I LOVE being a fireman wife! My husband comes home, shirtless and sweaty, head-to-toe in his fire gear and makes me swoon every day.
Just kidding. That doesn’t happen.
Unfortunately, being a fireman wife isn’t so glamorous (sorry to crush dreams, friends). I love being a fireman wife, but the truth is that it can be hard, lonely, frustrating, and difficult to navigate.
I am so, so proud of my husband and his job. He is constantly helping others in need and running into dangerous situations we’re always told to run away from. He doesn’t get help - he is the help.
His department works a 24 on/48 off schedule. He goes into work at 5 PM, leaves at 5 PM the next day, and is “home” for 48 hours before doing it all over again.
It basically looks like this:
Essentially, he is gone for ⅓ of our life.
Yes, he gets vacation time. But he shares his time off with 400+ other firemen and it’s first come, first serve. It doesn’t matter if it’s a holiday, snow day or weekend… if it’s his shift, he’s working.
At the beginning of our marriage, this wasn’t a big deal. We’d been dating while he was already working for a fire department so the weird schedule and time apart was something we were used to. However, things changed and got way more complicated when we became parents.
Becoming a new parent is hard enough, right? I’m still 100% convinced that none of us actually know what the hell we’re doing and some are just better at pretending they know what’s happening. Fortunately, my husband was able to pick vacation to where he was off for the entire first month of our child’s life. After that, I had to get used to the fact that I was basically a single mom every third day and our schedules would forever be complicated and “not normal”.
We couldn’t find a daycare that allowed us to attend different days of the week.
I had to get used to the fact that when coming home after 24 hours, I was no longer the first person he wanted to see.
We couldn’t establish a solid routine because where our son was every third day was different.
We had to plan visits from Santa and other holidays differently so he could enjoy them with our son.
It seems like every day some new challenge comes up and we have to find a way around it with the time we do have together. It's crazy, but it works!
Yes, I know how lucky we are. He’s not gone for weeks, months, or years at a time. But having this schedule structure isn’t easy. It’s an ongoing battle for us to stay on top of our to-do lists with two jobs on two very different schedules while keeping our family, and our relationship, top priorities.
Here are a few tips on how we do it:
Talk as much as possible - texting is a lifesaver. In between emergency calls and work meetings, we take the time to try and stay in contact as much as possible. He’s always the first person I talk to in the morning and who I say goodnight to every night… even if we’re not physically together.
Sweet gestures - Jake leaves me one of his t-shirts to wear to bed nearly every time he’s on shift.
Special surprises - Surprise visits, sweet messages or notes, random little gifts… special surprises throughout the year (and not just holidays) keep each other a priority.
Make time for each other - always. Whether it’s staying up late or leaving work an hour early, we do what we can to make time for each other every day.
Be flexible - holiday celebrations, date nights, errands, etc., don’t have to happen on the weekend or on their scheduled days. Sometimes being flexible and going with the flow lets us maximize our time together when we need it most.
Make up your own routine - it doesn’t have to be ‘normal’ or work for anyone else. It just has to work for you.
Say No - We don’t get our weekends like others typically do. So it’s okay for us to say no to trips, visits, events or other obligations in exchange for being together.
Thanks to all of our amazing fellow firemen, police officers, soldiers, and first responders who sacrifice their “normal” family lives to keep us safe. I know how difficult it is and what you’re giving up. There’s a reason we call you HEROES!