Published April 2019- Update June 2020
Being a Firefighter Wife has so many benefits, namely that you come with your own Firefighter. But when you are a new fire wife, there are some things that you need to know.
These little tidbits go by many names.
Advice- Survival Skills- Recommendations- Guidance- Words to the Wise
Whatever you want to call it, it’s information that the newer Firewife needs to know, for her sanity and the sake of her new marriage! Or engagement, because let’s just be honest, marriages look different in the 21st century.
Advice- Survival Skills- Recommendations- Guidance- Words to the Wise for the New Firefighter Wife
Tell Murphy to shove it
Do you know about Murphy? Murphy’s law is that things go wrong if you give them the chance.
Basically what happens is, your firefighter goes on shift, and then things go wrong. The dryer breaks, the keys get locked in the car and the dog gets out.
These are the days where you find out how strong you are as you try to manage everything that went wrong without your Firefighter- or maybe your Firefighter ended up having to come home because things got so bad (like that time a tree fell on my house while my husband was on shift and I was 37 weeks pregnant taking a nap- it’s a happy ending though!)
But you will not let Murphy win– tell Murphy to shove it and find a way to make the best of the shift day when everything goes wrong and you can’t depend on your firefighter.
Make sure you know who to call in case of emergency
This may seem like a no brainer but, do you know who to call in case of an emergency when your Firefighter is on shift and they aren’t answering their phone?
Obviously, most of us can call the office. But what about if it’s after hours?
You should have another shift mates number, or the lieutenant, or someone else that can be an emergency contact if something goes wrong. I like to keep mine in an emergency folder so I don’t have to look all over the place for it!
Especially if you don’t live in the district where your husband works. If you can’t quickly drive to his job, you need several points of contact.
We aren’t inviting things to go wrong, but let’s be prepared for the worst case scenario so you can come out smelling like a rose.
Understand the importance of sleep
This is talked about, but really misunderstood in the fire service. Some people think that sleep has little to do with some of the issues firefighters face, and other people are hardcore about sleep.
What you need to know as a Firefighter wife is that sleep is important and will have a short and long term impact on your firefighter.
Short term it can cause irritability and some possible memory loss or confusion.
Long term it can lead to health issues and make any PTSD or depression worse.
Mix that with Firefighters love of coffee and energy stimulants and you have a recipe for disaster.
Our Husbands need sleep. Help him understand that and be patient with him when he hasn’t slept well in some time. He needs a break to recharge.
Being a Fire Wife, you find out just how flexible you really are.
Like I thought I was flexible, I understand that overtime happens and I’m thankful for extra training (because it keeps him safe!) But It’s totally overwhelming.
But you don’t realize how flexible you actually have to be.
Like those years where his shift days fall on all the holidays. Or the times where he ends up working your birthday two years in a row.
Or (true story) when he has to go to a mandatory unpaid 5 day 12 hour training or he looses his position, while you are home with a 7 day old and two other kids. <<I might still be a little bitter about that one.
Learn to be flexible, but also learn to communicate your needs and work hard on compromise.
Yes, send them to training, but let them know that they are wanted at home and you want them to take off some time soon so that they can relax with you.
Flexibility = Balance. Don’t be upset over every shift day, but also don’t let the fire dept. dictate your entire life.
It doesnt matter how long your Firefighter has been on the job, at a career or volunteer department.
There is ALWAYS some politicking going on.
If I didn’t know better, I would say that some of these firefighters are worse gossipers than the ladies at the nail salon.
Do yourself a favor and stay away from it, or if your firefighter wants to share, get the cliff notes version.
There’s like a running joke in the fire department.
On one hand there’s so much tradition that they don’t like to change. On the other hand they talk about change but many times it never happens.
If it’s not on paper, I don’t even like to talk about it with my husband!
Find something to do on Shift Days
You need to be able to have something that is familiar to do on shift days, especially when you might be feeling lonely.
Some wives save their Netflix binge for shift days, others do special work outs or hang out with the friends. It’s one of those things that nobody tells you about when you join the family.
Not getting caught up in the dates
I talk a lot about this in another post for the New Fire Wife at the Holidays, but I’ll say it some here.
No matter what your Firefighter’s schedule, you will not be able to have all the dates you want your Firefighter to have off.
That is the sad truth and just part of the job.
The frustrating part is when you think the date is “safe” and then your husband ends up having to work or get called in on that date.
That really sucks! I know my husband ended up loosing dates we thought were guaranteed before. We’ve changed birthdays and holidays- it’s all just part of the fire life.
Don’t be fearful of the job
This is so much easier said than done, especially if you are empathetic.
Anxiety has this funny way of sneaking up on you when you least expect it, and if you aren’t careful, you can become on edge while your husband is on shift.
Sometimes this means a change in your mood, other times this can be struggling to eat or sleep.
Talk to your firefighter about the training that they do at the station. Follow other Fire Wives on social media and meet with the ones in person from your station.
Find a support person you can talk to when you get anxious when your Firefighter is at work.
And if you are part of those “word of mouth” groups on facebook, or have access to a Firefighter radio- stay away. You will tie yourself up in knots if you learn about a bad accident or a large Fire.
Talk about it, get a plan in place, and then work on keeping those fears (they are valid but they can’t control your life!) in check.
Make an effort to connect with others
It’s sometimes easier said than done to find a tribe of people that can support you in this Fire Life.
But that doesnt mean that they aren’t out there! It may be another wife at your husband’s station, friends from church or people you know from online.
Notice how I didn’t say that you had to connect with people?
I said, make an effort. Sometimes in our lives we might have smaller circles that we run with, and that’s ok.
Just don’t give up on other people and become a scrooge. Make an effort to connect and one day you might be pleasantly surprised!
Figure out how to soloparent
Soloparenting is no joke.
Even if you aren’t a human mom and instead an animal mom, it can still be hard when your Firefighter is away on shift and something happens.
I’ve got so many stories, from the time my son got a pellet ball stuck in his ear, to the time my dog smeared poop and blood all over the house- crazy stuff happens!
So get a gameplan for solo parenting.
For many moms, they find that they have to cut out certain things to maximize their time and reduce stress levels.
Maybe this means eating leftovers or only doing laundry when the husband is home. Some people try not to plan any activities for shift days or they enlist the help of friends or family.
Soloparenting can be challenging, so find ways to reduce stress and make sure you communicate it with your husband. I talk more about solo parenting as a New Mom while your Firefighter is on shift in this post.
Vacations, Vacations, Vacations
Did I say ‘vacations’ enough times?
Seriously though, make plans to enjoy each others time. From quick weekend getaways to a big yearly vacation.
You need it, your husband needs it. Time to get away and destress and spend time loving on one another (even if the kids tag along).
Stress is literally killing our first responders. Vacations aren’t the perfect solution, but they are part of the bigger picture for helping our Firefighters stay healthy!
Tell the Divorce Gossipers to get some duct tape
Here’s the thing.
Some people believe that they are right. And these people believe that Firefighter Divorce is at an all time high.
The reality of it, and the numbers, just don’t support that theory.
I wrote an entire post breaking down the research of divorce and how it relates to firefighters, but in a nut shell, being a Firefighter is not a reason for divorce. It is just a job after all, and marriages are supposed to be forever.
Is there way more advice for new Fire Wives? Yes!
Don’t hesitate to reach out. Your happiness is important. Find others that can help you navigate this beautiful yet sometimes ridiculous life of being married to a firefighter.