A few years ago, Fire Engineering published an article by Anne Gagliano titled, “What Every Firefighter’s Spouse Should Know.” The first time I read this article, when I was a brand new fire wife, I absorbed it eagerly. I heard about the divorce statistics. I heard about the suicides. I heard about the emotional and physical toll it could take on our loved ones. Naturally, a firewife with as much life experience as Mrs. Gagliano should be an ideal role model for a new firewife like me. I saved the link to her article and vowed to myself to read it often, to remind myself on bad days what I need to do to make sure our family stays whole. This is my response to her article.
My husband and I were married for 7 years before he finally got the coveted call from the city he works for. This was his dream, and going through the civil service process was the only way he felt he would achieve it. It was a dream 5 years in the making. We had many ups and downs in our 7 years of marriage, so I was determined to become an ideal fire wife in order to keep things on the “up.” It wasn’t what I signed up for when we first got married (he was a carpenter then), but let’s face it, nothing ever is. If you adapt to change, you grow together, and your marriage stays intact.
The day my husband graduated from the Academy was the proudest day of my life. He worked so hard for this day, and I was so proud I could explode! I’m not a crier, but I bawled like a baby with our oldest 2 children by my side the day he marched in to the sound of the pipes and drums. I was so thankful the grueling Academy was over. During those 7 months, I was a working single mom Monday through Friday. My husband moved to a place within the geographic requirements for his job. We stayed behind and were happy to just be able to see him on weekends. I put in 40 work hours a week, over 800 miles on my car per week, and 4 hours a day commuting, all with two small children in tow. We worked on getting our house sold so we could relocate closer to my job and meet the residency requirements for his. Weekends were spent with the children and helping him study, and eventually were spent on packing our lives into boxes. The entire family was back together the week after he graduated, the same week he started his new job as a rookie firefighter.
A new home, a new job, a new school for our oldest. It took some adjustment on my part because, after 7 months of being a single mom and shouldering the entire responsibility for our two children, I had my partner back! Things got rough at times because it was an adjustment for him as well. He wasn’t used to taking kids to school, doing homework, making meals, and caring for kids on his off days. I re-read Mrs. Gagliano’s article again and again. I noticed something though. I was beginning to resent her statements. Yes, it is good to know about the health statistics. Everything else in regards to home life and family, communication, and what a firefighter “needs” on his days off and what should be expected of the spouse, began to rub me wrong.
A career firefighter will spend one-third of their working lives at the station. Wildland firefighters can spend anywhere between a few days and seven months away from home. Volunteer firefighters drop what they’re doing whenever the pager goes off to rush to where they are needed. What does this mean? The wives (or husbands on occasion) and any children are left behind. The uncertainty and frustration we face can be daunting.
On the days our firefighters work, we do the job of two at home. We spend those hours doing everything related to home and family ourselves. We cook, clean, shuttle kids to practice, lessons and games. We help with homework, science projects, do the shopping, take kids for haircuts, and try to coordinate extended family gatherings. We often also work full time jobs. We get the kids up in the morning, get them dressed and off to school, daycare, or the sitters. We often get ourselves to work, shift out of “mommy mode” and into “dedicated employee” mode. We put in our time at work, shift back into mommy mode, then we go pick our kids up. We battle the feelings of guilt because the kids were with the sitter for 12 hours that day, or because they had to be a latchkey kid for the day, or because we missed a baseball game. We get home, make dinner, do homework, make sure they are clean and put them to bed. Then with whatever energy may be left, we try to clean up from dinner, maybe do a load of laundry, and give any pets attention. Then we go to bed, alone, and try to get a decent sleep just to do it all again the next day. Our nights can be interrupted with wet beds, bad dreams, and coughing fits. Then there are the special days on weekends or holidays where there may not be a job to contend with, but we have to explain to children where daddy is, why he’s not there, and when he’s coming home. We have to make the green bean casserole, gather up the party gifts, and get on the road to some family function, all without our partner. For the volunteers, those wives have to deal with husbands leaving at the drop of a hat, with zero notice and no information of when their firefighter may return home. That often means plans are ruined, activities are postponed, a daughter with a dance recital is disappointed. There always has to be a contingency plan to do things solo, just in case the firefighter gets called away. To top it all off, we worry and we miss our firefighters. We might not say it, and we may not always show it in order to appear strong for them. They do not need to deal with the guilt of leaving disappointed families behind, they need to be able to focus at their job and know that we will be waiting for them at the end of their shift. As a result, we battle feelings of abandonment, resentment, and frustration.
