24-48. 24-48. I literally live my life in 24 and 48 hour segments. Every 48 hours, my husband wakes up, gets ready for work, drops one of our children off at daycare, and then I won’t see him again for at least 24 hours. Every 48 hours, our household schedule changes. Sure, we’ve somewhat grown accustomed to our 24 hour schedule while he is gone, but that schedule is still different from the 48 hours he is home. Every 48 hours, I kiss my husband goodbye and say a prayer that I will get to kiss him again in 24 hours.
You see my husband is a firefighter/paramedic who works 24 hours shifts every 48 hours. My husband is gone for a total of 4 months a year, broken into 24 hour shifts. It is not abnormal for our 5 year old daughter to ask, “Will Daddy be home tonight?” It is also not abnormal for our 2 year old to ask for Daddy when we get home, whether it is getting her out of her car seat, fixing her juice, or putting her to bed. His 24 hour absence is a big absence. We miss him. We understand. We are thankful. But we still miss him.
There are days while living this life, that I think I hate my husband’s job. And more embarrassingly, there are days when I actually tell him that I hate his job. But I really don’t hate his job. I hate when he is gone. I hate that our children always seem to get sick during his 24 hour shift. I hate that his weekends are during the “regular” work and school weeks and that the “regular” weekend is part of his work week. I hate that we always seem to miss some event due to his work schedule. I hate when I have to go to family gatherings without him. I hate that the first thing some people ask when they call to make plans is if he is working. I hate that we have to plan our strategically color-coded calendar in 24 and 48 hour blocks.
What I fail to remember in these moments of trivial frustration is how easy his schedule can make our lives. When our girls have pediatrician appointments or need to go to their follow-up at the allergist, we plan those on my husband’s day off. That means no one has to take off from work, and we can save our vacation time for actual family vacations. When there are errands that need to be attended to during regular business hours, my husband handles those. Those weekdays that my husband is off, I almost always come home to supper cooked and ready to eat and sometimes to a clean house. Our children get to go to the park on random week days after Daddy picks them up from school. They also get to stay home from daycare at least half of the summer because Daddy is off. There really are perks to his schedule; I just fail to recognize them sometimes.
Even in my indifference to our life schedule, I am so extremely proud of my husband. Sure, I’m a nervous wreck when he is working especially when I know he is on a call, but I am still so proud at the same time. Not only am I proud of him, but our daughters are proud of him. It is nothing to hear our 5 year old telling others that her Daddy saves people’s lives or fights fires. She has been in the car when we have happened upon an accident with no emergency responder yet on scene. She has seen her Daddy rush over to help those in need. We have been visiting him at the fire station and have heard those tones go out. We have watched him grab his gear and head to the truck (whether it be ambulance or fire engine) while the girls were just excited to get outside and watch with so much pride as their daddy pulled out of the bay, lights flashing, heading to his next call. It is in those moments that I find acceptance of our life’s 24-48 hour heartbeat.