In our early years of marriage, the giddiness of dating a thrill seeker tough guy fireman quickly faded with every 24 or 48 hour shift I spent home alone covered in clingy toddlers and stinky infant formula.
At first I was so proud to say I was dating, then engaged to and finally married to a firefighter.
But as I went through some difficult seasons of my life, I became jealous and agitated every time he left for the firehouse. This translated to phone calls that were challenging while he was away. Did I want to hear about the steaks they grilled or the homemade lasagna he just ate while I finished the kids leftover PB&J?
And I definitely didn’t want to hear how he watched some fabulous new release movie, casually and leisurely with adult conversation while I suffered through yet another episode of Tellatubbies (insert current favorite children’s cartoon to match your generation….Barney, Yo Gabba Gabba, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse).
These years were the most difficult for “hating the firehouse”. Why am I smiling? I was in church with our whole family. And my husband was getting a little spoonful of my daily life with the 20 month old. (And I remember finally feeling pretty that day because I dressed up for the baptism instead of wearing PJs or sweatpants!)
Although this was the job that:
- He was designed for and he loved
- Provided for our family
- Did not hate me back (in fact, most of the firefighters really embraced our cute little fire family)
I began to resent it. Yes, another irrational, faulty, human emotion.
Those feelings were very real. And very hurtful. And mixed in with issues of his own, it was very challenging to deal with in our marriage. We were walking on eggshells of tension constantly when he was home. (Ironic because when he was gone I only wanted him to be home!).
But did you catch what I wrote above? “As I went through some difficult seasons in my life…..”
I find the toughest days for him to be gone for so long are the days when I am struggling.
Maybe I just have a cold or I’m extra tired from being up with a sick kid. Or I had a super challenging day at work and get to come home to be “single supermom” for the evening.
And for those particular years, I was still a somewhat selfish newlywed learning how to love someone more completely.
Yes we take those vows and mean them with all of our heart.
But that one sweet moment on our wedding day vanishes from our brain cells in a moment of Fire Wife Reality TV when you realize there is only one evening out of the next 5 you will spent together and it’s likely to be the day you start your period.
All the while, he’s L-O-V-I-N-G life at the firehouse. Eating like a king. Getting his workouts in. Being complimented by the community with plates of warm chocolate chip cookies. Shooting hoops with his buddies between calls.
That’s not a job! It’s a regular ole fraternity house. (Minus the alcohol)
And I must not ignore that the perfectly coiffured and manicured ER nurses who dote all over him are like nails on a chalkboard when I have 20 pounds of post-partum flab around my middle which looks hideous disguised in spit up-stained yoga pants, and my pregnancy acne has not yet made a graceful exit.
All this adds up to one succinctly stated sentiment:
I hate the firehouse! Don’t you dare pick up another shift at that evil den of filth, slander and iniquity that is destroying our marriage!
Um, ok. That’s a broad leap to a generalization that couldn’t be further from the truth. Let’s see how wrong that is.
- He misses me and the kids like MAD when he’s there
- All he talks about while he is there is us
- He has ignored and skipped out on the adventures the single guys are taking on their off days so he can get home to us
- He truly has no clue what he can say to his beautiful bride when she’s gone psycho brain on him due to her hormones and emotional baggage that is bursting all over their home
- Our communication could be better, and could resolve irrational emotions for both of us.
I did not really hate his firehouse.
It was the comparison to my unhappy world at the moment. My expectations were not right. I was not feeling well physically due to pregnancy, etc. The transition to 3 kids only 4.5 years apart while hanging onto my part time corporate career was breaking me. The firehouse was the scapegoat. And it was completely selfish and unfair of me to try to make my husband feel guilty for his “good life” just because I was in a tough space. A space where I was in over my head with motherhood responsibilities with very little help around.
It’s not that I didn’t love those sweet peas and feel grateful for every ounce of healthy child we’d been blessed with. But it was the classic “life transition overwhelm”. And not having enough of the right positive influences in my life to remind me. The church women’s bible studies didn’t work with his schedule. I didn’t have much time to take care of “me”. But those were all things that needed to happen.
I had to stop being jealous of the firehouse in order for our marriage to succeed.
- Marriage counseling: This is one season of our life when we did participate in counseling.
- Getting away together and taking a big giant family time out: See our most favorite family vacation below
- Me working on me. I read at that time a book called “Wild at Heart” by John Eldridge. It’s for men. And the first time it really ticked me off. (long story) But the short story is that the second time I understood better the instinctual needs of my husband to be an adventurer, hunter, provider, rescuer. This was huge in the growth of our marriage (and notice it required nothing of him)
- Getting to know some of the people at the firehouse better. Connecting with other fire wives who shared my concerns. Realizing I’m not crazy!
- Time. Babies grow fast. Seasons change in the blink of an eye. You won’t be changing diapers and watching kid TV forever. In fact, in hindsight, it is so incredibly short and then you send them to school and you miss it.
My heart is with all of you struggling with this topic. I encourage you to connect with your fire life community if possible and start working through the tough stuff.
Fire marriages can work
The same season of our life feeling GOOD with my babies on my hips. After a L-O-N-G cold and gray Ohio winter, we spent every penny of our tax return on a week long spring break in San Diego doing NOTHING. The getaway was priceless actually and hugely needed for our family and marriage restoration.
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