It seems lately that the ‘fire wife’ craze has taken over, in the form of cute shirts and quotes.
I’ve also noticed though, that often fire spouses aren’t taking the time to sit down and get real with other spouses whose significant others are also in the first responder profession.
The lack of conversations about tough things became incredibly apparent to me when my husband and I attended a conference for firefighters and their spouses. My husband was slated to take classes that focused on advanced firefighting techniques (whatever that means) and I was set to take classes about self care. I was excited because this was the first conference of its kind that I had heard of, where firefighters and their spouses were both included.
I was armed with my notepad and ready to learn coping skills and connect with other fire spouses. Until I realized that this wasn’t really what would be going down. It quickly became apparent that the set up wasn’t really intended to go deep into the issues that face first responders and their families.
In fact it ended up being a weekend of doing crafts with other women whose husbands just so happened to be in the same profession as mine.
That’s ok, in fact that experience ended up teaching more than it might have other wise. It became abundantly apparent to me that as a community we aren’t talking much about what it is like to be a fire wife. There are a lot of issues that are left unspoken, because in my opinion, we aren’t clear who we can turn to that will understand our specific set of obstacles that we face.
To be totally truthful, this topic has been on my heart since returning from the conference over a month ago. I realized that I have this wonderful platform in which I share vacation advice. I wanted to open it up to be helpful for those who may be dealing with the same situations that our family does.
It can be lonely.
Being a fire wife means that you are alone a lot. I find myself going to bed myself after I put our elementary school aged kids to bed. You see I am not the mom who can’t wait to be alone at night to eat the secret snacks or watch a show that I had been saving. When the house gets quiet, that’s when I get really lonely.
You worry…a lot.
Texts or phone calls that go unanswered for hours at a time, can cause the mind to wander. I know folks who keep a scanner on in their homes so they know what is going on. Me personally? I would rather live in bliss and find out about a situation after it is over.
Holidays aren’t ever the same.
Public servants and their families as a general rule learn that just because the date for Christmas is December 25th doesn’t mean that will be the day that Christmas is celebrate. Our children and I have spent several Thanksgivings at the fire house. Trust me that is fun in its own way.
This last year, for example was a great example of what it means to have holiday plans turned upside down because of the firehouse. My husband had requested Christmas Eve off and had in theory been granted that request. So, we volunteered to host Christmas Eve at our house and then several weeks before Christmas Eve his vacation day was canceled because no one took the overtime. So we forged on with our plans without him.
You become independent…perhaps to a fault.
It never fails, something big happens when my husband is at the fire house. The furnace quits working, my car starts acting up, one of the kids gets in big trouble. I try as much as I possibly can, to include him in the decisions that have to be made in order to resolve a particular situation. But, when hours can pass before getting ahold of him, often I have to make a decision on my own. Which I am capable of making. The problem is it becomes too easy to make the decisions on my own when he is around to offer his opinion.
The schedule is never the same.
My husband works 24 hours and then is off for 48 hours. There are a wide variety of different shift configurations for fire fighters, 24 on and 48 off happens to be his specific schedule.
I can’t begin to tell you the number of times that I have foolishly signed up for something that happens weekly on a specific day and not been able to finish out my commitment. A standing date night that is suggested by all of the marriage professionals is downright laughable.
You are often compared to single parents.
This is one of the things that irks me the most. Single parents are total rockstars in my very humble opinion. To say that I am dealing with the same headaches that they have to deal with, is an insult to them.
Overtime is a necessary evil.
As I am typing this, we are dealing with overtime headaches. My husband left the house on Saturday and I knew that he would be home on Monday morning after his two work days (one regular shift day and one overtime day) were finished. My husband called saying that he had the opportunity to pick up another overtime day on Monday which means he won’t be home until 7am on Tuesday morning. So a 48 hour shift has turned into a 72 hour shift. My kids roll with it now, but they always are a bit disappointed to hear that our plans have shifted, again.
You never know what your firefighter has had to deal with.
I can’t count the number of times that I hear my husband talking to a co-worker about something that happened on a scene and I have said “you didn’t tell me that.” He thankfully shields me from the things that I don’t need to know about. The details are often gory and sad.
I have learned however, that the way that he copes is often by coming home and sleeping while the kids are at school and it is time for him to go and pick them up. I used to get so upset that he slept so much, but they are often woken up several times during the night. In addition I have learned that my firefighter deals with the things that he would rather not talk about by sleeping.
I have stopped asking questions and encourage him to utilize the tools that the department has in place for situations like that and talking to other firefighters.
Why you should prioritize getting away as a family and as a couple.
Truth be told, a large part of the reason that I started this website was to help planning my family’s travel. Travel was huge for me growing up, some of my best memories stem from the mishaps that happened on the road.
Taking time to get out of town is important to help unwind and get away from the everyday stress that comes along with being a First Responder family.
Take a look at some of our favorite vacation destinations, they might just be what you need to reconnect as a family!
I would love it if you share with me some of the issues that you face as a fire spouse. It would be great to connect virtually.