DEAR SOMEONE ELSE’S MOM: My late father-in-law was a career firefighter. For all the years he was on the job, my mother-in-law listened to the dispatch scanner so she would know when her husband was going out on calls and what was happening during them.
My husband has followed in his father’s footsteps and is an EMT/firefighter in the same city where his dad worked for nearly 30 years. While I don’t have a scanner, I do sometimes listen to calls through an app, and as fascinating as it can be, it can also be stressful. I once sat up nearly all night listening to a call that took out an entire block of rowhouses after one of them caught on fire. That was kind of it for me. Every time I heard my husband’s truck referred to, I wondered how much danger he was personally in. I know it goes with the territory, but I decided I can’t do the TMI thing all the time.
Now, with her son on the job, my mother-in-law has her scanner on not just when my husband is on duty, but constantly. I know she listens to it sometimes to keep up with her husband’s old station, but mostly to know what’s happening with her son. I understand her wanting to know, but I see how stressed she sometimes gets when I visit her without my husband, which I do when he’s on duty every now and then. She never says anything in front of him, but she’ll give me a blow-by-blow description of what was happening on a call. I’ve said things to her like, “You should turn that thing off so you can get some rest,” but she said she just can’t. It’s like she’s addicted or something.
I haven’t said anything about this to my husband, but I think maybe I should. Maybe, he can get his mom to back off being such a monitor junkie. Do you think this would help? --- CONCERNED DIL
DEAR CONCERNED DIL: There are certain professions that ask a lot of spouses and other family members. Often, what happens on the job isn’t something that those who work in certain fields want to bring home, even though it might help to share it with someone they love. Some spouses roll with being left in the dark, figuring it may be for the best. Others want to be more informed about what their wife or husband is facing, especially on tough days.
Although limiting scanner sessions works for you, it may be that your mother-in-law finds it easier to be in the loop through her monitoring of calls.
You can mention your worries to your husband, but my guess is that since this is what he grew up with, he has a good idea of what makes his mom tick and keeps her going.