Finding a balance between home and work can be a daunting and difficult task for any profession, but when it comes to being a police officer it takes very purposeful effort to make it work. There is no need to recite statistics on law enforcement officers and divorce rates, we all know where those stand. The fact is that to be as safe and effective as possible on patrol, things at home must be good. A distracted officer is a liability not only to himself, but also his fellow officers. As a law enforcement leader, it is imperative that the topic of striking a healthy balance between home life and patrol life be discussed.
To discuss this topic further, the root of the issue must be unearthed. As a law enforcement supervisor that has been married for nearly 20 years, I believe that the issue begins with a confusion of sacrifice. Every shift, we go out on patrol and put everything on the line for people that we don’t even know. We run towards the sound of shots, we get in the middle of fights, and we work shifts that “normal” people have never considered. That is the sacrifice we chose to make when we took on this job.
The confusion of sacrifice sets in is when we get home and are too tired, too emotionally unavailable, or have too many excuses for the things that need to be done at home and in our marriages to keep them functioning like well-oiled machines. Where’s the guy that ran towards the sound of shots, got in the middle of the fight, or worked a fifth 12 hour shift in a row? Where is the hero that went out and saved the world one call at a time? It is easy to understand how a significant other can become confused by the amount we are willing to sacrifice for work, but then not reciprocate that same level of sacrifice at home.
So, here are three things this can be done to help alleviate this confusion of sacrifice…
- Sacrifice a little sleep.
After working the last day of the week, nothing sounds better than a good sleep, but this is one thing that can easily be altered to demonstrate a little sacrifice for the home front. While working these crazy law enforcement shifts, our significant others and children are home living life without our presence. On that first day off, commit to just getting the minimum amount of sleep needed to get onto their schedule. Maximizing the amount of home time is vital to showing purposeful sacrifice at home.
- Plan one-on-one time with your significant other.
The amount of time available on a weekend depends on each department’s particular schedule, but during that off time, plan something that can be done one-on-one with your significant other. This does not have to be anything elaborate or expensive; just something that is purposely planned to allow time to talk, discuss the upcoming week, or simply enjoy each other’s company. While an actual date is phenomenal, it can be as simple as a walk around the neighborhood, a game of cards, or uninterrupted time sitting on the front porch. If there are young children and getting a babysitter is a hurdle, get the kids into bed, make or pick up a late dinner, and have an in-home date. Whether big or small, the main point is to do something purposefully each weekend.
- Share why being a police officer is important.
One of the biggest misunderstandings about being a police officer is the lack of understanding as to why – Why would anyone want to be a cop? To alleviate confusion of sacrifice in a relationship, it is vital that communication with your significant other is open regarding why working as a police officer is important to you. Share what is enjoyable about the job, the funny things that occur during a shift, something cool that another officer did, or that you were involved in. The more a significant other understands the “why” behind the badge, the less confusion of sacrifice there will be.
The mission at Thin Blue Line of Leadership is to share positive leadership tactics with the field of law enforcement. Positive leadership and creating a positive squad culture are on-going commitments that must be nurtured and developed over time by anyone in a law enforcement leadership position. By discussing topics like this, law enforcement leaders are tending to the welfare of the “whole” officer, not just the one in uniform.
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