We understand that after a rough night, our firefighter needs rest and extra sleep. We know they need to keep up on their exercise. We know they experience horrors that we can never fully understand. We know their brotherhood offers them things that we cannot. We know this, and we embrace, cope and handle things to the best of our abilities.
Our Firefighters Need to Know Certain Things About Us Wives
- Being a firefighter should never take priority over being a husband and father. We know you are providing for your family, and we know you have a love for the job. It does indeed take a special kind of man to be a firefighter. Keep in mind, though, that your family still needs you the most. We need you present both physically and emotionally on your off days. Your duties as a firefighter do not exempt you from the duties of being Husband and Dad. You work so that you and your family might live, do not live in order to work.
- This means that there are going to always be dad/husband duties on days off! Get any extra rest that you may need, but don’t take advantage of that time off to be lazy and shirk any household duties simply because “that’s what those days are for,” according to Mrs. Gagliano.
- Being a firefighter does not trump being a nurse, teacher, engineer, accountant, stay at home mom or whatever job a wife may have. We need our firefighters to know how hard we work, too. Both parents have multiple job titles, husband, father and firefighter, wife, mother and nurse/teacher/accountant, etc. All parts should work together as a team to make the family a whole.
- If your wife needs a little extra time on a non-duty day to accomplish something important to her, please help her. Yes, this may mean you have to make dinner on your own or take the kids to practice on your own. Do it with grace, because your wife does the same thing every day you work.
- Both parties need to be fully present when at home. Yes, sometimes a job-related phone call needs to be taken, or a quick errand to the station needs to be run. True, the pager may also always be present. However, non-essential work-related issues should be kept to a minimum. Be mentally available to your families and try not to let work distract you too much on your days off. Don’t look at your iPhone every time you get a notification from Pulse Point. Don’t spend unneeded time at the volunteer station.
- We are willing to listen, talk, understand, or just be there for you in whatever capacity. We also need the same from you in return. Our feelings are just as important! Communication is always key, but that must mean that there is listening and understanding by both parties. If your wife needs to vent about the PTA, her job, her mother, your mother, or whatever – let her! Sometimes, we just need you to be quiet and give us undivided attention, the same thing you may need from us.
- We know firefighters are “fixers” by nature. Try not to let your need to “fix things” also complicate things. Don’t take all rants to heart and don’t assume that because we are ranting to you, that must mean we need or want you to fix it. Unless we tell you to fix it, we really just need you to hear what we're saying.
- We get exhausted, too. Often, especially the days you work. Sometimes, we just need a few hours to ourselves. Even if you are always around and do your dad and husband duties on your days off, keep in mind that you usually still have us around to lighten the load. On your duty days, we don’t have that extra set of hands. Please make that off-time available to your wife on occasion, and you will reap the benefits!
- If you need a relaxation massage, be sure to reciprocate! If you need a night out with the guys, then don’t give her grief if she plans a night out with the girls and you’re left at home with children. Also, make sure you’re making time for just the two of you. Date nights will remind you why you got married in the first place.
- We do worry about you! A lot! We also miss you when you’re not home! A lot! Yes, some of us may grow to enjoy our alone time, but it’s still nice to know that maybe when you’re at work, you feel the same way too.
- Utilize any professional help for post-traumatic situations. Don’t be a “man” and “suck it up.” Those feelings will fester inside until one day you explode, and it will be your family that will hurt the most because of it. Those resources are there for a reason, please use them. You owe it to your family to be as emotionally and mentally sound as possible.
The Bottom Line
We know you have an important and stressful job, but we still need you present and we need you to understand the stress we experience. No one ever gets married with the intent of getting divorced. Remember that what you put into something is what you will get out of it. Marriage and parenthood are not easy, especially when “mistress Fire” is present. They are things that have to be worked on and maintained. They are things that are constantly evolving and we all have to learn to overcome those changes. Mistakes are made and we all have to learn from them. So while I can appreciate Mrs. Gagliano’s article, I am respectfully disagreeing with some of it. Well, a lot of it. The responsibility to maintain and nurture the home and family does not fall to the fire wife alone.
Christy Turner says
Wonderfully written!!! I agree 1,000%. All marriages, including Fire marriages, need mutal love, respect, support & constant communication. You are a team, always!! I am so very lucky that I have this with my husband.
Thank you for this! I have been struggling to find some of these words to share with my own firefighter. It’s a wonderful read and was very encouraging to me!
