I have been a firefighter for 20 years. I have been married for 14 of those years and was blessed with four children.
I have seen countless marriages crumble within the fire service. Every year, it seems that at least one more couple breaks up, including one that I didn’t expect. It’s time that we take a stand to put as much effort into our marriage as we do into our job.
The “brotherhood/sisterhood” is something that can’t be shared, but there is no greater bond into which you can enter than that of marriage. The person who you enter this covenant with eventually will have more responsibility than you. This includes taking care of the home and the kids while you are away—spending time running children to and from school, doctor appointments and sporting events, to name only a few. They also spend countless hours worrying about your safety while you are away for what typically is 24 hours at a time, all while having to deal with the little nuances of keeping the home running as smoothly as possible.
Over the years, I learned to change my perspective on my profession. I believe that this saved my marriage.
I walked away from my career as a member of the fire service when my boys were sick. Given the treatments that they required, this was necessary not only for their care but to be present for my wife. I was a lieutenant when this occurred.
After approximately a year and a half, I returned to my department as a firefighter. I have been back at my department for five years now and have tried to tell the younger members that there are things that are more important than themselves, than the badge that they wear and than the titles that they achieve.
Firefighters tend to make their profession their identity. I was the same way when I was young. That said, I would have lost everything that was important to me if my priorities weren’t aligned.
I write this piece to tell everyone that nothing could possibly be more destructive to yourself and your family than making your job your identity. When your job is your identity, your priorities become misaligned, and the people who are the most important to you slowly fade away.
Your identity is you and you alone. When someone asks what I do for a living, I have learned to respond that I am a husband, father and servant of Christ. Yes, I get absolutely crazy looks and further questions, but that’s OK.
Being a firefighter doesn’t give you any more importance than the individual who picks up your garbage at your home. However, don’t believe that this makes you less of a firefighter. You give it your all while on shift—and you give it your all while at home. When your shift is over, leave your work behind. Be the spouse, parent, companion and friend who gives the same effort that you give to the total strangers who you encounter every day.
Spouses before firehouses
To all of my brothers and sisters, if we know in our hearts that we would lay down our life to save a stranger, then let’s take the time to devote the same love and attention to those who support us the most when we kiss them goodbye to head to the unknown that we face at the firehouse.