One of the board of directors on our nonprofit asked me to write a blog about life when going through the academy. But not just my view but also the view of my husband. The things we both go through during those grueling weeks apart. I have been sitting on this blog for a while now. It’s crazy to me that the academies that we went through averaging about six weeks are now only about a third of the weeks these families go through now. We have, I believe, four different academies under our belt and each came at different points in our lives. I will try to do this blog justice as academies are so different now and the amount of time apart so much longer. At least for my husband’s department.
The very first academy my husband and I went through is a blur for me. And to be completely honest I don’t remember it much and did not comprehend as much as I do now. We were engaged at the time and I was a full time student and working a part time job. My schedule kept me busy and allowed me to be distracted enough to not be phased too much with him gone. We didn’t live together so I also didn’t rely on him the way I did when he went through the other academies. But what I probably didn’t realize was the extreme pressure he was going through. Not just in this first academy but in every single one after. The pressure to perform and be able to do this job weighed heavily on him. He wanted to be able to support us and provide before we were to get married. Even more so in the later academies.
The second, third, and forth academies brought their own challenges with us being parents. In the second academy our first daughter was two and I also was barely pregnant with our second. I had been working part time too. So you could say my plate was full. There were some hard nights where I sat with my daughter and consoled or even shared in her tears. She was too young to understand it all but she had all these emotions that were hard to navigate through because I had my own struggles with my husband gone. It is so easy to get caught up in those struggles at home because our lives don’t stop when they’re gone. The bills still need to be paid, kids fed, appliances fixed, vehicles maintained. The list could go on and the same applies for their normal shifts. We are balancing holding down the home and work life without the one we promised to do life with there. The arguments and frustrations are magnified and harder to deal with because academies only allow them to be home so little. Even phone calls home limited because of needing to practice or study. The academies my husband went through allowed him to go home on the weekends but it didn’t always happen because the need to study and practice sometimes took precedence. This particular second academy I think my husband came home one maybe two weekends out of the six weeks.
The third academy same scenario but instead I had two kids and just transitioned to a stay at home mom. That transition was really hard for me because I had never not worked. I was in the midst of rediscovering who I was as a fire wife, mom of multiples, and as my own person. When my husband went through this academy our second daughter was a few months old and our house was on the market because we were planning on moving to the new place he was stationed at. Which if you have read prior blogs was almost seven hours away. Figuring out house showings with a nursing baby was not at times an easy task. So, needless to say everything yet again was all new and a test on how much I could handle on my own. Going into this one though I understood a little more about the importance of him studying and when he came home on those weekends I helped him study. He had all new co-workers and a need to prove himself more then before. His career hung in the balance of having to pass these tests because this time around our finances relied on him.
The fourth academy was the shortest of them all. It was a four week academy for a position we didn’t know 100% if he was going to get yet. But we were hopeful. He has the position now. I remember being over going through academies at this point and our oldest daughter was in her first year of school. This academy was a little over a year ago and I remember phone calls being short and that dang studying had to be done. This one however didn’t really have a ceremony so no picture. Through all these academies though I realized something important, the amount of pressure on both ends can really make you or break you. My husband made it through this academy and hopefully we are good for a while.
The things I didn’t know though, going through all these academies was the amount of pressure my husband put on himself. The struggle of bettering his career at a cost of leaving his family for weeks couldn’t have been easy. He missed weeks of our lives that he will never get back. If he didn’t pass or score just right he could fail and then what? I could only imagine how this may have haunted him. Sometimes and not all the time I got caught up in my own struggles to see and understand the weight of the academies my husband had to carry. The fear of failing not only himself but his family, the fear of failing his brothers, sisters and his superiors. When they’re at these academies it’s not just sitting in a classroom and taking a little test it’s days and weeks of physically and mentally draining courses with their careers hanging in the balance. It’s the demands at home in the back of their mind. It’s that if we can just get through this it will be better. Our firefighters know us and who they chose to marry and be with. They know we are strong and can handle this life better then the average. And they know it is by no means easy on us at home either. Because we as fire wives aren’t average we’re amazingly strong and these academies are our test. There’s no guidelines or instructions how to get through these, sometimes we just do.
We often as fire wives and firefighters put so much pressure on ourselves to be doing the best we possibly can. In the end we need to remember to take each day at a time and learn from the day before. To support each other and build that trust that says I know you’re capable and are doing the best you can for our family. Because looking back now I can take pride in each of those academies that not only he made it through, but I did too. His accomplishments are just as much yours. Don’t let the pressure win. Strive to help each other out and understand what each other is going through. None of it is easy on either end. Find the balance to help get you through. Academies are freaking tough but so are you.