Hope it starts a productive discussion with your FF 🙂
I wonder, in all the stories about the struggles of being a FF wife, no one talks about the women, the cheating, the deception. We all know it’s out there, most have probably see it first hand. From the cashier at the grocery store, to the women at the block parties, to the single mom bringing the child to visit the fire station. Or, even the sweet beautiful woman that just happens to be lost, and needs directions, the temptations are real, and a lot of the men don’t resist.
I would love for someone to talk about that for a change, and how that has a bigger impact on the divorce rate of fireman than anything else.
From the text messages, to the emails, to the phone calls at the station, to women showing up. If, you think it doesn’t effect your husband than you are being silly!
But, no one wants to talk about all that, because that’s not the popular conversation, but spouses need that information also.
Hi Chris, I believe plenty of websites talk about that. I do not. I do not talk about that because assholes are assholes and it doesn’t matter what profession they are in. Men do NOT cheat because a pretty woman is available. They cheat because they are assholes.
John J says
You might be watching too much Chicago Fire and 911.
Love, love, love!
Well said!!! and I COMPLETELY agree, though sometimes we forget thanks for the reminder 😉
I am a Mom of a great firefighter and I am looking from the outside in. I hope all of the families , wives and firefighters can read this to understand all sides. Even parents of the firefigher do no always understand so I hope this can be shared. I have a great daughter in law and she does have to carry a heavy load at times, but luckily my fireman son is a great dad and husband. Of course, I am his Mother.
Sounds like you get along with your DIL, so I’m sure that helps tremendously. Thanks for commenting Susan.
Exactly, very true. Being a firefighter/ems is an important job, but so is being a husband and Dad.
Great job Val! Agreed 100% with all points! So many things can be taken for granted and lessen the strength of your relationship!! Also just not really thinking about all thats done when your away on a daily basis, taking a step back to realize the work and commitment that is put in daily then offering a thank you can do amazing things.
Deanna, Alison wrote this article. I just gave her the space to post it 🙂 Because I totally agree 😉
I’m so glad others feel the same way about that article. I remember thinking that if I did everything recommended in that article, I would basically be a single parent 90% of the time. No matter what the job, a marriage needs to be a partnership.
Yes, very much the point. A marriage is a partnership no matter the career.
Also…I met my husband on a hotshot crew. I did the job. I was a house wife too. Now i work..take care of the house and the kids….while getting my masters…so i dont have to be a waitress forever. For the record it’s much harder to be a house wife, they have a fun job. Flown into Ridgelines…stand by to stand by while we bet on who will eat the slug…..its practically college. Please dont let them fool you. The hard part is coming home…not because they dont love you…but because its harder.
Thanks for commenting Sally 🙂
Jacqueline Frame says
This article had me in tears. I have searched high and low for help. My marriage to my FF is falling apart and all I can find is how these “Mrs. Perfect FF Wife” posts about how they feel so lucky and they just LOVE the time to themselves. While I watch my marriage starting towards becoming a statistic of divorce because of all this “time to myself”. (And other FF things aswell)
Sometimes I feel like I should just leave with my kid and live in shame because I’m clearly not like all these other wives who seem to not give a sh*t. I don’t know how to do this. I have been reaching out for help for this life I never saw myself leading and have only been shamed.
If you have anything else to help with coping my marriage sure could use a miracle.
I completely follow you. As I posted below….. My marriage is falling apart also due to it. Everything I find, yes…. has to be with how great a fire wife supports her man. I dont find it that easy to do and Im struggling myself. 🙁
Melissa, I hope you will read the articles on the site and maybe join our community and/or facebook group? My goal is to help YOU, not the firefighter in this crazy life. We have a lot of women that have had many different experiences in their marriages and are willing to talk to others about it.
Jacqueline Frame says
Mrsjframe@gmail.com is my email. Would love to talk! Maybe we can put our heads together and find a way that works for us!
Jacqueline Frame says
Melissa even if you don’t want to email just know you are for sure not alone. That’s what I have to keep telling myself. I recently had counselor I spoke with that told me somthing life changing. Who knows maybe it could help you too 🙂 best wishes
Thanks for reaching out Jacqueline 🙂
I am going through a similar situation and I don’t know what to do. When we signed up for this I didn’t know it was going to be like this. I love my husband and my children and want us to get back to our happy place. Those who have struggled how have you gotten through? Thanks for the article and I look forward to reading more.
We have a free group exclusively for wives if you’d like to join. http://facebook.com/groups/wifebehindthefire If you request to join, please keep an eye on your fb messenger. I contact everyone before approving.
