By Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative
Chatham-Kent resident Emily Hime is close to having her all.
Her dream career is just beginning, she is on the road to long-term financial stability, she found a loving partner who came with two daughters of his own, and she will soon be introducing them and her son to their baby brother.
Hime’s journey to her personal success didn’t follow the stereotypical path: school, career, maternity break, back to dream career.
For Hime, the path to her dream career and motherhood intermingled at the exact same moment in her life.
It was only four years ago when Hime was a single mom living on welfare, having just come back from a several-year stint in Haiti. Motherhood tends to open up the floodgates on unsolicited advice, so it was no surprise when some people thought she was “crazy” for not just settling on whatever came easy.
“But it was the guilt I felt. Knowing I couldn’t spend all this time with my son when he was so young. But at the same time knowing if I didn’t do it, I couldn’t give him a good life or be a good role model by showing him you could make it through anything if you’re determined,” she said. “I think it’s harder for women because we have that ‘mom role’ as the primary care provider.”
When Beau, her son, turned two months old, Hime went back to work in Chatham-Kent, juggling three jobs. She started Chatham-Kent birth services as a birth doula, worked as a child and youth worker for young boys, and was also employed at Community Living.
Before that, in 2010, Hime found herself doing disaster relief in an orphanage in Haiti, following a magnitude 7.0 earthquake that struck the country. She moved there from 2012-2016, running the orphanage and a charity in Chatham-Kent, only coming home for one year in between.
When she finally moved back, she was hard pressed to find work and began working the three jobs, which afforded her a home at the age of 25.
“Then I just decided I didn’t have enough time to spend with my son. So I tried to re-evaluate my situation, re-evaluate my career. I wanted to take what I loved, taking what my passions were, and what I loved in Haiti – helping people and responding to disasters.”
After she bought her house, despite having a mortgage to pay off, she also decided to go back to school for firefighting, just like her dad, Phil Hime, who was supportive of her decision.
After she completed the courses at St. Clair College, she became a volunteer firefighter in Chatham-Kent, and gave up weekends to train for the physical requirements needed to succeed in a male-dominated field. She was working 15 long hours per day.
“I honestly really don’t remember those days. They were like a blur. I was running on empty. I remember one day I was driving around and couldn’t remember my own name or where I was,” she said.
But Hime never slowed down, knowing the chances of getting into the field were slim, even for men.
“To me it was worth it in the long run to invest $40,000 in your career and your passion. Especially to be that role model for your kids to say, ‘Look, I was told I was never going to get this job, but I went against the odds and got it anyway,’” she said.
Hime now works with the fire department in Brampton, making the three-hour commute several times a week. Recruit training was the most difficult in Brampton. She had two weeks notice to pull her son out of childcare, find a home, and new child support, as she moved to a city where she knew no one for 14 weeks of straight training.
After recruit training, refusing to compromise anyone’s happiness, she chose to keep her home in Chatham-Kent to ensure Beau, and her step daughters, stay close to their family and community.
Hime, who is the only woman on her shift, said having more women on emergency responder teams is a huge asset and should be welcomed.
“There are things that you can do that those guys can’t do. Whether its climbing into a tiny hole or crushed vehicle to access someone in danger, or being more compassionate in situations when a mother loses a child or a female is going through domestic violence – we can connect on a different level,” she said.
“There are qualities we have too that men might not possess, so having both sexes in all departments is not unreasonable or unattainable.”
In moments of exhaustion or after a day of hard training, Hime definitely had times where she almost quit.
“Those times tested me to the core, as it would have just been easier to throw in the towel. But the thing that kept me going was my son. I had a little guy watching my every move,” she said.
Hime doesn’t believe there is any one right way to be a mother, and she supports all full-time stay-at-home moms. But for her, life would feel incomplete without also pursuing her dreams beyond the family.
Even in her career she continues to take courses that will further her education. She most recently received a certificate for extra training in technical rescue (confined spaces and ice rescue).
“If I give up, then the other young girls that are trying to do this, what example does that set for them?” she said, later noting that for Halloween one of her stepdaughters decided to dress up as a firefighter.