It’s been one of those weeks. You LEOW’s know the type. That doctor’s appointment you scheduled 3 weeks ago, along with that parent teacher conference, all around your husbands mid-shift schedule, is suddenly thrown out the window when he gets called to cover 3rd’s for the week. You are suddenly left doing it all alone…again. So with your two-year-old in tow, you start the day. Rushing the oldest to school, crossing back to go to your doctors appointment, only to double back to the school to squeeze in that 20 minute parent teacher conference. You come home by 2, only to find your husband making his way out of the closet, where he’ll be sleeping for the week, in hopes of actually resting in a loud house of two little boys. You know this will be the only hour you see him before you have to go pick the oldest up from school and before he leaves to work part of his 20 hours of ODE that somehow got scheduled the same week as everything else. You want to muster a smile, a hello, an anything other than explaining why the 2 year old is crabby from not napping, how you desperately tried to entertain him while the doctor measured the size of your growing belly, why he’s sticky from eating 2 meals in the car today and how if you could just get a nap before dinner, you may not cry before the end of the night. Oh the joys of being a law enforcement family.
I once joked that if I could just keep a dentist appointment without some state mandated training popping up that day or a DUI at the end of the shift which causes a shift in sleep schedules, it would be a miracle! My sweet dentist has learned after so many reschedules, don’t call me, I’ll call you! I will call them every 6 months, probably the week of, and take whatever cancellation they have that lines up with our current schedule for the week.
How in the madness of it all do you offer your hard working officer husband a place of refuge from his daily beat? How do you help him come home, unwind and enjoy his family when he can? And how do you, as the wife of an officer, stay positive, remember the man you married and raise children to love and respect their Dad, even when he had to miss their Christmas Concert?
Here are 5 tips that I use to help keep our family close and support my Officer.
1. Always Have A Meal Ready.
Now, this may mean a leftover lasagna in the fridge that he can scoop out and reheat at 2am or a warm plate in the oven when he comes in at 7pm. Having a meal ready for him, lets him know that you’ve thought of him, despite his absence and he get to enjoy what you all did for dinner. Keep granola bars on hand, fruit on the counter and the occasional energy drink in the fridge for him to grab on the go. After your morning Joe, reset the coffee to brew at 1pm, so he can have a fresh cup when he wakes up. That free gas station coffee is never quite as good as home.
2. Connect Every Day.
Sitting in a restaurant with your husband in uniform, hoping your kids are on their best behavior and trying to not feel like fish in a bowl, gets exhausting. Every so often, meet him at the park with the kids and a hot bowl of what you all had for dinner. Take every chance to connect in your every day life, because on those weeks of busyness, it may not be as easy to do. Text pictures of the kids, send funny things they’ve said. Keep him up to date on all things family, so he doesn’t come home one day to find a guy your daughters been dating sitting on his couch and he doesn’t even know his name. Share articles, stay up to date on City County Council meetings on Public Safety and keep him in the loop on sports and activities. Resist getting upset that he isn’t there and help him to feel a part of it all.
3. Stay Available.
When you write the schedule for the week out on your board and your Officer is working 55 hours in 6 days, how do you manage to squeeze in family time? One thing that I do is write the entire family schedule out side by side. This helps me do two things, plan what meals he will be home for and what times we will all be home together. This way I know at the beginning of the week, which days to guard from play dates, visits with grandparents and shopping I need to do. I let the kids know when I pick them up from school that Tuesday that Dad is off tonight so get your homework started in the car and no you can’t play with the neighbors when we get home. Protect that time, even if it only comes every 12 days.
4. Resist the Urge to Complain.
Now this is a tough one. The days he gets to be at the shooting range all day for ‘training’ and you’ve been home with two sick kids and quite frankly, you’d much rather be at the range yourself, going out for Mexican and shooting off 300 rounds. Resist. Don’t complain. At least for the first hour. Let him get in, shower and sit down before you do anything other than ask how his day was. Walking in to a nagging wife, complaining about nice it must be to sit around with your buddies all day and do target practice, will only make him want to pick up a course on how to perform CPR on dying dogs (and call it necessary yearly training), to get out of the house!
5. Love Him.
This may sound rudimentary, you married the guy right? I’m speaking of a different kind of love, a faithfulness if you will. Love him when he is late getting home, don’t berate him with questions. Speak proudly of him, especially when he isn’t around. One day, he might hear these words and it will boost him to know that you boast about him. Let the kids know (the appropriate) stories that he’s done at work. Tell them how he got a stolen car back in a few hours and how he received an award for being the ‘Most Complimented Officer’ in the department. Let the kids know that he is a hero, despite what’s going on in the news. Showing your children how to love and support your Officer will keep them from growing bitter at his profession. It will serve your Officer well knowing that his family is proud of him and that they support him.
In doing all of these things, we as wives, can stand behind our Officers and help hold their arms up in battle. As the days grow darker and the media more relentless, our Officers can know that they are appreciated, especially by those closest to them.