Jacqueline Frame says
I can’t leave I forgot to write this in my last post…
I can’t tell you what it means to me to not feel completely insane and alone.
I don’t have any miracles unfortunately. What we do have is a lot of support so you can talk through things. Sometimes the biggest issue is just not having someone to listen that knows exactly what you are talking about. It’s amazing how much lighter you can feel when you know you are not the only one!
Christina Byrd says
Thank you for this post!!!! I hate the articles that make me feel subpar as a wife because I expect help around the house and with munchkin between day job and volunteering! Some people try to demonize me for it lol great read! Sorry I’m just now seeing it 🙁
It’s why so many of us get along well. We didn’t marry superheroes, we married humans. That means they can help take out the trash and change dirty diapers too. lol
This was so well written, I LOVE IT! If only I could get my husband who is a volunteer firefighter to understand and agree. Been married for 7 years, have our 4th child on the way. And for past few years, the fire company has taken priority over family. Its been said that “it was in his life before we were” so therefore it is more important. It has been said that he always misses calls due to being out to dinner, shopping, kids events, family events, etc. When asked why he got married and had kids he stated ” he figured he would still be able to do what he wants and enjoy his life”. I honestly am having the hardest time with this because he is the absolute sweetest and loving, caring man…. If there is nothing to do with the fire company. I struggle reliving all the time the thoughts of “how as a wife and my kids, we cant be number 1 in his life”. I always feel like Im competing but will never be chosen 1st. I contemplated divorce many times because I just cant take my kids and I not being number 1 to my husband… Is this selfish? Is it normal to not be the priority in a husbands life??!! I dont mind him being involved, but my problem is the hurt and pain I constantly feel by coming second. And for years its been fights and arguments because he just doesnt understand… or care to understand maybe?
Being a volunteer wife is a very unique issue. Our kids were little during that time and I remember so many arguments.
My suggestion is to try and get rid of the “being #1 thought”. Especially if it’s coming out in arguments. Saying family or the fire service needs to be the top priority can put them into defense mode because it sounds like there can’t be a balance. It comes out as if they need to make a choice.
There were many times I’d finally have enough and put my foot down that the pager had to be turned off. Because the kids and I needed him to be completely with us. I didn’t do that very often so he understood a little when I’d gotten to that point.
Have you tried counseling so you can communicate better? I wish we had even thought to go…of course when would we have fit that in? lol I only say it because I’ve learned to communicate better (not perfect) in the last couple of years but it probably could have helped save some heart ache.
I’ve been struggling with the feelings while dating my volunteer firefighter. Especially as he talks about marriage and going to fire academy. I find myself always searching online for different tips cause I myself like a schedule and hate change. I really want my relationship with him to work and its good to know that people that have been in these relationships a lot longer also have these thoughts. I think having read this it’ll help me alot in preparation for my future with him. Thank y’all so much for posting this and for the comments I read.
Good luck in finding out if this life will work for you. As a navy brat you must be used to a schedule that isn’t “normal”
I so understand everything all of u have said. I am a firefighter’s wife of ten years now. My husband has been a volunteer fireman for ten years also CPR instructor, swift water rescue tech, lt. On the department and now becoming an EMT also fixing to go full time firefighting. We have had problems with our marriage in the past. And now I still wonder is he gonna find someone else that deserves him more. I get so lonely being by myself all the time. I work a full time job as a CNA I also am a firefighter first responder so I do understand the passion and the love for the job and saving people but he always seems to put everything to do with the fire service before us. We also have three children 12, 10, and 8. I just need to knw how do I cope with this I’m at my end major depression and I pray everyday just haven’t received any comfort yet?
Hi Naomi, sorry so long to respond.
Volunteer firefighting is a bigger battle than being on paid. My FF was vollie for 7 years before getting hired on. They were quite a few rough years there where I wondered how we would make it. Our dept was completely deteriorating before we incorporated and if he didn’t go on calls, someone could very well die. It was a horrible position to be in.
However, I did put my foot down a few times a year and when I did, he knew it was serious. I set up times ahead that he had to turn the pager off. They would be times that he knew others were not on vacation and were around to respond. It also worked better if we were away from the house so we couldn’t here the sirens go off and have his attention pulled away.
Have you had some good discussions with him about how lonely you are feeling?
