strong, unique breed.
-I think David sometimes feel left out. Sometimes so much has happened during the 24 hours I cannot catch him up. Up until this school year my sons and I had a routine. Remember David isn’t home two mornings out of three. When he wakes up at home and stays at home it could be a little chaotic because another person has been introduced to our “routine.” Here is the flip side. Our oldest son started high school this year and is at school by 7:00 A.M. Because of my husband’s schedule he is able to drive our son to school two mornings out of three. That third day, when FF wakes up at the FD, is hard because he is not here.
The divorce rates for the fire service are said to be around 75%, what keeps your marriage out of that number?
-Communication, communication, communication. Letting things fester only makes things worse. Please don’t expect them (or anyone else) to take “hints” and figure out what you are feeling….just say it respectfully and calmly. I’ll bet he doesn’t even realize what is going on inside of you.
What should every fire wife know or do, to ensure they become a Veteran Fire Wife?
-Be flexible: Our FFs have no control over when calls come in and being held over. They have no control over forced OT.
-Know whatever is bothering you at home probably bothers the FF also. For example: kids fighting, illness, missing holidays, dead battery, broken garage door, fires in their own home (yes, it happened with us…it was small and our local FD came). Just think of how frustrating it would be if you got a phone call that your child was sick and you were 3,000 miles away and couldn’t get home. It is the same for the FF…he might as well be 3,000 miles away when at work. It is just as frustrating for them at work knowing what is going on at home and they cannot do anything about it (unless an emergency).
-When he misses birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, appointments, school shows try an remember what he can that many others cannot…chaperone school trips, go to the movies in the middle of the day in the middle of the week, cook dinner (mine does 90% of the cooking).
What does the Sisterhood bring into your life as a Veteran fire wife?
I feel normal!!! When I found FFW.com it was the first time I had ever talked to someone who knew what I was thinking and feeling. It is amazing to have a place to go where I don’t have to explain 24/48, or what a “good” call is, or why I’m alone at a gathering. With our Sisterhood all I have to do is say “shift day” and gets ‘it.’ Our Sisterhood is special. I have never met a group of women so supportive and genuine. I feel like I have over 150 sisters. I could go almost anywhere and have a sister nearby. For the first time I know I have a place to go where, with one word, everyone understands. I no longer feel like I’m in this FFW life alone. The Sisterhood gives me a place to go when I am a little anxious or frustrated and need a little pick-me-up. It is a place I share happy, funny and proud moments. It is a place to go for insight and someone else’s opinion. We have so many ladies from all walks of life who can offer different and valuable perspectives. No judgment. No bashing of any kind. Just amazing women who share a special common bond…the FFW life.
Our Sisterhood is uplifting, supportive, genuine, respectful. Our Sisterhood is my place to relax, clear my head, laugh and cry. Our Sisterhood gives me a sense of belonging because the lives we lead are unique. Who else can better understand what feel and think? Who else knows what “clear right” means? Who else knows what a “good” fire call is? I know who. A FFW. We may be separated by miles, but I carry the hearts of over 150 FFW with me every day.
Thank you to Lisa, for giving us such great answers and advice! We always know we can look to her for solid wisdom! We feature a different Firefighter Wife every 1st and 3rd Monday of each month. Check back to meet more of the wonderful women of the Fire Wife Sisterhood!
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