All the different answers the wives gave opened my eyes to the fact that not all stations are like ours. Things are different for full time stations. These stations are second homes for these firefighters. There may be foul language, guys just wanting to watch tv and relax, and commotion when a call comes in because it is their workplace.
We are very fortunate with 374's station. The Chief welcomes spouses and children of the firefighters at the station. Since 374 is a volunteer, it's not like we are walking in on guys in their second home during a shift. We usually go up for things like work nights, certain trainings, and when they are cleaning up after a fire. The kids are allowed to help as long as it is safe for them to do so. The kids like to help with the hoses when they are filling the trucks up with water. They like to help wash hose after a fire. They've been known to help sweep out the bays and run the vacuum in the meeting room.
One of their fondest memories is the night Samaritan landed behind the station for a training. We were watching from across the road when the Chief waved us over. The kids got a front row ticket that night. Not only did the EMTs and firefighters use the kids to strap to the board and practice loading a patient in the helicopter, but they actually got to sit IN the helicopter and get a grand tour from the flight nurse.
Our station also does family potluck nights from time to time. Each family brings a dish and we all sit around the station eating and hanging out. Usually there's a card game or two going and DVDs for the kids. Our station is very family oriented. There are quite a few families with kids - specifically young kids. It's nice to know that not only as a wife there are other spouses in your shoes, but the kids also have other fire kids to grow up with who understand the lifestyle.
There are a few firefighters at the station who frown on the kids around all the time. These are generally the older guys. There's only a couple of them who share this opinion. While I understand that it can be a dangerous place for the children, and spouses too, as long as they are supervised and follow rules it's a great learning experience for them. There is a time and place for families at the station. I believe that as long as those boundaries are established and respected, the presence of families at the station is a positive one for both the firefighter and his family.
I love that my children get to see their father, and the other firefighters, donating their time to help others. They see Daddy jump up from the dinner table and leave the meal he was so looking forward to eating to run out and help save someone's home. I believe they will pick up on the selflessness and dedication this job takes. They beam with pride as they watch Daddy drive by in a truck, or when he returns home from a call.
I think allowing spouses and children to be a part of station life - whether volunteer or full time is key. What makes a good firefighter? A good man. A good man is going to have a support system at home. Whether a younger firefighter has the support of his mother and father or possibly a significant other, or a married firefighter has the support of his wife and kids, there is someone at home missing that firefighter and hoping he's safe within his job. Sometimes a quick visit to drop off dessert, or a quick visit while they are cleaning up from a fire is just the recharge that a family needs. The less stress there is on a fire family at home, the better focused a firefighter's mind can be on his job as he walks up on a scene.
If you are a firefighter or a firefighter's wife, what are the "rules" of your station - whether written or unwritten? Do you visit your firefighter regularly while he's on shift? How do your fellow firefighters feel when families stop by for a visit, or to share a meal? Please share your experiences by leaving a comment!