Updated: Feb 20, 2020
“Oh, you are so lucky, you have a firefighter for a husband”…
Why is it that every human being on the planet thinks that just because my husband wears a uniform that automatically constitutes me being so lucky? I’m lucky because God gave me him to be my partner in crime forever. Seriously, the uniform is amazing, and there is so much pride for him, every single time he walks out the door. But believe me, my end of the deal is no picnic in the park.
If you had told me 19 years ago, that being a firefighter wife was going to be “this” amazing, I would have throat punched you and threw my diet coke in your face. No one signs up for this business, and no one, not one person seemed to inform me how lonely and hard my wee little life would be, minus my husband every third day. I know. I know. Cry me a river, as being a wife to any man in any profession is hard work. But, behind that amazing uniform, my friends, are the spouses who are truly butt kickers.
Welcome to part 1 of a 3 part series entitled:
Part 1: Why he’s a turd.
Part 2: How NOT to be a turd.
Part 3: How to NOT be turds together.
I’m sure I will scare all the new firefighter spouses (or other first responder spouses, but my expertise only lies with being the wife of a firefighter: cops wives, I’m sure you can relate 😉) with the following statement: “so your husband is a new firefighter? Well, let me let you in a little secret spouse code that no one will have the stones to tell you: it’s not all calendar picture moments of the hot men storming through fires in their half wore uniform. Here is what you get so buckle up buttercup and fix it, Jesus”:
1) Let’s start with the shift work. You will be El single mom (or dad) every third day so be prepared to go to every school meeting, every play, every recital, everything important in your families life BY YOURSELF almost all the time. People will look at you and say “oh, thank you for showing up by yourself because your husband has been called to serve and protect strangers”. You will be thinking to yourself “please to every living soul, make this event go fast because I have the nighttime kid dance to do by myself.” 2) The nighttime duty with kids will be total horse crappery, especially if you have been at work or wrestled with a screaming kid all day long. Using baby wipes and a dip in the chlorine pool are completely okay in this situation: get the kids to bed. 3) Be prepared to move every holiday festivities to one night before or after they take place, because there is no such thing as December 25 in a firefighter world, pending on what shift they work. The city does not shut down for the holidays, so explain to your kids why Santa comes one day early. Get the script prepared. Also, see number 1 because you will be attending holidays El Solo as well. 4) Be prepared for every.single.thing to go wrong, break, breakdown, or insert any amount of chaos you can think of here. (see number 1). If anything good or bad will happen to you or your families life, it will happen on shift. Get a tribe in the neighborhood in which you live to help you. Remember they were the ones that thanked your husband for his duty so that gives you the right to say “great neighbor friend, now come and kill this snake on my back porch or get the attic ladder off my swelling hand because I thought I could put something back in the attic by myself” (speaking for a friend, not me). 5) You will sleep by yourself every third night (wait, that is not bad, moving on). 6) Don’t ever let the thought of him/her not returning enter your mind, and never rush the goodbyes. And that is just the start: In my 19 years, the few things listed above are child’s play to the amount of learning I have had to do with my first responder husband. The other learning I’m speaking of is why he was such a turd when he came home every morning after a shift? (FYI..he is not a turd most mornings after shift but that secret is safe until episode 3 (teaser). Seriously, didn’t he sleep and play video games, and sing kumbaya for 24 hours while I slaved over the entire household and dealt with items 1-6. Why the hell are you such a disaster every morning???!?!?
**WARNING—TOP SECRET MATERIAL LISTED BELOW**
Keys to why your husband is a turd when he comes home from the shift:
1) He has not slept. He has been on high alert for the past 24 hours, and even if his head hit the bed at 9 pm, he never reached the full effects REM sleep have in place because his body does not allow him to relax: EVER…EVER…EVER. You know the feeling when you hear your tiny alarm go off, moving you out of your warm bed every morning? Multiply that alarm by 100 decibels, begging your loving husband (or wife) out of their somewhat sleep state, to possibly save a life (God willing). Now, do that a few times a night, and see how well you sleep. 2) He didn’t eat all day. The city decided to get right with Jesus all day long, and your loving spouse was moved from station to station, all over the city, transporting or working a ton of people at their worst moments, and food was the last thing on their minds. They are lucky to have three meals a day and would kill some days for the cheerios you eat off your kids’ plate. OR…they’ve eaten well the past 24 hours and can’t seem to understand why you are serving up your favorite mac and cheese with a side of vodka because you can’t contemplate anything else anymore…in this case..refer them to the above list. 3) They have taken in strangers crap for the last 24 hours and because they are great humans and HR does not allow them to speak their mind, so they take it. They don’t need it from you, right when they walk in the house. Give them some grace and let them take a nap. It will be good for both of your souls. (see number 1 on why they are turds). Give your loving husband (or wife) a few trauma calls, and you will see a different side to their smile; because it won’t be there. The human mind can only absorb so much trauma before it spills over. Neurologically, a whole slew of stuff takes place that shuts down their ability to make a rational decision or thought, so their anger, sadness, anxiety, and depression falls on you, if you’re lucky, because YOU are their saving grace. If you have not seen the likes of PTSD, anxiety or depression, start studying baby, because it is only a matter of when not if this will take place, and you will feel as helpless as a newborn. Reach out for help because you can’t fix this one (insert plug for company mental health company….www.3forthelove.com). 4) Your spouse has been on an adrenaline high for the last 24 hours, and all sorts of chemicals have spilled over and caused all sorts of functions in their precious systems to spin out of control. They’ve lived in a genuine state of chaos for 24 hours, and the “coming down” of this adrenaline high is not pleasant: guess who sees and witnesses it first: YOU. Let them take a nap, go fishing, or have breakfast with the guys. TRUST ME. You want them to decompress. However, this does not give them the right to be lazy or be a 48-hour turd (coming in next post); give them a few hours to “normalize.”They have no idea how to live in a “normal” world. They are hypersensitive, paranoid, chaos driven, task-oriented, turds (most of the time). God called them to this line of work, and they can’t deal with the mundane aspects of life during their shifts so please, for the love of all being, do not try and solve the world’s problems or give them new problems while they are on shift or when they first get home. I promise you; they are not listening or comprehending ANYTHING you say. Don’t take offense to this, roll with it until they can get their minds back to your world and your issues. No matter how big your issues may be, those hands and eyes have seen the horror of the horror in the last 24 hours, and the clogged drain is the least of their problems (it will be later, just let their minds reset 😉). Don’t think for one second this is it. I’ve got so many pearls, Jack Sparrow should be my best friend. It has taken me YEARS and a Masters Degree (literally) in trauma psychology to understand this world and the first responder mind, and I’ve only just cracked a small piece of the code. I wouldn’t trade this world or my loving husband, who shows so much compassion and love towards his family every day, even after the midst of chaos and storms from strangers the night before. We didn’t pick this life. But we have learned to live with the cards that have been given. Had someone told us what the real world was going to look like so many years ago, I still would have said (and so will you first responder spouse): BRING IT ON. Oh, but wait! In my next glorifying section, we will learn why you turds do not get to act like turds the entire 48 hours while you are off work. Now it’s your turn to buckle up because it is about to get more uncomfortable!