When my husband and I were first dating and starting to get serious, he gave me a very stern talk about how firefighters can’t just call of work or get off duty whenever they need to. People need saving 24/7 and we can’t just empty the station (or something to that effect…..Mr. Incredible’s speech keeps coming to mind for some reason.)
I remember feeling a bit trapped with those words. It was one of the first times I really understood what it would mean to be a firefighter’s wife. It would be part of my duty to keep things together here because I couldn’t count on him to get home and help always if needed.
My perspective at the time was quite different. I worked in a corporate salaried job with a great team of people who were so flexible about family and personal needs. The times I couldn’t take off were more about critical meetings with customers, higher ups or key team workshops. And those were more of a choice to not take off than a demand to not do it. (A career altering choice in some cases of course.)
But looking around at my colleagues who had spouses in similar fields, they had agreements on who would take off when. They were able to share and compromise and balance the load.
On the other hand, it’s mega-awesome when the sick child incident occurs during my firefighters 48 hours off (except for the sick kid part of course)
Or is it? That’s been a discussion too. There are things to accomplish during that 48 hours off that sometimes can’t be moved either and can’t be done with a sick child snuggled on your lap burning up with fever.
First of all, don’t we just wish we never had to see our babies (of any age) sick? It breaks a parents heart to see them that way. You’ll do almost anything to help them. But kids get sick. That’s part of the parenting game. And elevates the selflessness of marriage to a new level.
I mean, when we first get married we realize it’s not all about us. There is now someone to whom I will sacrifice much for their happiness. Then comes baby. And that unconditional love goes even further than you ever imagined.
But, you reach a point where all the selfless love and giving in your heart does not match up with the appointments scheduled on the calendar. We all want to stay home with our sick kids but it’s just not always feasible because we also need to be responsible with our employment so we can continue to provide for them.
Last night for example. Shift night of course. And I get tapped on the shoulder only 1.5 sweet hours into my heavy sleep cycle. (I’m still feeling that today.) Of course it’s no worse than the 5 medic runs my husband took except that I have to drag my put together tired self into the office and lead a training all day….as if I’m sunshine and rainbows as I transform boring system training into a magical world of fun and delight.
But when I got that dreaded tap on the shoulder last night, I was just hoping that I wouldn’t have to scramble and zag left and call out unspoken favors because someone needed to hit the doctor today. This time it all worked out. (whew!)
My Best Tips for Juggling Sick Kids With a Fire Family Schedule
Let’s just get to the point. These are the moments that may drive us over the edge. So far, 15 years into parenting 4 children, 13 of them while married to a firefighter and holding down a full or part time Monday thru Friday job all of those years, here is what I can share. Cling to the hope that there is sanity after this season (if you consider my writing to this point sane!)
1. At some point you will argue over who’s work day takes priority. Don’t let it turn into an epic fight.
You’re both tired. The kids are whiney. And you truly may never understand the trade offs either of you make if you have really different career fields like my husband and I. Just keep your calm and don’t let it escalate. Escalations hurt and take longer to recover from.
2. It’s only a season.
You can get through anything for a season. This thought alone got us through so many years of exhausting parenting. Those germ infested toddlers and pre-schoolers who can’t keep their hands out of their mouths and cough all over you, do grow up into OCD hand washing teens (true story in our house – and I do miss that squishy germy face!)
And yes this applies when all 4 children contract the same illness serially. Meaning 3 straight weeks of sickness where you consider fogging your house with a cleansing bomb (have those been invented yet?)
3. In Home Childcare Drastically Helps This Problem
We have almost always used in home childcare. With 4 kids we practically run our own small daycare anyhow. But this has the benefit of someone running a 100 degree temp being able to stay home with a babysitter where they are more comfortable and the babysitter has no problem pumping ibuprofen every 4 hours to keep it down. (See this post about the best childcare options for fire families)
4. Sometimes nothing is more important than a sick baby.
I’ve skipped meetings. I’ve skipped entire international trips! Just because baby wants his mama when he isn’t feeling good. And the world didn’t stop. And I didn’t lose my job. (I may have lost my mind watching teletubbies for the entire day in a loop!) But sometimes mama or daddy who have been up all night tending to a sick one, need a day to snuggle up on the couch too.
Thinking of all you fire families making these trade offs today! Snuggle in and drink up the Vitamin C!
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