In the week leading up to Easter, I saw a lot of posts from women in the Fire Wife groups I frequent expressing their concern and sadness over their firefighters being on duty on Easter Sunday. Whether it's Easter Sunday, Christmas, a birthday or a big family event, it can be a hard pill to swallow the first few times your firefighter works on a holiday.
Career firefighter families and volunteer families' experiences are a bit different when it comes to holidays. Each lifestyle presents it's own challenges. One lifestyle is not easier than the other. What matters is how your family learns to adapt.
Career families know their firefighter's schedule. They typically plan celebrations around a duty day that falls on a holiday or event. A lot of times families are allowed and encouraged to come visit the station for holidays and share a meal with the firefighters on duty. It's nice to be able to have a chance to have a meal together - if you're lucky and the tones don't go off, or spend what time you can together while they are at the station. It is sometimes difficult to adjust to having to celebrate on a different day,
Volunteer families typically celebrate their holidays and events on the same day if their firefighter is at an on call/volunteer department. What makes volunteer life difficult is the pager could go off mid birthday party, or right in the middle of opening presents Christmas morning. It could be a quick run, or he could be gone all day or night. Learning to adjust to him running out the door at any moment is tough. Sometimes it's something we still struggle with five years in.
One of the most important lessons you can learn as a fire wife is to appreciate the time you do have. If you have to move a Christmas dinner and gift exchange to the next day, if Easter dinner is celebrated the following weekend, or if you have to put the birthday cake away mid party and sing happy birthday when your firefighter is back home in a few hours it's ok. A holiday or celebration is not about the date on the calendar. It's about the family and friends you share it with. Don't sweat the small stuff. When you can celebrate, do - fire life can be stressful enough.