Meg FFW Graphic
As I write this, we are one full month into a regular fire schedule. I use the term “regular” rather loosely. As many veteran fire wives can attest, there really is no such thing as regular. Things come up, shifts get traded, overtime gets mandatoried, and so on. However, his “regular” shift of 48 on, 48 off is in full swing.

I assumed (go ahead and get your laugh out now, we all know where we end up with assumptions, haha!) that after a year of the semi-sporadic private ambulance schedule (three days in a row of 12s, typically), I was ready for this. Ha! I naively assumed that I would not have an adjustment period. Wrong! I am still adjusting. Although I feel like I have a much better handle on things now than I did three weeks ago. I have gotten through 24s, 48s, 72, 96s, a mandatoried 24, and even a 12 hour pick up shift between 72s. Honestly, even in writing all that out, I can tell you it is much harder on him! (Duh!)

I did not realize that literally not seeing my husband for four days would be hard. When he worked for the ambulance company, at least we got a hug and kiss twice a day and usually shared the same bed. (Night shifts meant we had about an hour of snuggles in the am, but he slept days and I slept nights). Four days without a hug though, that’s hard! That also means that I am extra affectionate during those off days! It makes me appreciate those hugs and kisses a whole lot more. And kudos to those of you with husbands who deploy, whew that would be rough!
He also managed to work both of the last major holidays (Easter and Memorial Day), thanks to the luck of the schedule. It actually was not that big of a deal to me, and thankfully my husband kept texting me to relax and enjoy my day (he knew I was trying to catch up on cleaning). His station is about an hour from us, and most of the guys live that far away, if not further (thank you huge County department!). So there’s not a big sense of family there, with the extended families that is. It’s not like all the wives join together for holidays, there’s just too much moving around the department for that. However, the crew has let me join them for dinner on both holidays, and welcomed me in. That made me have something to look forward to on holidays too!

Easter at the station

Easter at the station

I have learned to expect the unexpected and roll with the punches. You never know when something will come up and they are stuck at the station for another day or two. So far, it’s only happened once. Well, once without advance knowledge of the extra shift. One text of, “I won’t be home tomorrow, but the next day.” I vaguely remember thinking, “of course it had to be after this one crazy day when a whole bunch of stuff happened and I really needed to see my husband.” But, as you can see, I survived. I was able to talk to him on the phone about important decisions that had to be made, and then get out the door for a girls night. I also checked in with my fire wives online (you should really join the sisterhood and find our facebook group) and was informed that this is called shift night karma, or something like that. Somehow it just seems like the crazy stuff happens on shifts days (remember the dog drama from last month?).

Anyways, as much as I expect the unexpected, I am also a very organized person who likes to plan and make lists and organize all of the little details of my life. I am definitely letting some of that go, but I have also learned how to make that work in the fire schedule. When Matt first was hired as an EMT, I called a friend and asked her for life tips on scheduling. She informed me that her planner was her lifeline. I went online and paid way too much ($50!) for a one year planner. But that thing HAS been a lifesaver. I keep track of his various jobs and schedules on the monthly calendar. Then on Sundays I go through and write what is happening on the weekly pages, for both him and myself. I am able to tentatively plan out friend times when I know he will be working, but then I can also change things up as necessary. I still haven’t switched to writing in pencil, but white out works wonders.

I have learned that he can ask for days off, but I know it’s not a high priority on his list right now. someday, he will be higher up and we can take longer vacations, but right now I take what I can get. We actually got lucky and last weekend he ended up with 4 days off in a row! It was so wonderful, and we even made it up the hill for an impromptu camping trip. He needed rest and I knew getting away was the only way it would happen! This happened by chance because his coworker needed a few days off, but it also meant that Matthew had to work some longer hours the week before. So I have to remind myself of that in the midst of those LONG weeks with him gone a lot. I have also learned that not everything is something worthy of him trying to get the days off. As much as I want him to attend every party or wedding with me, I have realized that I have to prioritize the days I would like his company. For instance, we are going to Flame Fest next month, and I know that may mean sacrificing another camping weekend.

Photo Jun 01, 11 16 52 AM

The one thing we are still working through is resting together. He is in a season of working hard and not stopping much. I totally understand. That is my personality, go go go! However, marriages require nurturing in order for surviving and thriving. I am very independent, so usually when he works these crazy hours it does not bother me. However, two weeks ago, he signed up for a 12 hour shift with a private ambulance company on his 48 off between two 72s. (you follow?) I was so irritated, because he scheduled it at night and I wouldn’t even get to snuggle with him as I fell asleep, and he would be sleeping during our day off together! I assumed that I wouldn’t mind the extra shifts, but this one got to me. However, I knew it was not his first choice, and necessary. So I let it go. But we used it as an opportunity to talk about extra shifts and what is best for us and our family.

So in the last month I have adjusting to a fire wife schedule. I’m not one hundred percent going with the flow yet, but I am definitely on my way! Learning to be flexible and to expect the unexpected. Any other tips for this newbie?

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Megan is a relatively new firewifey in Southern California. She loves the Lord, her (fire)man, coffee & wine! She and her husband, Matt, have two dogs and two cats. She bakes, sews, crochets, & loves to be creative in any way. You can also find her blogging at firewifey.com. Matt is a Limited Term firefighter with our County, applying all over the place for that full time gig.

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