Last Christmas day, my husband sat across the room and said he felt like this Christmas didn’t really feel like Christmas.  He hadn’t really seen any of the gifts that I had been scrambling around the past month to buy for the kids.  And myself and our teen daughter did most of the wrapping.  There was no holiday party and he was working when we did the holiday decorating and baking.
Some of that is just the fire life but there was one more culprit this year.  One that was so all consuming, my husband, who is so intentional about family time, let it own his December:   the promotional process.  While at that point, we were beyond the testing phase, we were heavy in the “what if” phase, meaning, “what if so and so leaves?  How will they fill that?  Will I get the promotion finally?”   And this one.  “What are they going to do with that new position?  Will it be an officer position and will I then get the promotion?”   And my favorite (insert eye roll), “what if we need to accept a 40-hour position if I get promoted?”
The topic was all consuming.   I listened and listened and rationalized and encouraged and gently redirected when thoughts and words got off track.
There were endless text message exchanges and phone calls.  There were extra meetings at the station on days off.
Then, the most obtrusive moment in our family Christmas…..we had him on a day off.  Finally.  We were dividing and conquering with our little kids in Meijers as they bought gifts for mom, dad and brothers and sisters.   That’s when he got the email.  Then the texts.  Then the phone calls.   Christmas spirit was out the window.  Some decisions had been made, well, actually not clearly made.  Something was announced but not the full picture so there was much debate, discussion, and speculation.  And that’s where his head went.
The promotional process stole our Christmas.  
Now, I’m not trying to complain about leadership here.  I’ve been a leader of many large teams in my day and this isn’t a moment to throw a leader under the bus, especially if you’re one who’s in the heat of the promotional process right now and haven’t yet had to sit on that side of the table.   Obviously, these are very exciting, stressful and personal moments in one’s career.   They are some of the moments to not mess up as a leader and you’re dealing with people’s hopes and dreams.
Any decision like this is equally stressful on the leadership.   So go easy on them.
I’m also not wanting to blame my husband.  This promotion was 15 years in the making and I was just as excited for him.   It’s hard for it to not be on the front of your mind when, depending on the outcome, your next 5 – 10 years could look very different.   It is a super important topic.
The real message here is this.   In 30 days, 90 days, one year from now, this momentary stress won’t matter.   But missing your kids Christmas may always leave a little sting in your soul.
But no one says it better to the men than, well the men.   I’m going to turn it over to Chief LePore, founder of Aspiring Fire Officers to share some very wise words for those of you in the promotional cycle right here in December.

Hello everyone,

With the holiday season in full swing, it is important to remember to keep a healthy balance.  While promoting is certainly on the forefront of your mind, so too is your family.  It’s OK to take a break and be there for them.  Allow yourself the opportunity to close the books and not to be distracted.  Be attentive and responsive to your loved ones.  Having a healthy balance means putting things in the right perspective.

It’s important to remember that the promotional process is a marathon, not a sprint.  Pace yourself!  Slowing down to regroup and re-energize is an important part of your study plan.  It’s impractical and unhealthy to keep up a frantic pace.  Studies have shown that pushing away from the studying and disengaging for a period of time is healthy and results in better test scores in the long run.  How long you take a break is up to you.  A break may be an hour, a day, or even a full weekend.  It’s completely up to you.

A recommendation is to keep a post it note handy.  Before you take your break, use the post it to mark your place.  You may even want to jot a few notes on the post it to remind yourself to review a certain section when you return.  This will help you hit the ground running when you get back in the game.  The benefit of taking a break is that  when you return, you will feel energized and ready to pick up where you left off.

The promotional process takes a toll on more than just you.  It is difficult on your family too.  Your significant other and your children are impacted in ways that you may not even realize.  It is likely that you are not around as much (because you are studying).  When you are around, you are likely thinking about fire flows, building construction, or how you are going to get a 360 of a large building.  They see that things are different with you.  Even when you are part of the family, it is likely that you are not completely there.

I want you to know that it’s OK to take time off and focus on your family during the holiday season.  The fire service is a great career.  Your family is forever!

Best of luck and enjoy the holiday season

Chief Lepore

Thank you Chief!!   Whenever I meet someone like you in my venturing around fire service events, it brings me such hope.   Firefighters need to have men in their life helping them get it ALL right.  The fire service, family and otherwise.   Aspiring Fire Officers has created dozens of videos, mock tests, simulations, interviews – they are all at your fingertips to help take out the “what if’s” for exam day.   And, they are big proponents of studying smart and testing well to minimize the impact on your family life.


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On a mission to be and inspire us all to be better humans, to strengthen fire families & marriages, to nurture and encourage fire wives, do "good business" in all areas of my life and of course, love on my 4 kids.