Saturday, January 5, 2013

Second to the Station? Not Quite...

Being a fire wife is not always bubbles and sunshine. I have my pet peeves as well. Lately I've been dealing with more instances of this than usual, so I'm taking the opportunity to vent.

One of the major gripes you will hear from fire wives - whether they are new to the lifestyle, or have been around for years is that they feel second to the fire department. I've heard it from full time career wives and I've heard it from volunteer wives.

I am guilty of feeling this way from time to time. 374 is NOTORIOUS for saying "I have to run to the station to do XYZ, I'll be back in a few." In a perfect world, this means he drives ten seconds down the road, pulls into the station parking lot and parks. He would get out of his car, go into the station and promptly take care of business. He'd be back home in a reasonable amount of time for living as close as we do to the station. However, this is not the reality I live in. He may go up to pick up a paper or form. Nevertheless, o visit is complete without doing a once over on his gear, reading every piece of paper on the desk and doing a complete lap around the bay and all the trucks. Recently he ran up to take a storage tote back that we borrowed for a fundraiser. Ten minutes would have been more than adequate time for him to get there and back. However twenty minutes later he still isn't home. I wasn't surprised, I've become used to it. That evening dinner time was approaching, and in my frustration I decided I was not cooking and ordered dinner in. No consulting him, no asking his opinion - he was going to like it and deal with it.

374 is also known for being prompt. VERY prompt. Now usually this is a positive trait. He's never late for work, he's always where he says he'll be on time or early - fire station included. Do you hear my sarcasm oozing in that last statement? Work nights, trainings, and meetings all usually start at 7:00 pm. Again, as you've heard me say (or read me type) time and time again - we live ten seconds from the station. So what time does he usually leave the house? He used to leave around 6:25 pm. "I don't want to be late!" he'd exclaim. I always gave him some cross-eyed look while I tried to figure out how it would be humanly possible to be late. The longer he's been on the department, I've gotten him to lax up on his departure time. Usually I can get him to stick around until about 6:45 pm. It wouldn't be that big of a deal, but the 6:00 pm hour is the time that we are getting the kids wound down, bath time activities are commencing and stories are being read. Sassy and Bubby usually request 374 for these activities, and it's much harder for me to get accomplished when they know he's going to be leaving soon. They don't want to cooperate because they don't want him to leave. Oh how I loathe Thursday evenings.

The other biggie for me is the pager. The pager that goes everywhere, at all times. It sleeps by our bed every night, with the volume cranked up. He would bring it to family functions that I didn't feel was appropriate - weddings, birthday parties, etc. Sometimes this is still a huge point of contention between us. It's hard not to resent the damn thing sometimes, quite honestly.

I always thought this was just his eagerness for something he loves. I always envisioned every other firefighter  waltzing through the door just a few minutes before their event for the night started. After talking to my neighbor and fellow fire wife, as well as other fire wives in my online support group I've learned this is not the case. He's not the only one. It's just the way they are. I've been told the fire station is a time warp. They can't walk in and take care of business and walk right back out. They are drawn like a moth to a flame. (Haha.)

I am not as frustrated with all of this as I used to be. Sure, when the kids are more upset than usual over his departure, or when he insists on running up there real quick when I'm trying to leave to get groceries or complete a task that I need his help with I still stomp my feet and mutter under my breath as he walks out. It's hard not to feel like they would rather be at the station, that it's their escape. What's important, I think, is to voice your feelings to your firefighter in a non-confrontational way and set boundaries together.

I've come to realize that there will never be a quick trip to the fire station. I just have to accept that. He's like a kid in a candy store. I know the phone number for the station, and if I really need him quickly all I have to do is pick up the phone and call.

He's also become better about what time he leaves the house. I know it's just HIM to be early to things. He's the same way with his full time job, or any other commitment he has. He's not trying to get away from me as quickly as possible. He wants to get up there and get things taken care of  SO HE CAN GET BACK HOME TO ME. The exact opposite of how it made me feel.

We have come to a some what compromise on the pager. Sure there's times I wish he'd just leave it home, but he doesn't. However we have come to the agreement that if we are out on a date, it does stay home. It's rare we get time to go out sans kids, and he appreciates that. We take every other event on a case to case basis. If it's one of our children's birthday party, depending on the severity of the call and the man power that has responded, he won't go. He still has the pager on him, but we decide at that time. This same thing goes for other family functions as well. So far it's working, I just need to remember he has a job to do - an important one where people are counting on him.

Being a fire family definitely has it's sacrifices. Those sacrifices are different depending on the type of firefighter. It's a big adjustment to get used to those sacrifices especially if your spouse wasn't always living this lifestyle of a firefighter. When he comes home and tells me how he saved a structure from further damage, or how he cut someone out of a car so they could quickly get them loaded in the helicopter, it puts it all back into perspective. He's doing something wonderful for our community. It's not that he's trying to spend less time with his family, he's just fulfilling his calling.

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