I’m a small town mom who lives in the country on 20 beautiful acres with a creek that runs through it. I’m outside with my two boys (ages 3 and 4) for the better part of most days.
When we aren’t outside, you can find me volunteering at their preschool, an amazing parent-run co-op close by. I’m a proud RN with an awesome work-from-home position which allows me to be with my kiddos full-time. ! am also a wife to a wonderful man who is a captain with CALFIRE, an all-risk fire department (fancy word for saying he goes to wildland and structure fires). His bread and butter is major fires in the summer here in California. I love to sew and everything crafty when I get a chance (which isn’t very often lately!)
My biggest strength as a mom is my ability to adapt and overcome. I try to be as flexible as possible and know that raising children rarely goes as planned. I believe that if I am flexible, my children will be also.
I actually really love spending time with my boys but, honestly, a trip to the thrift store and coffee shop alone or with a close friend is pure heaven on earth.
Can you describe your family dynamics? Your work/roles within the home? Your husbands work/roles? My husband and I have a saying that I do the inside chores and he does the outside ones. This works well for us because I love to cook and he loves his tractor and riding lawn mower. I primarily care for our boys because I am in the home at all times while my hubby leaves to work at the fire station. My hubby always does the dishes when home and I so appreciate that about him.
Do you have a support system for when your husband is gone? Is your family nearby? I have a wonderful family but mine all work full-time and I always feel a bit guilty asking for help when they are all working on their own too. My in-laws are about 2 hours away but are always helpful when they can. We have great friends and some that live nearby who bend over backward to help me while he is away.
What is the longest he has been gone on a fire? Once he was gone for 58 days. He was home for 2 days during that time, otherwise he was on assignment or stuck at his fire station and we didn’t see him. How do you manage your stress and worries when you are unable to talk to him? I try to stick to a regular routine when he is home or away in order to make things easier on myself and the kids. Nights are always the hardest—I’m tired and have to do all dinners, bath times, bedtimes, chores, etc without even a five minute break and then the loneliness sets in sometimes. If I don’t stay busy I worry too much about him so I stay as busy as possible in the summer. FaceTime is amazing and we try to do that when we can but we often go at least 24 hours without contact when he is fighting fire in a remote location. Facebook has firefighter wives groups that has been very helpful to vent to on especially difficult days.
Katie loves this picture of Nate. “Media rarely shows the “unglamorous” side of firefighting. He was so tired this is how he slept. When I want to complain about him not being here, this picture keeps it all in perspective for me.”
What is something that you like about his schedule? I love that, when he is not on a fire, we get four days home with him to ourselves. Also, absence really does make the heart grow fonder—when he is gone for an extended period of time we both appreciate one another and what we do in our family on a day-to-day basis. It’s easy to forget all of the “stuff” each spouse does everyday until you end up doing it all. It brings a perspective and appreciation that other people may not every experience. I’ll be honest, it’s also nice to have some time apart at times and his job allows that as well. What is the biggest con?The biggest con is not being able to plan anything as a family from about May until September because of fire season (unless he has scheduled vacation). Most extended family get togethers happen in the summer and other fun things that we often miss as a family because of his job.
When I’m flying solo, I alternate between empowered and anxious. Are you so used to it that it is your norm? I am quite used to it. I really don’t know any other way—he is gone at least 3 days and nights every week year-round. I get in a “groove” and feel at ease with going solo most of the time. I definitely have my moments of insecurities but for the most part I’m confident I can handle pretty much anything on my own. What do you struggle with? I struggle with the dreaded “mom guilt” that so many of us have—I am a perfectionist through-and-through and I have learned along the way that some things just can’t get done. They just can’t. I’m only one person and I am just not able to it all. That was a hard pill to swallow but I am learning to accept that and every year this seems easier and easier.
How do your kiddos handle when daddy is gone? What stories or phrases do you use to support them? Honestly, it’s hard right now with my boys when dad is away. We are lucky that my husband is such a good dad and is so engaged when he is home but it makes it that much harder when he is gone. My boys miss him terribly at times and we usually have a few times where they cry about it. I try to tell them that we need to share daddy so that daddy can help the people who really need them (but that usually fails because my boys need him the most!) Last season we made kiss boxes for the boys. The boys decorated and colored them and then I told them to put a bunch of their kisses in them and dad will keep the boxes and open the box for a kiss when he needs one. The boys have a box from my husband for the same purpose. That seemed to work last season, but like I said before, parenting is an ever-adapting and changing challenge. I’ll probably be thrown for yet another loop this next fire season.
Thank you so much for sharing your world with us, Katie! You are very inspiring!