Heidi Kartchner isn't always in the mood to hear her husband's stories — especially the ones he brings home after a full day at the Las Vegas Metro Police Department.
But she knows that a willingness to listen is one of the foundations her family is built upon.
"Sometimes you have to listen to crazy stories and just nod your head," she said. "As much as they go through at work as far as seeing things that are really bad, things that are against their morals, gruesome things — they need to talk it out."
Mothers like Kartcher and Konie Humphreys, whose husband serves with the Logan Fire Department, say that support is one of the greatest things they can give, even if it's just by listening.
But over the years their husbands have spent serving the public while they tackled bedtime duty at home alone, these moms have faced their share of challenges, learned patience and communication, and made sacrifices to raise children as their husbands worked challenging and at-times dangerous jobs.
Married single parents
For the eight years Kolby Kartchner worked on the swing shift, Heidi Kartchner had single-parent status from after-school snack time until bedtime. Kolby worked from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. The Kartchners had two sons — a 2-year-old and a baby. This sudden thrust into married single parenthood came with its challenges.
“The bulk of raising kids close together was really hard. I was by myself at night,” said Heidi Kartchner, who now has five kids under the age of 11. “I did dinner by myself. When that happens, you don’t make anything nice because the kids don’t eat it. We had a lot of mac and cheese and ramen noodles.”
Life was chaotic, but whether it was taking her boys to sports events by herself or flying solo for bedtime stories, Heidi found her groove.
“You do it because, well, there’s no other choice,” she said.
Kolby Kartchner and Craig Humphreys work jobs that are both busy and dangerous.
The LVMPD, with a force of 2,484, responds to roughly 3,500 calls per day, said LVMPD Public Information Officer Jose Hernandez.
Craig Humphreys serves as assistant fire chief, fire marshal and public information officer for Cache Valley. His wife said she and her children have come to recognize the sound of the tones that call him away.
Heidi Kartchner and Konie Humphreys have been asked for years: “Don’t your worry about your husband’s safety?”
Sure they do. But for these women, the best way of coping with their husband's dangerous job is to simply not dwell on it.
“You get to a point where you just don’t think about it. I’m so busy trying to be a mom,” Heidi Kartchner said. “I have learned that you can’t think about what they could be into our you’ll go crazy and pull your hair.”
Heidi Kartchner and her husband stay in touch throughout the day via text messaging. And when it’s the life you’ve known for the last 13 years, it’s hard to imagine anything different, she said.
But when others fall in the line of duty, Konie Humphreys said it’s hard not to feel sympathy.
“You are always wondering and thinking of families and wives and wondering how they are doing,” Humphreys said. “We pray for families when they are in crisis and when they’ve had tragedy.”
But ultimately, she knows it’s all part of the job.
“It’s part of what they’ve signed up for," she said. "They are there to help, to serve and to protect. They wouldn’t be happy unless that’s what they were doing.”
Konie and Craig Humphreys have four kids whose ages span from 10 to 18. While her husband has been gone often, Konie admits they’ve been lucky.
“We’ve never had to have a Christmas without him,” she said. “That’s something that’s unheard of.”
While her husband has done his fair share of running into burning buildings, he now performs more administrative duties and enjoys a 9-to-5 workday.
And the extra time with his kids has paid off. The Humphreys’ oldest son wants to be a firefighter — just like his dad.
The Kartchners made the decision to take a pay cut for a more family-friendly schedule. The decision has strengthened relationships for the whole family, especially the Kartchners' boys.
“My 11-year-old idolizes his dad," Heidi said. "He always wants to just sit by him. When (Kolby) is putting on his shoes, even, my son is right there next to him."
Talk it out
Konie Humphreys found that the demands her husband’s job places on her strengthens her abilities as a parent.
The Humphreys family has learned they can talk with each other about anything. Communication has become an essential part of their family makeup.
“It makes you really want to have a close relationship with your kids," she said. "You want to be able to talk to them about the hard things like life and death. You can’t just keep things of the surface."
Over the years, Humphreys has learned to be more in tune with what her kids are feeling, and her kids have learned that they have a lifeline in their mother.
"They know they can talk to me about anything," she said.
A proud wife
Despite the nights sleeping alone, and never mind the unscheduled calls for help that disrupt their daily flow of life, both women are proud of the professions.
“I’m grateful there are people out there who are willing to go and help us and defend our homes and properties," Konie Humphreys said. "I don’t know where we would be without them."
And even though her husband, like so many others, isn’t in the spotlight, Humphreys said she is aware of the silent and, at times, thankless service her husband performs every day.
Heidi Kartchner agrees.
“My life is good,” she said. “It’s something that I’m proud to be. And even though we don’t advertise it, I’m proud of my husband.”
Emmilie Buchanan is an intern for the Deseret News with Mormon Times. She recently graduated from Brigham Young University-Idaho. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company