Joanne Petroski says
While living with a firefighter can be difficult, I’m finding that learning to cope with a former one is worse. I’m both the spouse and daughter of career big city firefighters who were both “retired” by the department due to health issues. . I remember watching my mom quickly age and her nerves frazzle once my dad had to give up the life and brotherhood he once knew and adored. He launched himself into many projects that frustrated mom until he finally found one in which my mother could also participate willingly. His desire to belong to a group drove him and almost drove my mom crazy. After witnessing this, you would think I was prepared when it happened to my husband. After having been on an extended 20 month sick leave after a devastating illness and using up not only his time but hours donated by other firefighters, he had to leave his job.
My spouse isn’t dealing with the loss of his brother firefighters and his love of the job lIke my dad did. In fact, he is the polar opposite. The only thing he is pursuing is time in his chair in front of the TV. He didn’t dive into projects to replace the people and activity level, some may even say it’s an adrenaline rush, that he got every time a call came into his station house My husband dove into despair and depression from the loss of the one true thing he deeply cared for outside of his family. He is grieving now ans has been for months. He rails at the injustice and unfairness of it all. He wants to go bam to work but limitations from his illness prevent that. While I was capable of caring for our five children alone many times and, explaining why Christmas presents were sometimes opened at 5am and other years not till 5pm Christmas night while nursing 5 kids with chickenpox, not simultaneously but one after another, I knew that having grown up the daughter of a firefighter made the life of a wife of a firefighter part of my DNA.
But what about my spouse? His loss is deeper than anything I’ve seen before. Yes, he is getting professional help for this but life at home is not the same. His raison d’être is gone. No more visits from the guys to help him thru this difficult time. They stopped a few months after his 2 month hospital stay. He no longer visits the station house because his peers, guys who he had worked with for over 20 years had been transferred out due to a new policy shifting the most experienced men and women to other stations. He was addicted to his job and he can’t get a fix anymore. There are those with a decade less of experience from my husband who still make him feel at home on the rare occasions he does go back home to his station, the same one my dad served at for many years. But it’s not the same. He’ll get some joy but it quickly dissipates once he’s home knowing that it will be awhile before his next fix. So he sits and ponders life from his chair in front of the TV, looking like a lost puppy whose owner abandoned him. You can take the man out of the fire department but you can’t take the fire department out of the man.
Thanks for commenting with your experience(s) Joanne. One thing I’ve been adamant about was that our lives don’t center around just the fire dept. Listening to your story, it sounds like it’s a good thing I have been a stickler for that. It hasn’t been easy at times to do that.
I know most guys go through that. Doesn’t matter what job they retire from. They are so used to “go go go” that they have no idea what to do with themselves when they get up and they literally have nothing they must get done during the day.
Renae Webb says
I am a firefighter wife of over 25 years, my husband is an instructor in more courses than I can name and spends many hours teaching in addition to being a task force leader for our state task force
when we married he was a battalion chief with nine years on the job.. with four children at home and a full time working horse farm it was tuff the ups and downs were many we lived apart for several years finding our way was NOT easy we moved many hour away from home for him to pursue his career now a deputy chief of a growing department the struggles are still there
for years I did the whole support your man thing while ignoring my own needs
my advice to all spouses is find that balance that allows the brotherhood and family to hold a place of value
I will not tell you it is an easy road to travel the potholes are deep and the curves steep but it can be done
I now watch as my firefighter son goes on shift the days are long the pager at my side as I listen to the calls knowing that both of the men I love are out there risking their lives to save a nameless family in need
one thing that does help spouses understand the bond firefighters have is to be a family oriented department we have many family gatherings yearly the spouses and children become friends building a support system of their own
I do not mind if you share my email address in order to help any and all spouses find that balance of both pride and pitfalls of being a firefighters wife
Thanks for your comment Renae.
I just got teary eyed reading this! My hubby graduated from the academy in May after waiting 3 years to get in, we have an 18 month old, I work FT. 18 long weeks and I thought the schedule would get better, if anything its been even more stressful. Trying to adjust to this new lifestyle while not living to close to family (we relocated for his job). Even just tonight he text me at 1PM saying he’s got overtime and won’t be home until tomorrow 🙁
I appreciate your words, it is hard for people to understand who are not in similar situations. Nice to hear your perspective.
Just wanted to write a quick note to tell you how nice it was to find this on the internet. Thank you!
I’m a full time teacher married to a career firefighter/paramedic. I often feel like I’m in the minority as a fire-wife because I hold a full time job outside of the home. I’ve often read the same piece you did, and I felt the same way. I’m grateful my husband does help out, and you are absolutely right… It doesn’t and shouldn’t all fall on the wife. He must show up to the ballgame too.
