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  • 07/27/2002
  • WildlandFire.com Team
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Voice from the other side – you’re right about fathers needing to be involved… but you’re wrong that a father who’s a firefighter is not involved. Yes, he’s gone a whole lot in the summer time but very few fathers (that I know of) bother trying to get to winter fire areas for extended periods of time. They’re frequently laid off and their being gone 24/7 in the summer is balanced by them being home 24/7 in the winter. You might find it a real eye opener if you started figuring up how much time a father spends at home when the children are home and awake with a regular 9-5, 5 day a week 50 weeks out of the year job (don’t forget the unpaid overtime many are expected to put in as well as long commute times). And then figure out how much time a firefighter is home when the children are home and awake considering the time laid off in winter. Firefighter families get the extremes but that’s not necessarily bad. My husband builds a very good relationship with the kids during his time off. And like Dawn’s husband, he calls any time he has a chance for even a minute to let us know where he is and what’s going on. And if at all possible, he always talks to the kids for at least a few minutes
Dawn – I’m there with you… home with several small children. Some things that help us.. I have things we do.. story time every week, Church on Sunday, swim lessons etc. It helps shape our weeks and gives us something to look forward to.

Also, another thing I’m definitely planning on is homeschooling (don’t knock it until you’ve really investigated it and not just gone with the standard assumptions of how hard it is or what you have to do). I can’t think of anything more the antithesis of a firefighter’s schedule than a public school schedule. Kids off in the summer while their daddies are out being the busiest, kids in school when daddies are home with time on their hands, no guarantee that daddies will have weekends off when they do get time off, kids only get weekends off. I figure homeschooling will maximize the time we do have with him… and frees us up, so that if we budget well the overtime paid in summer, we can do family trips and such in winter when we have very few time constraints by employers.

One thing I like to emphasize with the kids is not so much to downplay the danger of the job (though I don’t highlight that for the kids either – mine are all under 5yr) but I tell them all the things daddy does to be safe. I worked one season as a firefighter myself which I think really helps and my husband is great about talking about how things go on the job so I feel like I understand what may be happening.

Dawn I also agree that firefighting is a mutual decision. If anything I have encouraged this occupation because it’s what my husband is good at, and likes doing, and I’d much rather have a whole man coming home to me (and leaving on still another fire) than a down beaten man just trudging through a life he only puts up with. That may be the difference in marriages involving one spouse in firefighting… if you feel like you’re being put upon and forced to endure the separations, it must be a much harder life to live than if you’re freely sending him/her out each and every time, knowing that you’re part of the decision making process and not just being put upon to endure it. And the kids will know this difference too… and those who’s stay at home parent feels put upon and neglected will teach the children that that is what the firefighter is doing.. while the opposite is also true.. those who stay at home and gladly send the firefighter off, will teach the children to look forward to times together and to make the most of those times without any feelings of abandonment or neglect coming into play. And don’t think you can hide those feeling from the kids… kids are not only smart, they are wonderful barometers for emotions going on around them… Just watch a mom with a baby.. a relaxed mom usually has a relaxed baby… one who is nervous and tense tends to have a baby that also reflects that (I’m talking overall, not just at one given moment).
Oh and one other thing Dawn – the media sensationalizes most stories they get hold of… practically lies many times… or written in such a way that you think something entirely different from the truth. I find checking the online situation reports often gives a clearer idea of what is really happening than the media. Though the media is good because they get the stories out so fast. And of course checking Theysaid will often have more information than the media… like the crew that were burned over this past week in OR. I heard about it the day after and the first thing I did was check Theysaid and there was a nice little summary for me.. with the welcome information that no one was seriously injured (I knew it wasn’t my dh because I had talked to him the night before, but still any injury is one too many).
Mrs. RxFire

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