By Robert Avsec
I am here to share some information with you from the “school of hard knocks” that I believe will help keep a steady course as you navigate your career. So, let’s say we “set sail.”
Eight years after I retired, following a successful and rewarding 26-year career with the Chesterfield (Va.) Fire and EMS Department, I wrote an article entitled 7 Truths About Fire Service Retirement. But you’re not reading this because you’re retired, are you? You’re either just starting your fire service career or you’re early into that journey or perhaps your smack-dab in the middle. Make no mistake that it can be a wonderful journey!
Two families — one commitment
Working 24-hour tours at the fire creates a strong sense of having two families — with corresponding roles and responsibilities. Each of those roles and responsibilities comes with their own inherent stresses.
Consider a couple of examples from the family side:
- A firefighter and single parent, who hasn’t been able get time off from their tour of duty to attend several important school functions with their child this school year.
- A firefighter and their spouse are having marital difficulties that are severely straining their marriage.
- A firefighter who’s “living a champagne lifestyle on a beer budget” finds himself and his family so heavily in debt that he’s taking all the overtime shifts he can get and he’s working a second job.
6 tips for achieving a healthy work-life balance – Know your priorities
In, The “Rule of Four” That Keeps Me Focused, Productive, & Fulfilled, Chelsea Fagan speaks of a simple philosophy that she’s developed where you keep four concrete, tangible things up front in your life. For example:
- What makes you feel happy?
- What makes you feel like yourself?
- What are you willing to devote your time and energy to?
- What are you actively constructing?
Schedule “me time”
Your health and well-being are just as important as scheduling time for other important matters (e.g., auto repairs or medical appointments). Avoid cancelling your appointment for “me time.”
Get your two families to know each other
Introduce your family to your co-workers and their families and vice versa. Military families have done this for years so that they can support each other in good times and bad, especially when mom or dad can’t be there.
Live in the moment
When you are at home, focus only on your “home family.” Enjoy dinner with your family and share each other’s activities of the day. Have a date night with your spouse or a play date with your kids.
Plan to say “yes”
Opportunities are always going to arise for overtime or an extra class that you’ve been wanting to take, and home life gets put on the backburner once again. But there’s a better way. Check out the You and your team section of my post Planning Your Fire Service Career.
Take a vacation — and unplug
I worked with far too many people who hardly ever took the leave hours they had coming to them. “I wished I’d spent more time at work,” said nobody ever. Invest that time you’ve earned in you and your family. And leave the phone behind.
Battalion Chief Robert Avsec (ret.) served with the Chesterfield (Virginia) Fire & EMS Department for 26 years. He was an instructor for fire, EMS and hazardous materials courses at the local, state and federal levels, which included more than 10 years with the National Fire Academy. Chief Avsec earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati and his master’s degree in executive fire service leadership from Grand Canyon University. He is a 2001 graduate of the National Fire Academy’s EFO Program. Chief Avsec also authors his own blog Talking “Shop” 4 Fire & EMS.
Photo By Jude Beck