Thank you for writing this. I am a pastor and my husband is a firefighter (paid, city department). I cannot relate to the “his job comes first” content. Both of us are doing work that matters and that we enjoy. And yes both of us have the weirdest schedules! I appreciate finding a place in the internet that realizes I am a person who has gifts and work in my own right – yes, a firefighter’s wife, but also much more.
Firefighter X says
I appreciate your article. I’m a firefighter and have just finished my probie year, I know that my wife has made many sacrifices over the 6 years it took me to earn my dream job. I agree with your viewpoint that the off-duty FF still has a job to do at home, to be present not just physically, but also emotionally. Easier said than done sometimes, especially after a long night. I found your aricle because I’m searching for stories on how other couples cope with the challenges of our work life versus home life. My wife gets that I need some extra sleep when I get home after a typical busy night, but what I make up she doesn’t quite understand yet is how distant I become for the rest of the day, and it’s not by choice. Sleep deprivation puts me into a ‘zombie-like’ mode for a period of time after a shift, even when I’m awake and putting effort towards our marriage. I’ll forget things, space out, lose focus, etc… As much as I want to show up and be there for her, it makes me sad that I simply cannot do it sometimes. I just wanted to share my experience from the other side of the table. I’m sure as time goes on, we will adapt and understand eachother better, I hope! Thanks for your post.
Thank you for the reply. Please let your wife know that we have a facebook group for wives only if she would like to join. We have a varied group of women and how long everyone has been in the firelife.
Those first couple of years are so rough as you both adjust. But there will be constant adjustment along the way as well. I don’t say that to be mean or scare you off, just to be honest so when it happens again you are all ‘Yep, we were waiting for this’. lol I’m not sure on your schedule, but you will adjust better to the lack of sleep. Some days are better than others.
Have you told her exactly what you wrote here in your comment? I’m sure it will go a long way in helping her understand
I can understand that. I understand you feel like it’s not a choice but the fact is that she is already making a sacrifice with you being a firefighter. How much more should a wife sacrifice in order to stay with a marriage that truly isn’t fair to her. It is you who picked the profession. Just like I chose to be a nurse. There are things we MUST get better at when we are home, because of the choices we have made already, ask so much of our partners. The days when he is gone for 24 hrs. I don’t have a choice but to take care of EVERYTHING that MUST be done with our home, animals, children and so on. That is already a sacrifice. How much more can we ask of our partners before it just becomes everyone sacrificeing for a job we want. Let’s be honest it’s commonly not for the money.
I know what I say is controversial but what if women were doing that. We would be called shity wives and bad mothers. It seems life is just not very equal yet.
Yes, what you are saying is true. However, probation doesn’t last forever and there is a big adjustment period to the firelife. I can’t respond to how similar it is to the change with a nurses schedule because we haven’t experienced that in our household.
I personally think the term sacrifice is bullshit in either aspect. Being married and knowing goals (I hope you knew their goals before getting married) means you signed up for how crazy it can get. It’s all about the roller coaster and riding out the lows.
Some people aren’t committed enough to ride out the lows. So then you add on top that the dishes aren’t done and the laundry is piled up and they cave in a heartbeat :/
People change. Some people feel like they are worth more. I don’t see the shame in that.
I am still fighting for my marriage. It may not work but that doesn’t mean I didn’t try. I will try everyday until there is nothing left to fight for.
We don’t know everyone’s story and should pretend to.
Not everyone got into a marriage knowing they would be married to a firefighter one day.
Thank you so much for being so honest. I deeply love my FF husband (married 16, he’s been on the job 15) and although he is a wonderful husband and father I often feel resentful for the extra load that is placed on me for him to do what he loves. I work full time as an educator and although it’s not as glamorous and not as dangerous it is no easy job either. Combine that with two sons and I’m often left feeling unappreciated and lonely. And because I understand how much support and understanding my husband needs I feel terribly guilty for feeling resentful and angry. I am so grateful for how affectionate and faithful my husband is (as I’ve heard far too many horrors), which makes me feel even lower for being upset, so your article which may not relieve the guilt does make me feel less alone. Thank you.
