The role of a Firefighter means being prepared to work 24/7 and 365 days a year, and balancing this with family life can have its difficulties!
Missing out or rescheduling?
It means that at some point in your career you’ll find yourself not only missing the big holidays like Christmas, New Year or other important religious celebrations, but also means missing family occasions – from birthdays and anniversaries to school plays and events.
Socially there can be an issue too. For example, missing out on spending time with friends and family because you have to work weekends – or having to leave parties and events early because you’ve been called into work.
It is sometimes possible to swap shifts around – for example a colleague wanting to attend an event at the weekend might happily swap so you can be there a midweek school function.
Some firefighters also say they prefer being able to have time off during the week and get things done when things are less busy – i.e. the Christmas shopping! Plus it’s always nice to be heading home for four days off when everyone else still has the rest of the week to work.
It’s also possible get around things by moving the day you celebrate, for example having a ‘fake Christmas’ on the 24th or having a birthday celebration a few days late. It’s not for everyone but can work well for some families, especially those with young children.
Making shifts work
The traditional firefighter shifts of two days, two nights and four days off can mean that you can plan things with family and friends to an extent, but on the flip-side, you might find yourself exhausted on your days off if you’ve had a particularly hard shift. But it does mean that you can be around to do some of the school runs, sports days or even cover kids’ days off school.
Being on call and going regularly from day to night shift can take its toll on your mind and body – and it can be hard for someone coming off of nights to get adequate rest with family life going on around them!
Relationship ups and downs
There’s no question that the requirements of the job can be tough on relationships too, for both parties. If your partner works a traditional 9-5 job it might mean that at times you’re like ships in the night.
This may mean that your partner has to deal a lot more with the family side of life, and can cause a strain in relationships. It can also mean that you miss out on a lot of the day-to-day routine, which can be a wrench if you have children.
For the partner or spouse at home it can be incredibly stressful wondering what kind of situation or danger you might be encountering, especially when you’re often so busy that it isn’t possible to constantly call or message to ‘check in’.
And similarly, when facing dangerous situations at work it can on occasion be terrifying for a firefighter wondering if they’ll see their family again.
Also your partner might not fully understand that sometimes you’ll need time to rest and decompress, either from stress and exhaustion or from what you’ve seen or experienced on a traumatic shift.
Planning to make it work
The best advice from seasoned firefighters is to plan in advance as much as possible, to maximize the time you do have with your family.
If your family understands the situation and you work together to ensure that you spend as much quality time together as you can when off shift, there’s absolutely no reason your career should ruin your family life.
Realistically it’s fact that the job of a Firefighter and the shift patterns that come with this are going to be tough on family life at times. This is simply something you have to accept and learn to live with – part and parcel of the role.