Bub and I have been married just over a year now. He’s also been a firefighter for a few years now, starting out as a volunteer in which he did everything all the other paid FF’s did, but for free. He was was able to get extra training because of it. He eventually got into the federal forest service and is now part of a state department, broken down and managed by counties.
While we’re still new at the game called “marriage” and his career known as “firefighting,” we’re quickly learning how to balance our careers and every day life, with me being a full-time RN and back in school as well. It’s a crazy, busy life, but a good one.
As you may know, or not know, in Bub’s line of working where he is managed through county and state, his job can take him away at any time and for weeks on end. I felt the need to write this because he’s been gone for 16 days now, with the possibility of maybe coming home in a few more and I got some stuff on my mind. Last year he was gone for 2 weeks, and he left not even a week after we got married. Then he was home for two more weeks, then was away for three more. It wasn’t the easiest but I managed with support. More on that in a little bit.
But I’m writing because whenever he’s at work for his regular 72 hour shift or gone like he is now, people say the darnedest things. I mentioned a few of the things in a previous post, but I’ll simply reiterate here, as well as offer a few suggestions for those of you that know other FF wives (or husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends, fiances!), as well as newer wives like myself. We’re a special breed!
When Bub is away, either during his regular shift of 72 hours or time away like he currently is, I get some funny and interesting comments/questions. It’s kind of like a pregnant lady… People offer strange (sometimes unwanted) advice, tips, etc. or just ask weird questions.
Below I have a list of things that people say to me that might irk me. Enjoy. I’ll also add commentary for them and why they might bother me. And yes, these are the phrases that perhaps you can think about before saying, or least how you say it.
You must be so anxious
Yes, I am, but I don’t let it take over my life. I can’t allow myself to feel so anxious that it disrupts me during work or every day life. I have to let it go to a point where I am able to function.
You must not sleep at night/You must be soo lonely in bed by yourself
Yes, I am. But while this may be one of the hardest about him being gone, since I’ve gotten to used to him being there, I’ve found ways to help me sleep better at night. I’ve downloaded two meditation apps that I utilize and boy does it help.
You’re probably really lonely/Do you miss him a lot?
Yes, of course I am lonely, and no, I am not lonely. I am lonely for him, but not without him. I have the awesome support of my family as well as his family, and course all of our friends. When he’s gone, I usually stay with my family; otherwise I stay at our place, which is on his parents property and I’m able to visit with them of course. I see my friends a lot, too. You can say I’m not a needy wife.
Aren’t you soo stressed out when he’s gone? Are you very worried?
Yes, I get worried, especially when I see pictures of the fires he is at. But I can’t allow myself to freak out and become so afraid that it causes anxiety.
When is he coming home?
I have no freaking clue. Seriously. And neither does he. A typical campaign can last up to 14 or 21 days and then they might get 2 days off. But when in a state of emergency, like we have been for a few weeks now, they might not get those 2 days. And they will continue their 24 on/24 off schedule. But I digress. During their campaigns, we never know when they’ll come home. They usually don’t even know until the night before or even the day of. And then again, it can always change…
Wow, what do you do when he’s gone?
I sit at home by myself and twiddle my thumbs. All day long. Just kidding. I go to work, focus on work, come home, do my homework and write papers, and then I finish it off by spending time with my family and friends. Retail therapy is also a good idea 😉
You must never see each other
Actually, we do. We manage to see each other on his days off and when I come home from work. Amazing! And when he’s away, we’re lucky to live in an age of technology and frequently send each other selfies. Sometimes we even get to FaceTime. And what time we do have together, we never take for granted and appreciate every moment together.
Oh, he’s at that fire? I heard it’s pretty bad and scary up there!
Yes, thank you for the reminder.
Using terms such as single, lonely, lonely girl, and my favorite…widow
I mentioned in my previous post about this but people openly will call me and other FF wives “single,” “lonely girl,” and a “widow.” I have heard all of these more than once. And it makes me sad, hurt, and mad. It downplays what a widow is and it also doesn’t take into account that we are very much married. We just happen to be separated by distance and sometimes lack of communication but not by our choice.
I can usually brush a lot of this off, as everyone that says it really doesn’t mean any harm by it. But when I hear it on a daily basis or when I just heard that he’s staying longer than expected, it is an unintentional hurt, but a hurt nonetheless.
And below are a list of things I tell myself, as well as what I do to help me feel better when it’s tough.
I am calm, because I have to be. For him and for me.
I am strong for the both of us, but especially for him.
I will not allow myself to feel anxious or upset.
I look at the positives in our relationship. I look forward to text messages from him that simply say, “Good morning beautiful, just finished 24 hours on the fire, I’m going to sleep now, miss you, love you”
I don’t expect him to call me every day, especially the days when he’s working 24 hours. And on his off days or when he’s at the station and I send him text messages, I don’t ever expect him to respond right away, if at all. I send him little updates of what I’m doing just so when he does check his phone, it might bring a smile to his face.
I put my focus into work and school, not on the fire that he’s fighting, although he is always in the back of my mind. I miss him every single second that he’s gone, but I know he’s working hard and I care more about if he’s eaten, had enough water, and had enough sleep, instead of him being with me. I check the status of the fire, but I don’t look at weather or the parts that might scare me. I’ll look at his personal photos when he’s back in the safety of our home.
I exert any negative energy into exercising, yoga, Netflix binges (hello, Friends!), and also meditating at night when I go to sleep. I found this helps me so much at night.
Reading positive books.
I recently bought myself and my hubby Qalo rings, which are silicone rings designed specifically for very active people i.e. firefighters, rock climbers, weight-lifters, etc. I got him an all black, as he is very simple. But I got myself the ring that is a representation for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundations and their Wives.
I recently joined an online support group of firefighter wives from all over the country and it’s been so helpful and encouraging to be in a community of women who truly understand what it’s like. We’re similar to military wives, but we’re also different. We all miss our spouses, just for varying periods of time. I have so much respect for the spouses whose other half are in other countries for months on end. I’m lucky to see my husband after a few weeks.
I also use my “independence” for doing other things I might not normally do when he’s here. Shopping trips by myself, lazy evenings of reading or binge-watching YouTube, spending extra time with friends and family, and even eating food he may not like personally but I enjoy. Just because 😉 Mmm, garlic shrimp…
If you know someone whose spouse is a firefighter or first responder, asking things like, “how is he doing?” or “how are you doing?” is wonderful. Offering support, rather than questions, is so appreciated. Also, a lot of the time, when asked anything, the tone has a lot to it… When I’m asked these questions and you tilt your head and give me sad eyes, that’s when it hurts. I’m not alone, nor do I need sympathy. Just your support.
FTC: This is not a sponsored post