Thank you for commenting Heather
Ohio firefighter says
Thank you Val. Firefighting is my dream job that I have enjoyed for 15 years, my dream job that I use to care for my family. Although I was a firefighter first, my family takes precedent even when I put in 60 plus hours once in a while (48 hour shifts are pretty common) but I do it so I can provide for my wife and kids. My full time job is a mostly upper class bedroom community and my part time job is a low income suburb of our capital. Yes I need a nap here an there when I’m off but so does my wife who never gets a day off from being a wife and mother, which brings me to the point that I should never get a day off from being a husband and father. If my shift gives me a working fire, a horrible auto accident and a child in full arrest, that does not take precedent over me taking care of my family when I’m home. I find ways to deal with a stressful shift that interferes minimally with my family life. Too many times do I hear guys from the station over exaggerate our day just so they don’t have to talk on the phone or so they can “be lazy” the day after. My shift is 24 hours long of which maybe half is actually working all the while my wife is home “on duty” for 24 hours also and many times she is awake before me just to take care of the morning routine and even more times I receive a goodnight text after I have passed out. Do I need some extra time once in a while? Sure I do. Does my wife need some extra time once in a while? OMG yes. Lets not forget that most of us do not work in the pits of hell a-la Detroit or 60’s and 70’s New York. This hero worship, we are a fire family crap has got to stop. All families make sacrifices and all families need to support one another and just because one member is away for 24 hours every third day does not give him or her a free ride from their true duties at home.
Thanks for your reply Mr. Rager. Allison actually wrote the post, but I do agree. Even if you have a slow day, your brains are still “ON” for those 24 hour shifts and recouping is necessary. But there are definitely days that my firefighter doesn’t feel like he needs to nap or rest.
NEW WIFE NEW LIFE says
I think another piece that’s missing from a lot of articles I’m finding online is the aspect of moving for the job, not to mention the insane amount of self sacrifice. My FF received a call 1 week before our wedding and was gone 2 weeks after for recruit class (talk about stress…) which was 3 hours away from our hometown.
I was supportive for the 4+ years it took to finally win his dream job…all of the cheerleading for lost opportunities (too many to even count now), all of the acceptance of “burden” for the greater cause…his dream and our new life to be. I stuck out one of the worst jobs of my life (even ended up on stress leave…but that’s another story) in order to pay the bills and keep us afloat in an extremely monetary demanding pursuit. I put myself aside in order to support him and the life I knew we both wanted. Essentially, put my last years in my 20s on the line for our future.
When he got the call I had actually been offered another job a week prior that I couldn’t wait to start. I think I had only been there 2 days before I had to inform them my almost hubby had gotten a job and we would have to move. Don’t get me wrong, I was ecstatic…for him, to finally be able to buy a house (renting for years due to the unknown) and really just move forward instead of the “stuck” feeling we’d been dealing with for years. It did suck though that when I had finally had my time that I never got to pursue that. That was ok though, because a new town, brought so many new possibilities…I couldn’t wait!
We moved down about 4 months later…the excitement latest over Christmas and the next month or two as I planned my “it’s my time” attack! Once those stars wore off though…I realized how hard this was going to be. Being a “transplant” as I like call it, was definitely going to be a lot more difficult than I had imagined. Nothing like trying to get back to yourself after sacrificing so much for those years, in a town where no one knows you, where all your family and friends are hours away, where anyone new you meet have their own lives to worry about, and in a place where one of you has this amazing life changing career, instant brotherhood and social life, and the other…well she’s there.
I was going to join this, do that, be happy and life would finally make sense. Any plan I had to move forward was hurdled by my own expectations of wonderful, followed by the harsh reality that it wasn’t like it was at “home”. So as attempt after attempt wasn’t working, I began to feel like a failure…and while my husband was on cloud 9, I was sinking more and more into depression. I had only met a few people…mostly the guys on the department, and no matter how well you get along with the guys, it’s not the same as being in their world. He was getting it all, hangouts with the guys twice a week (at work…still fun and social environment) coming home and wanting to chill…I hadn’t found a job yet…so, here I was home all day everyday, middle of winter, with very little acknowledgement on his end. I didn’t want to take away his happy by being a bummer all the time, but it wasn’t getting better…and he wasn’t helping, actually got to a point I was begging him to set up hangouts with anyone so I could at least start to meet some people.
People are busy with their own lives, and at 30 trying to make all new friends wasn’t exactly something I was used to. I would joke and say “what am I supposed to do…walk up to a girl I think looks cool and go ‘wanna be my friend?!’”. Even the people I started meeting, although great people, they have friends, family, kids; basically established, where did I fit into that? They weren’t going to call me everyday to see if I needed someone, they don’t know my history, essentially I’m just this random person they just met. On top of all of this, nothing could have prepared me for the sense of loss and abandonment from people who were supposed to be my friends at home. I was so excited to have people come visit, to share my life with my core, and I thought they would be just as excited to support me and come down, if only to appease me. Well I’ve been here over a year, and while we have had visitors, people I thought were my best friends haven’t even made an effort.
