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Now, I’m not saying that the recipe for a perfect marriage is to spend almost every day apart, but it’s been working out pretty well for me and my wife Alex for the last year.

Working as a London firefighter is as predictable as it is variable. I work a fixed shift pattern that won’t ever change for the rest of my career, so planning the diary a year, two years, ten years in advance is eminently doable. What we might get called out to each shift is anyone’s guess; a grown woman stuck in a swing to a headline grabbing fire.

Alex works as a TV journalist – a career that is shift based too. On my four days ‘on’ (two day shifts followed by two nights) she’s at home with our son Ru, and on my four off, I’m at home whist she schleps it up to West London. We’re so lucky as this means we spend an equal amount of time with our little boy.

Whilst this might be a good example of the flexible working dream, the set up does have its pros and cons…


1. The financial blackhole that is childcare has been avoided for two years.

2. There is no ‘good cop, bad cop’. The even split of parenting, means both of us have had to play disciplinarian and homecoming hero.

3. We’re never short of stuff to talk about. When you’ve only seen your other half for 20 mins a night for two weeks straight, it means there’s plenty to chat about when you do finally get together.

4. We’re forced to be more active. On the rare day that our two worlds collide and we’re gifted with a full 24 hours of each other’s company, we make it count. We are seasoned day trippers now.


1. With only three days a month off together, it can be hard to schedule a pint, a haircut or just some good old alone time without feeling like you’re taking the preverbal a little.

2. Procreating has to be scheduled. Everyone understands the sheer knackeredness of parenting; whether you’re the one finishing a shift at the coal face or the one who has spent 12 hours corralling a hyper toddler, bedtime is for one thing only and it doesn’t involve any sexy acrobatics. Nothing says romance like your Google Calendar reminding you it’s been a while!

That said, we’re expecting our second baby any day now so we must have made time somewhere! Maternity leave has meant we’ve spent some proper, regular time off together and I am pleased to report… we still like each other!

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Mat Riley

One half of the Life of Riley - parent, vlogger, firefighter and former GBBO contestant.

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