Friday, November 18, 2011

16 Years of Being a FireWife-Lessons I've learned...


I posted this two years ago, but realized I haven't put much on my blog in regards to actually being a firefighter's wife. I would love to hear from you and pray that something in this might encourage you if you are struggling.
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I have been a firefighter's wife for over 16 years now. We have struggled and we have triumphed over many things. I wish I would have known a few things at the beginning of my marriage that I know now. Unfortunately, I have learned the hard way on many an occasion.

First, having my husband gone for 24 plus hours is different than most people's situations. The shift work can drive you crazy if you let it. You don't get to have any relief like your friend's husbands who come home from their eight to five jobs. It's you, Baby! You and only you for 24 hours plus. You need to go into it thinking, "This is going to be hard work, but I can do it. God give me the strength that I need for THIS day."

Second, my expectations were way too high. Just because we make plans for dinner, Christmas, Thanksgiving and other holidays, does not mean they will come to pass. Fires happen, overtime comes, and medical calls never cease. I used to get so stressed out and angry when Steve would choose to go on a call instead of choosing to be with his family. Sometimes he would go in for overtime thinking that it would be two hours and he would get stuck and miss whatever event that we had planned. Then there is the 24 hour overtime shifts. Sweet for the pocket book, but hard on the family. The kids don't understand why Dad has to be gone for two days and you are left with whatever plans you had as a family that day. Sometimes you have to cancel them, or you just have to buck up and do it all by yourself. It used to frequently make me want to cry, but there is no use in fighting it. It is what it is. It is my husband's way of providing for his family. Praise God he is so faithful at it. I try not to get angry anymore. I try to be understanding and grateful.

Third, be careful when he walks in that door in the morning. Don't just start piling on the lists or complaints of what this child did and what "heck" you have been through the last 24 hours on the home front. You don't know what he has seen or done. He might have been up since 1:00 a.m. on a fire or a plane or car wreck. I learned this the hard way. Several years back, my husband came home in the morning and was unusually quiet. I remember nagging and complaining to him about something. I thought he was just being a grump and pushed even more. Later that afternoon, he finally told me that he had been on a SIDS victim. He was trying to come to grips with it in his mind. I noticed him holding his children tighter and not getting so frustrated with them. Was I a safe person for him to talk with? No, I had my own agenda. It broke my heart. Firefighters are special people. They are not usually very emotional and they deal with the stuff they see differently than most people. It is what makes them able to do their job. Be available, always if they want to talk. Consider it a privilege that they would share their feelings with you at all. Most of them don't talk about their feelings with each other, instead they use a morbid sense of humor to deal with the stuff they see.

Fourth, always ask if they slept. This is my way of being nosey in a sneaky way. He isn't just going to tell me about all the calls he has. He considers 85% of the calls that he goes on bogus anyway. He isn't going to waste his breath telling me about the heavy lady that fell for the 3rd time that day that called to have them pick her up and put her back in bed, or the stupid fire alarms that go off automatically at 3:00 in the morning. If I ask how he slept, then he sometimes says, "I didn't get to sleep until 3:00 a.m." That lets me know immediately to have very low expectations of him in the morning. I tell him to go take a nap if he needs too. Most of the times he opts out, but at least he knows that I understand his need for sleep. This keeps me from being angry and resentful when he isn't helping out more or not doing his honey-do list. Also, this opens the conversation to let him know that I'm listening if he does need to talk about a bad call.

Fifth, do not call the station all the time! Firewives, you don't want to be known as "so and so's wife, that can't handle anything while he is away." Yes, they talk about you! They analyze relationships just like we do. They can sense also if you are respectful to your husband. When I learned the art of respecting my husband in front of others, I truly believe he was more respected at his job as well. My husband is always telling me how much he appreciates it that I don't call him constantly at the station. He says he enjoys knowing that I can handle things while he's away. I'm not saying that I never call him. If I do have a financial question or scheduling question, I try to always call on his lunch break or after five. I do try to leave disciplining out. There isn't a whole lot he can do from the station except give a kid a talking to.

