“I don’t know how you do it,” a friend texted me earlier today. “It” refers, I assume to the long hours/days of parenting and life when I’m flying solo. I’m sure I have talked about the fire schedule before, 24 on, 24 off, 24 on, 5 days off, but it is not a rare occurrence that he’s gone for 48, 72, 96… This seems crazy to most people, but to us it is our normal, it is the nature of the job, the lifestyle of a fire family.
Last Thursday, hubby took an overtime shift for the day, 12 hours-but then got held for the next twelve-which ran into his 24 hour shift. He arrived home exhausted on Saturday only to need to go back for Saturday night-which ran into him being held for the day on Monday for a snow storm-which turned into being held for the night as well. 108 hours with a 12 hour break-but who’s counting?
I am bone tired. My patience has been running thin. Last Thursday-his first day on, started out a hot mess with a 2 hour delay. One of my kids cried all the way to the bus, wanting me to drive him, but I hadn’t shoveled yet, and we argued all the way to the bus. I got myself in such a tizzy trying to make sure my older kids were taking care of their stuff that I forgot to pack my youngest his sneakers. It was a parenting fail morning . I was already running on little to no sleep for the past week and now the mama guilt set in. I shoveled my car out and thought, well I can drive to the school with the shoes for one and pull another out of class to apologize for my short fuse that morning. A friend called and I poured my crazy, tired heart out and she said, “don’t go to school, he will be fine without the shoes.” So I didn’t, I saved myself a trip, but my tired mind went back and forth all day.
Later that afternoon I picked my guys up from their after school activities and apologized to 2/3; 1-for forgetting the shoes, 2-for losing my temper. And as I hugged my guy the assistant principal stood by to report that my son had been checked into a wall at floor hockey. I hadn’t even looked at myson before I pulled him into a hug, but there he stood, holding his right arm across his belly. Ugh.
The next morning, Friday, I was pulled out of a deep sleep, at 4:55am by the sound of vomiting and I just couldn’t believe it, I didn’t see that coming! No, I was pretty sure my day might consist of an x-ray for the body checked kid, but vomit! NOOO!!But yes, not only did I have one down with a stomach bug(and a rookie at that), I decided the range of motion for the other was not sitting well with me and we should go get it checked out. I sent my third off to school(with his shoes) and these words, “No injuries, no sickness, I’m counting on you today buddy!”(Yeah that’s the one who broke his arm back in December)
Saturday and Sunday were movie days here. What more can you really do at that point, and while there was no more vomit past 4:55 am, that little bug knocked him down for a few days, so we just hung low. But as everyone started to feel better, they started to annoy one another and fight.
So today, our first snow day of the winter, I really just wasn’t sure how this was going to go, but with no patience for days, I knew I needed to make some changes for myself that would positively impact my people. I got up a little earlier and I read my bible and prayed big prayers, “God please give me patience today!” “Please help me to turn to you often today, when I feel like I’m falling apart.”
And ya know what? We had a good day. I shoveled some crazy heavy snow, had a snowball fight, laughed, babysat my nephew, didn’t lose my mind or my temper(VICTORY!!), and managed to get everyone to bed at a reasonable time, so I could have time to do this, a little me time in my bedroom, door closed, kids asleep, thank you Lord.
All that to say, I don’t know how I do it… I don’t know how I do it, I don’t know how other fire wives do it, or police wives, military wives, single moms, widows… I don’t know how anyone does it. But I am pretty sure I know why we do it. We do it because we love our people fiercely. What other choice is there, but to do it? Some days it looks different than others. The other night everyone had cereal for dinner. The other day we watched 3 movies. Minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, we just do the best we can with the circumstances we are given, even if the circumstances suck- that is how we do it. Sometimes I do it great, some days I question my abilities as a wife and mother because I did it so badly, but God willing, I will have a chance to do it better tomorrow. Fire wives, police wives, military wives, single moms, widows-find your people, the ones you can text or call when everything stinks. Having a support system is so necessary, because listen, after 108 hours, no matter how many kids you are surrounded by, life can get lonely, so get your people, send your SOS, hang in there. We can do this, together.