Your husband comes home from a long, exhausting 24, 48, or 72-hour shift and you must readjust to life with a partner again, after just getting the hang of things on your own. The firefighter schedule may seem easy to your friends whose husbands have 9-5 jobs, Monday-Friday, but for you it’s a total life readjustment – one that requires patience, understanding, and excellent communication skills.
Before having children this rotating schedule was pretty fantastic! All I had to worry about was myself. There were days before kids came into the picture that the kitchen was left a mess overnight, but it didn’t matter because no one else was going to see it besides me. There were evenings that extra time out with the girls was a given, knowing that my husband was going to be on shift so there was no reason to rush home for dinner. The reintegration of a husband-wife relationship was actually fairly effortless. The only challenge was the fact that while they just want to finally relax by themselves when they walk in the door, you are ready to dive into one-on-one “quality time” together since you just had ample time to yourself. That struggle did not change for us, however it became much more tricky once it became a husband-wife-child relationship.
By the time your husband gets home, you may feel like if you hear one more tantrum about something as ridiculous as that there was a bubble on the pizza crust that your toddler apparently feels like shouldn’t have been there (as if it somehow changes the taste) you could just pull your own hair out. When you are at the end of a very long parenting day, you’re exhausted and frustrated, and your husband finally walks in the door, what you want to do is throw the kid at them and get out of there as quickly as possible to take a much needed break from your job. But the hardest thing to remember is that he too is exhausted and often times frustrated with dealing with the craziness of the “night-train”, dealing with drunks and people out of their right minds all night too (often times the stories oddly resemble that of our toddler).
No doubt there has to be balance. Arguably the most important time of day you have together is right when he steps in that door. You can choose to bail and say, “Take care honey!” or you can choose to return back to the partnership mentality, which a healthy marriage and family-life requires. Being on the same page does not just happen naturally; it takes practice and effort on both ends. It is no secret that men and women think differently. It is also no secret that you are both tired and ready to rest. But at that point, neither one of you has any clue what the other one went through the last one, two, or three days. The biggest secret to reintegration that I have found over the last 5 years of marriage is communication – that is the key.
Every family is different within the firefighter community, even if their schedules are the same. The point is that you must find a system that works for your family. With that being said, I will leave you with the Bible verses that keep things beautifully and simply said, when I tend to overcomplicate things. These basic principals are what often drive our family in the right direction, no matter how hectic things might get within the walls of a Firefighter Family. Ephesians 5:22-33
Brooke M., Denver Fire wife