 If you are a firefighter wife, would you please comment and let me know what kind of lessons that you have learned? I am very interested and I know others will be as well.

9 comments:

Donna B said...

Very good post. And very accurate, especially hitting the nail on the head with the non-emotional and "morgue" humor that comes of out of the month.

I remember my DH telling about singing "Another One Bites the Dust" while doing CPR when we were first married. I was stunned they would do that, but as time goes on you realize it is the only way they can handlethe horrible things they see and witness day in and day out.

Just before he retired he told me he was on an accident scene. The only on there, he had come upon it in a fire department vehicle while on an errand. He was the first and only one on the scene for 15 minutes. He assessed all the victims and he very little equipment available to him. One man had injuries incompatible with life and he was not able to help him.

It was hard for him to leave that mans side, but he had 5 other people he COULD help. I would never want to have to be in that position and I tip my hat to all the men and women that do have make those decisions on a daily basis.

Trina said...

Build a support network. If you need help, there's an extra set of hands if someone gets sick/hurt or you just need an adult to have a sane conversation with after a 48 of no one wanting to do chores/homework/being nice to each other.

Great post! It is a different world.

I think it is good that I work, he gets to sleep when he comes home. J usually calls me on his way home in the summer and that is when I decide what to tell him as he walks in the door.

Fire Wife said...

Excellent post.

#2 - hits home. Today. FireMan was on shift yesterday, and when I called him this morning to see what he was doing he said "working another 24". My heart just sank.

#4 - we finally had a heart-to-heart about. But it took a few years to get it together. I would be upset because he wasn't doing much at home, after all he'd told me he hadn't had "any" runs during his shift (he does work for a small town). He'd be upset because I'd be bugging him after he got off work. Ends up he didn't think I wanted to hear about the "boring" calls. He finally realized I needed him to tell me about that part of his life - I him to tell me about all the stupid little calls (okay, not ALL, but some), so I knew what he was going thru, so we could relate better with each other. Figuring out this communication issue was HUGE for us.

As for #5 - I definitely call more, the more he works (extra shifts, etc)... because I miss him! I never really thought about it if it were TOO much, to be honest. I'll have to ask him what he thinks. When the timing is right. Like... not today :)

Hydrant girl said...

Great post! I think a hard part for me was to accept how strong the brotherhood was. I wasn't used to it extending beyond work hours (now I'm thankful for it)

Camille said...

I thought this was a wise post my friend. I especially liked this ~ "It is my husband's way of providing for his family. Praise God he is so faithful at it. I try not to get angry anymore. I try to be understanding and grateful." What a blessing you are to your family Stacie!

I'm sure your encouragement in this post will be a blessing to others. (It blessed me, and I am not even a firefighter's wife). :)

Blessings,
Camille

Cedars of Lebanon Farm said...

Wonderful post! I too have learned to ask, "How was your night?" as soon as possible. It gives me a way to guage how the rest of my day will be going.
It is not just not being frustrated when the OT changes our plans, it's also about going with the flow when he comes home. If he's had a rough night and really needs to crash, then our planned trip to the zoo gets nixed. Other times he comes home and really just wants to spend time with me or just with the kids. I have learned to juggle our schedule to accomodate him as much as possible. He also has learned that it can't always be done. Dentist appointments are a nightmare to reschedule!

Catherine said...

Thank you for being such a wonderful Fireman's Wife, and thank Steve for his important work for all of us!

LizyBeth said...

What a great post! And a great reminder to pray for our firefighters and there wives. God bless you, Steve, and your family, and thank you for all your sacrifices.

Terri said...

18 years now as a paramedic's wife. Great post and so spot on! I've learned a lot. #5I don't call him, I wait for him to call me. I let my 'presence' be found in other little ways in his day. I put something special in his lunch box or make sure to mend a pocket that is torn slightly. He notices these little things.

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