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My Life as a Fireman's Wife

Updated: Sep 3, 2019

For the most part, being married to a fireman has its perks. My husband is tall, fit and wears a uniform and … oh, sorry... too much? I mean, life-perks... let’s talk about life related stuff. 😉

My husband works the 24-48 Shift Schedule. What does this mean, you ask? His department has a total of 3 shifts (1st shift, 2nd shift, 3rd shift). Each shift works 24-hours on duty followed by 2 consecutive days (48 hours) off duty. This is a fixed plan without any rotation. He averages about 56 hours each week.

Each 28 day cycle is called a Kelly Cycle. If a fireman works more than 212 hours in a 28-day period, this is considered overtime. To avoid overtime, his department uses a rotating day off (called a Kelly Day) once every Kelly Cycle. Confusing, right?

There are a number of perks to this schedule:

  • We can plan anything, for months or years ahead of time because his schedule never changes. It goes on into infinity… one shift on, two shifts off. One shift on, two shifts off. Forever and ever, Amen.

  • He never works more than 3 days a week. Never. Doesn’t that sound amazing?!

  • He never has to work an entire weekend (Saturday and Sunday).

  • He gets a 5 day stretch off each Kelly Cycle... like this...

[Shift Day] [day off] [day off] [Kelly Day] {day off] [day off] [Shift Day]

But there are some downsides:

  • We just never know when he’s going to come home. I mean, you know he is supposed to be relieved by the next shift at 8am, but he can always get a “late call.” That pretty much means any emergency call or fire that results in him leaving the station late. One time, he didn't get home until after 1130am because of a huge building fire. We had one child at the time and I was supposed to be at work at 9am; talk about a stressful morning.

  • It can be tough scheduling things last minute. "Wait." You say, "You just said you can schedule things easily because you know his schedule ahead of time!" YES, but the last minute stuff is hard because 4 kids, no daycare, two full-time working parents... more on this below.

  • Sometimes after a long night of no sleep and a lot of emergency calls, he's tired when he comes home. Really tired, and cranky.

  • He experiences extreme highs and extreme lows... these experiences follow him home. In general, we make an effort to talk about these difficult calls and I do my best to support him the way he needs. But it's hard. This type of repetitive stress can contribute to emotional fatigue, physical fatigue, poor sleep habits, irritability, depression and anxiety.

At this point, I’d say I’m pretty experienced at this routine… we’re going on 14 years now. In our early married years (before kids), “shift days” were hard for me. I’d usually fill my time by working an extra shift at the hospital to avoid boredom and loneliness. At the time, we did nearly everything together and having your new husband gone for 24 hours seemed like an eternity.

But now we have kids... FOUR KIDS!... who all rely on consistency to function at their best. Mom works long hours. Dad works long hours. And we usually manage to shuffle things around to get it all done, without daycare or a nanny and with very supportive grandparents. Now, the no daycare or nanny thing is something we have chosen is best for our family.... but that in itself is difficult sometimes because as he comes home from work, I'm headed out the door for work.

I'd like to think the kids are used to it by now because this is all they've ever known. But I'll be honest, they miss their Dad when he's gone. For them, 24 hours REALLY feels like an eternity!

Lucky for my kids though, we live in a community filled with tons and tons of other fire families. Their class rooms are filled with half a dozen other kids who live a life just like theirs.

The support for families like ours is like nothing else. I cannot explain what it feels like to know when you need help, you never have to look far. It never fails that one of the kids has practice on a shift night, or choir concert AND preschool graduation are scheduled on the same night. There is much comfort in knowing another fire mom or fire dad will step in without question to support our family. Because when it's their shift to work, we will be there for them without question too.

So, for my fellow stitcher who knows a fireman, lives with a fireman, raised a fireman or is friends with a fireman... this is for you. I've put together this Maltese Cross pattern; it's a free download. Have fun stitching it up. Display it in your home to show your support and pride. Or gift it to another fire family. Plus... it's really fun to cross stitch on a shift night ;-)

Happy stitching.

- Amanda

Did you love this blog post and want to save it for later? Here is an image perfect for pinning to your favorite Pinterest cross stitch board. Scroll your mouse over the image and click the red Pinterest "Save" icon OR just click on the photo and it'll take you right over to Pinterest. Don't forget to follow Amanda Brooke Designs while you're there. Thanks!

*Content of this post only describes my personal experiences and all opinions are solely mine.

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