So here I am, new town, new friends (very early stages, so still nice and fluffy), barely there husband, and barely there friends. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so alone, so let down, so sad. The phone can only do so much, and it’s not the same.
I always considered myself a strong independent woman, so this dependence is foreign to me. I’m still struggling, and probably will be for some time. I’ve managed to find work where I get to meet a lot of the fire guys and it’s great, but I’m still working to find out my place in this path of ours. I won’t give up, I can’t. I love my husband, and I hope we get through this, all of that sacrifice and strive wasn’t for nothing. I know he loves me and hates that it’s gone the way it has, and he has recognized his part. It’s a start, so I’m going to continue pushing forward.
I am very proud, and still supportive on days he needs it, but being a firefighter doesn’t give you permission to “checkout” on the rest of your life. Thank you so much for writing this article, it’s made me to feel less alone and less crazy thinking I’m just being over the top nagging wife.
We’re not just wives, we’re so much more, and deserve the same level of compassion, gratitude and support. This new life brings on many challenges, and I’m hoping my story (as long as it is) resonates with someone else going through the same thing.
Sometimes, the mother is the firefighter. In our case, I (the mother) will be at academy for the next six-months after being home with our baby. He will be almost a year old by the time I start. My husband is a police officer, so I relate to this article as a spouse. These roles are not solely geared towards either sex. Both sexes may have these careers, experience the challenges as sole childcare provider, and make the same mistakes on our days home from work.
Yep, we’re well aware the opposite happens as well. Our daughter is firefighter 😉 But we have to write articles from our experiences. So far I haven’t had a female firefighter want to write articles for the site.
My husband emailed me Anne Gagliano’s article two days ago and the words “interesting” attached to it. I read it and was SO irritated. I love my husband, I support my husband, and I would never want to have his job because of all the awfulness that goes along with it. But his heroic job and all that goes along with it does not give him an excuse to treat me poorly on the days that were especially hard. This is a union and everything is a two-way street. Communication is key. My husband is a hero, but by definition so am I because my home is an example of neatness and order, I have courage to be alone while he is at work, and my children are my outstanding achievements in this life.
Thank you for writing this.
Hi hope you were able to talk with him about how the article made you feel Stephanie
I’m a female volunteer firefighter. I love being a firefighter. It’s been my dream since I was a little girl. My boyfriend hates that I became a firefighter because I have training once a week and I have to take calls for fire and ambulance. I see how it is hard for him but hes been so bitter and mean to me lately because of it. I dont know what to do
Hey Meagan, that’s a choice only you will be able to assess. Is he supportive of other things in your life? Has he said why it bothers him?
My wife is now going through the training process, I hates her choice and resent it so much. I have express concern why it does not work for our family but she refuse to listen and constantly accused me that I’m selfish for not supporting her path. I have a great job for the last 13 years that I earn close to six figure yearly. I do not consider us to be rich but we have enough to live comfortable. She cliam its not about the money but i feel stress dealing with the constant unfix working pattern of the fire fighter. Our kids will now need to go from child minder to child minder. I have told her I just can not deal with the new arrangement but she reply that I can up and leave if I can’t cope with things. I really feel like walking out but love her and my kids too much. I am stress out by it so much and truly amazed by her hard stand as I could not have seen that coming from her personality and love she express for our kids. Help help i do not want abandoned my family but feel I might have no choice now. I don’t know maybe I am selfish for this, let me know your thoughts.
Orane, was there no discussion about it before she started training? Was this not a mutual decision for her to do?
Hi Val, sorry for the late reply. We did discuss it around 2014 and it was a mutual agreement at that point but we have since had a new member to our family who is our now 3 years old daughter. I was not aware of the shift work which is a major problem for me. I do not have a problem with her working and being independent as she claim is very important to her but for me any other 9-5 will work fine.. In 2014 our income was just about covering our bills but since then our finance has improved by about 30%.
People should not refer to themselves as single parents when they are not. Single parents do not have 2 incomes. They NEVER have someone coming home to help, no even once a year. I was a single parent for 18 years and we really don’t appreciate when non-single parents say they are!
Many single parents get child support and their kids go to the other parent for visitation. While I get what you are saying, there are many firewives that their firefighters work most days of the month to make ends meet. I know some that their firefighter works 2 full-time dept’s so they may be home 6 or 8 days a month.