Welcome to my third blogging experience...created in order to keep my other blogs free of my crazy rantings. This space will be dedicated to the day to day trials and tribulations of motherhood and life in general...as well as the experiences that come with trying to rediscover the many basics of life that have been lost to the constant hullabaloo and cookie cutter mentality that has become the 21st century.

I am a proud mama to our first born, Gracie, who waits for us in Heaven, and her very lively little sister, Jenna. I am a semi-crunchy mama who works full time outside of the home. If you come here to read, expect to find posts related to cloth diapering, breast feeding, homemade baby food, organics, cooking and recipes, day care & working outside the home, baby wearing, natural childbirth, general fitness, general nutrition, environmental topics, etc.

Feel free to ask questions, share valuable information that you might have or share your thoughts and/or opinions. Please do not come here to attack the things that I believe or the way I live. I will respect your opinions as long as you respect mine, even if it means agreeing to disagree!! :-)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Ending of an Era and the Turning of a Page

It's not my birthday, and I'm well past the 30 mark, but I kept hearing this song over and over in my head as I wrote this post.  So, I decided to include it.  Just because.

People have asked me why I (we) waited so long to have kids.  I have always fallen back on the age old excused - 'We just weren't ready yet' or 'It just wasn't the right time.'   Truth is, I think I've been ready for kids for a long time but I think the some of the expected ancillary life changes held me back a bit.  The dramatic increase in my already large sleep deficit, the loss of the ability to just pick up and go at a moment's notice, rearranging our already stretched budget...again, the fact that it won't be about what we want to do for the next 20-25 years, the changing of my body from once 'hot' to 'hot mess'.  The overall loss of my old identity as Susan to my new identity as Gracie and Jenna's mom.  Childbirth...the prospect of childhood illness, injury and disease...sports...plays and musicals...mini vans...broken hearts...college...  Staring down the childbearing road, all of these things can be pretty daunting. 

Aside from the first curve ball that was thrown at us on July 21, 2009, I think I'm handing all of the rest of it pretty well so far.  With one exception.  As the new year approaches, a very large change looms for me, and it turns out that I'm not dealing nearly as well as I expected to.  By day, I have worn the hat of physical therapist for the last 11.5 years.  By day, night, and every minute in between, I have worn the hat of firefighter for the last 17 years.  During those 17 years I have had the privilege of belonging to a small, but awesome, award-winning and trend-setting fire department.  I have seen, learned and done more than can possibly be put into words.  I have trained hard and put incredible effort into proving the men around me wrong about so many things regarding women in the fire service.  (About 5 years ago I suddenly figured out that the women's lib movement was a bunch of crap... women weren't really 'shut out' of things like public safety for decades...they simply knew enough to stay away because men in any environment are needy and can't do anything for themselves, even at the firehouse!!!)  I have accumulated just over 1500 hours of certificate training and probably more than that in in-house training and drills.  I hold 5 national certifications in firefighting, rescue and haz-mat.  I even won an award at the state level a few years ago.  In short, I have invested immeasurable time, effort, love, blood, sweat and tears into my department and the service and protection that we provide for our community.  

For 13 of the last 17 years I have been part of the leadership of our department.  I have worn the hats of lieutenant, captain, assistant chief, and for the last 5 years I have worn the hat of deputy chief.  Deputy chief.  Second in command.  Over all of the men  :-)    I have spent the last 5 years playing it down and pretending that it's not a big deal.  But you know what?  It is.  It is a damn big deal.  Look all over this country and find the departments, career or volunteer, that have female assistant or deputy chiefs that have achieved their positions without any type of affirmative action.  There aren't many of us...and I am proud of what I've achieved.  I go into burning buildings when others are running out.  I cut cars apart with power tools.  A speech that I delivered during a departmental function in 2004 was published statewide by the Pennsylvania Fire Commissioner.  I have pissed off many men by standing my ground when I'm right, I have run the show at a 2 alarm fire with a 37.5 week belly, I've been called a f&$ing bitch over the air by a dispatcher twice in the same night (very long story, but in the long run it proves to me that I was doing my job the way it should have been done!), and through it all I have actually earned the respect of many.  So, to me, it is a big deal.  Being part of my department's leadership has become as much a part of my identity as my blue eyes, blonde hair and larger than average 'girls'... 

...And as of January 1st, it will officially no longer be part of my identity.  I will still be part of the department and 'able' to respond to any emergency call that I choose to respond to, but I will do so as part of the ranks of the 'enlisted men' instead of deputy chief.  I have decided that it is time to resign my position as deputy chief, effective Sunday, because there is not enough time in my days to be wife, mother, physical therapist and deputy chief.  I can't get up in the middle of the night and run out the door with the hubby to the next big fire, even though Jenna would never miss me/us.  I can't pop Jenna into her swing and tell the dogs to watch her while I'm out cutting someone out of their car.  And it's really hard to turn command of an incident over to someone else for 30 minutes so I can go hide somewhere and pump (when applicable).

This is the change that I knew, deep down, was inevitable.  It's very likely that this is what I was trying to avoid for so many years.  I'm sad about having to make this decision.  It literally makes my heart ache to know that I am just walking away from achievement.  I feel like it's a total fall from grace.  I've been asked several times to reconsider my decision and 'stick it out' for another year or two, but I know in my heart that sticking it for the sake of retaining a title would be nothing but total injustice for the department as a whole.  Truth be known, I haven't done many 'chiefly' things over the last 4-5 months, which frustrates me and makes me a little sad.  But it's just another indicator that it really is time.  It's time to pass the torch for a while so I can finish popping out kiddos (which, by the way, should be happening again in July) without feeling guilty that I don't get up and go every time the pager goes off.  As much as I've said that I'll run as many calls as possible over the next few years, I know that the next few years will pretty much be a repeat of the last year, and I'll be lucky to run 10-15 calls every year.  It's equivalent to putting all my training and skills in a box on the shelf for while.  Sigh.

I suppose it won't really be that long until the kids are old enough that I can start dragging them to the firehouse for family training night.  For now, I will allow myself to wallow just a bit more, then I will turn the page.  I will step willingly into the next chapter and meet the role of mama head on.  I will enjoy the fact that I no longer have to deal with all the unpleasantries that come with a leadership position (the many meetings, the political BS and all of the whiny men who can't solve their own problems), and even more than that I will enjoy the time that I now have to dedicate to all of the other things that mean so very much in my life...without feeling like I am slacking and letting someone else down.  I will dig my heels in, prepare for the next big event and enjoy this ride as much as the last.


Jen said...

I'm such an asshole because I thought it was your husband that was the fireman and had no idea that you were a freaking deputy chief!

You're one of the most awesome people that I know and I think being honest/realistic with yourself and your capabilities should be commended! Your priorities change when you become a mom and that's okay!

Can I call you chief from now on? :)

Maggie said...

Well, I think you're awesome! And I'm an asshole because I think this is the first time I've actually read this blog of yours. I didn't even know I followed it, but I guess somewhere along the line I started to obviously! Shows you how long I've been away.

Big Love, Big Acceptance - or so I say said...

Big, big changes coming, huh?

CONGRATS to you on ALL of your hard work at the Fire Dept, and becoming Deputy Chief. You are one amazing woman!

For me, your post and thoughts/feelings speak to the challenges of being a mama in our culture. It's not easy. so much self-sacrifice.

And... I think you hinted at being pregnant?! If so - congrats on that as well!