A few weeks ago, I shared a question and answer post from a volunteer wife.
My goal with the first post was to reach out to women (or men) who are considering entering a relationship with someone who has a career in the fire service, or who have a significant/spouse who is considering a fire service career.
When my husband was considering joining our local fire department, I did not realize how much this decision would change MY life as well as his. I had questions, but I didn't know anyone on the department enough to express my concerns and questions. When I turned to online sources, I really couldn't find the resources I was looking for. I wanted a peak into the real life situations of a fire wife. What exactly would this mean for our marriage?
That is the inspiration for this series of posts. I have previously shared the volunteer wife prospective. Now it's a full time firefighter's wife prospective. I recently asked Alison and Christina questions about being a full time wife. In this post I will share Alison's answers. Watch for Christina's answers in a few days!
*How long have you been a fire wife?
Nearly 3 years, but married for 9.
*What was the hardest thing for you to adjust to?
The nights he is at work! Yes we miss him and all that, but being a full time mom with a full time 40 hour gig makes for crazy duty days. When I leave work, I have to stop at 3 different places to collect 3 kids, get home, let the dogs out, make dinner, help with homework, give baths, read stories, wash and prep bottles for the next day, clean up from dinner, pump breast milk, tuck kids in to bed, and then usually one chore like sweeping the floor or folding a load of laundry. I'm lucky if I get to eat anything before 2030. But it always seems like something goes wrong or crazy on the nights he's gone. A dog runs away. One of the kids gets hurt. All 3 kids are melting down at the same time. I can't find the garage door keys. I get a flat tire. Dinner gets burnt. I usually don't sit down and rest on duty nights until after 2100. The "duty" nights when things run smoothly are few and far between.
*Does it ever get less scary? How do you deal with the fear of him getting hurt?
I'm probably in the minority, but I'm not afraid for him. I guess I have the standard worry, but it's not significant, nor do I dwell on it. His employer spent(spends) a lot of money on making sure he is well trained. He is in peak physical condition. He has top of the line equipment. I trust that in a potentially dangerous situation, he and the other men he works with are capable of making the right decisions. I don't think wives should waste so much energy on "worrying." It's emotionally draining and causes undue stress, it doesn't help anything, and it doesn't make him any safer. (I know I'm in the minority).
*How does the station feel about visits from family members?
They're cool with it, especially if we bring goodies (I like to bake, they're getting a pumpkin roll this week). There's a good mix of married old timers, middle aged guys with kids, and the young single or newly married guys. We just make sure not to wear out our welcome, or come too frequently, and make sure the kids are on their best behaviors.
*Do you have any rituals or special things you and/or your firefighter do to help you get through a shift?
We make sure to kiss bye in the mornings when he leaves, which is usually a crazy time because I'm trying to get out to door for work myself, not to mention both of us are dropping kids off. We also talk on the phone in the evenings. If we don't talk though, it's not a big deal. We usually talk the morning he gets off work as well.
*What do you love most about being a fire wife?
A couple of things. His schedule! I love the 24/48 schedule. It's the perfect amount of time for me to be home alone and get "me" time (after mommy duties). The first 24 he is off is his alone time without kids, and the second 24 he is off is when he stays home with the kids (during the week) or we go do family stuff (on the weekends). I would also be a liar if I said I didn't love his benefits. His union has fought hard for their benefits, and we really appreciate it all. They are very fortunate. I also love the camaraderie the entire department shares. There may be over 1,200 firefighters, but everyone is treated like true family.
*What advice would you give someone whose spouse/significant other is considering a fire service career; or someone who's considering a long term relationship/marriage to someone in the fire service?
I can really only give good advice to other full-time career structure people. Keep calm and carry on. Don't dwell on the nights he's gone. Keep yourself busy and occupied and learn to enjoy and value your time alone. Do things that he doesn't care for on those days and nights. Gently remind your FF (if and when he needs it) that his first obligation is always as a husband and father. My motto is "Being a good firefighter does not trump being a good husband and dad." I don't buy into the hero worship, and I'd love to see more wives with the same mentality.
Who is Alison?
Alison is the wife of a City of Columbus Firefighter. They share three kids together - ages six, four and eight months. Alison is an environmental geologist. She has spent her entire 32 years as an Ohio resident.
I would like to thank Alison for taking the time to share her perspective on being a fire wife. If you have any questions for Alison about being married to a full time structure firefighter, please leave them in a comment below!