My Husband Is a First Responder, and Our New Normal Is Really Hard to Navigate

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The hamper in our bedroom is no longer an acceptable or safe place for my husband’s laundry. The shoe bin where we all drop our shoes after walking in the front door isn’t for him anymore either. Our coat rack, which is usually taken over by a family’s worth of bulky coats and jackets, now only holds my coats and the kids’. These are just a few of the things that have become our new normal in the world of COVID-19. My husband is a first responder, and these, among many others, are the precautions we are taking to keep our family safe right now. Being a police wife has its challenges during normal times, but along with the rising anxiety I’ve felt during this pandemic, the challenges have risen, too. But we’ve taken them head on and remain flexible in our attempts to stay one step ahead. Things change daily, and precautions that may have seemed unnecessary or even silly a month ago are now routine and warranted.

How do we ensure he isn’t bringing something home to us?

When things began shutting down in our state and stay-at-home orders were given, it just so happened my husband was on a week-long vacation from work. As we watched the news and talked to some of his coworkers, we became increasingly worried about what returning to work was going to look like. Was the department taking necessary precautions? Were there enough supplies, specifically masks? Is there leniency on what medical calls he will be dispatched to? How often will he be exposed to community members with coronavirus symptoms? How do we ensure he isn’t bringing something home to us? Unfortunately, in the beginning, it didn’t quite seem that changes were being made in the department to keep the officers protected, but as more information was released about the virus and awareness increased, things began to change. We felt more comfortable that he would be safe while helping keep the community he serves safe. But along with his actual time at work being as safe as possible, we had to make some changes at home to ensure safety there, too.

Related: Parenting During Self-Isolation Means I Haven't Seen My Husband in Weeks, and I Hate It

So we sat down and discussed what he should do while at work and when he came home that would make us more comfortable with all the unknowns of COVID-19. The “normal” things a police officer faces, and what he knew he was signing up for by choosing this profession, aren’t something we have ever needed to worry about him bringing home with potential harm to our family, like drunk drivers, domestic violence, or drugs. Of course, germs are always present, but this new breed of virus is far from normal, and until we are certain of how to protect ourselves, we will do whatever we think might help, even if it seems like overkill.

We came up with a list of things he would have to do upon returning home from a shift and the supplies he would need. He has at least three places where he keeps travel-size hand sanitizer – in his personal car, coat and pant pocket, and police car. And he doesn’t go anywhere without disinfectant wipes. He has always changed out of his uniform at work, but now he puts it in a separate bag to bring home to be washed. He also takes the extra caution of changing in the garage when he gets home, leaving any outerwear and shoes out there, too. He then has to sneak inside, making sure the kids don’t hear him so he can run upstairs and shower before they greet him in order to lessen the risk of any possible germs on him being transmitted to them. This part has been difficult because our children are little and they get very excited to see him when he comes home, so we have to be pretty careful about getting him inside without our toddler racing to squeeze him. We all practice proper handwashing, but the shower takes it one extra step.

When I sit back and think of all the new and different things we’re doing, it reminds me that families of all essential workers are navigating this new norm as well. Doctors, nurses, mass-transit workers, grocery workers, delivery people, among many others, are all figuring out how to lessen their risk while still doing their job. This small tidbit of fact helps make us feel connected to others in a time when we can’t physically connect.

Related: My Parents Wanted Me to Go Home to Social Distance – Here's Why I Chose Not To

One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is how proud I am of him for simply choosing his profession.

Aside from our daily life and routines looking different, my husband physically looks different as well. We have been together for 14 years, all of which have been me dating, engaged to, or married to a man with facial hair. Right now, he has a close shave every time he goes into work in order to ensure a firm seal around his face mask when he needs to wear it. I don’t mind the new look (he actually kind of looks like a fresh-faced boy), but it is a very visual reminder of how things have changed.

One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is how proud I am of him for simply choosing his profession. We are extremely grateful during this time to have him continue to bring home a paycheck, as many families are not as lucky. We’ve learned that we are stronger together, and we’ve taken note on our communication skills and how we face challenges as a married couple. Our first priority is keeping our kids safe, and if that means sneaking my husband in the house and having him run upstairs to the shower in his boxers, so be it. Some of our precautions seemed a little intense to us and maybe unnecessary to others in the beginning, but we pretty much live by the motto “better safe than sorry” these days. I’m nervous, and we’ll both do whatever it takes to minimize our family’s risk as much as possible. Feeling like we have even a little control over this whole thing is helping us both remain sane right now. And creating that control together while also learning how to steer our way through this pandemic as a family is actually enriching our marriage.

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