1. #1
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    Family Considerations

    I am married right now but I do not have any children at this point. We plan on having kids within the next year. My question is what kind of considerations do I have to make when it comes to family and this career? What are some of the very important things to think about?

    How have you worked out shift work/law enforcement/stress of the job with your family? What kind of things does your spouse and children have to understand?

    Thanks

  2. #2
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    Albert, I suggest you go to your local PD and speak with them.

    However you will be cursed at, shot at, despised by the people you protect. You will also have to learn to deal with coworkers/administration that are not the most supportive. Work long hours and mandatory overtime right when you thought you were going home to your family. Be the "new guy" until you have at least 15 years. Be a part of a profession that has a high domestic violence, mortality and disability rates. The list goes on and on...

    But I wouldn't give it up for any other job!
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  3. #3
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    First a lil of my family background to tell you why I say what I say. My husband and I have been married for 6 years. I have been a dispatcher with crazy shift work for 8 years, (Im also a certified peace officer looking for an agency) and my husband has been a Deputy Sheriff for 7years. Our kids are 5 and 2.

    Some things to think about are...
    What are you willing to "miss", and not be there for? I missed my daugthers first day of school this year because of Police Academy, Ive missed her parent/teacher confrences, and not been able to be a "room mother" for her little parties. Thankfully my husband has alot of senority and was able to be there.
    Do you have a good support system, other then your wife? We couldnt do it without some of our family members. We both have to work overnights sometimes, and without them, we would be lost. Your wife is going to need a break, and she is giong to need support from others.

    As a LEOW, I can say that offering my husband support is a full time job. There are several books your wife should probably read, because being a spouse of a cop is NO easy job. There are some nights he doesnt get home till 7-8pm when he "got off duty" at 4pm. Ive been left to eat alone (at home and at restaurants) more times then I can count. Im friends with SEVERAL other LEOW's and I KNOW that my involvment in law enforcement makes it ALOT easier for me to understand, because alot of them dont. There is alot for your wife to "deal with" and "understand". Being a Police Officer is demanding, stressful, dangerous, and crazy...something that, unless its in your blood and heart, people dont get. So even though she supports you, and wants you to live out your dream, she may never "understand".
    You may want to re-think your timing as well...because you will still be a "rookie" and not be able to take time off to be there when your wife and new baby need you. You will probably be lucky to get the day your child is born off if its within a year. Also keep in mind that there are things your wife have to understand, but your children are a different story. They dont always understand, and nor should they "have to". Thankfully my daugthers know nothing else, I thank heaven everyday for the amazing children that we have raised, despite our jobs. We make sure that our time off and our family vacations, birthday parties, Sunday mornings are so special because we know that one of us always doesnt get to be there. My five year "hates" my boss, she thinks that its her fault for my crazy hours. I try to explain it to her, but she does not understand.

    Hope some of this helps.

  4. #4
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    ^^^^ Read both of the above responses carefully.

    You will miss being a participant in many family moments over the years. This will be because you are at training, at work, or needing to be asleep while they are happening

    Your wife and the rest of your family will learn to do things on your schedule (or not) and will sacrifice just as much as you do.

    This profession has a high divorce rate mostly due to the stress the schedule puts on your private life.


    Good luck
    "Arguing with idiots is like playing chess with a pigeon - no matter how good you are, the pigeon will still crap all over the board and strut around like it won anyway."



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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Iowa #1603 View Post
    ^^^^ Read both of the above responses carefully.

    You will miss being a participant in many family moments over the years. This will be because you are at training, at work, or needing to be asleep while they are happening

    Your wife and the rest of your family will learn to do things on your schedule (or not) and will sacrifice just as much as you do.

    This profession has a high divorce rate mostly due to the stress the schedule puts on your private life.


    Good luck
    -----I love to follow in behind Iowa…he nails it every time.

    The other two posters have it down to the letter. While the genesis for family issues is often the job, the proverbial straws tend to be how you cope with the stresses of work and how/what you communicate with your significant other.

    It is hoped that you will be able to convey to your spouse the likely taxing times during the academy and while on FTO. Those times will then be folded into long shifts, holiday tours and missed opportunities at home. It is equally important that they understand that they are not alone in this; there are other wives/husbands who they can reach-out to.

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    Read, re-read, memorize post # 3. It nails the situation and describes they myriad of problems our profession can bring to family life. Be prepared to miss some very significant events in your children's life. I refer to ball games, recitals, graduations, award ceremonies, the list goes on. Be prepared to be going to work when your kids are coming home from school, or coming home as they, and perhaps your spouse are leaving for work and school. Vacations? You'll take them according to seniority. Often times your off-days and holidays are determined by the same considerations. You'll often work Thanksgiving and Christmas while your family tries to celebrate without you. You'll serve an often ungrateful or indifferent public. All of these factors and more can put a significant strain on the best of marriages. It's imperative that you keep the lines of communication open with your spouse and family. Network where possible with other families in similar circumstances. They don't necessarily have to be law enforcement families, but certainly professions which mirror many of the same difficulties you'll encounter. Once more, read and re-read the excellent replies of my colleagues.

  7. #7
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    considering a career in law enforcement

    So much depends on the department that you work for.

    There are huge differences agency to agency in the working environment. And by that I mean how they operate on a day to day basis. Do they have fixed shifts, or do they rotate? Do the days off rotate? Do they have annual shift picks?

    How often will you be held over? How is overtime assigned? How much notice do you have before court appearances?

    If you have never worked the midnight shift, you need to think seriously about the impact that can have on your life!! Some of us are natural night fighters (I've been on 11-7 by choice since August of 1977) Other people absolutely cannot adjust to working at night and sleeping during the day. Most people fall in the middle someplace.

    If you're going to have kids, you have to figure out the child care situation.

    It would be a good idea to look at a few local agencies that you might be interested in and see how they operate and try to figure out if that would be a good fit for you.

    I have known many guys who worked 11-7 and then went home and cared for little kids all day while their wife was at work, had dinner with the wife in the evening and then got a brief nap and then went back to work. They did that day after day and the sleep deficit quickly got to the point that they weren't really safe out there, and not particularly good at their job. They were numb with fatigue and were lucky they didn't get hurt.

    I've known other guys who worked 11-7 who had child care during the day. They got home and took the kids off to day care and then went to bed. They slept all day, then the wife & kids came home in the afternoon, they had the evening together and then they went off to work. They usually were reasonably well rested, alert at work, and had time with the family in the evenings.

    I know couples where one spouse works a day job and the other works the evening shift. This means the kids may only have to be in day care for a while in the afternoon, but it also means they don't get much familiy time because the cop (or dispatcher) is working 3-11. They get to come home and sleep with their spouse, but they don't get to interact much except on their days off.

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    My Dad was a non-LEO but worked the midnight shift for almost 25 years. He usually had Friday & Saturday nights off three weekends a month.

    We were fortunate that my mom could be a stay at home mom so child care wasn't much of an issue.

    The impact on the family was MINIMAL. We just did all our family stuff in the evenings or on his weekends off. But his schedule was more predictable than most schedules you'll find in law enforcement.

  9. #9
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    Just go ahead and get divorced now, before she can touch your pension. All your problems are solved. Also, if you have any friends who don't live a nocturnal life... say goodbye to them as well... and the ones who do because they probably won't like cops. Stock up on sleep meds and blackout curtains and get used to always feeling like you're on the brink of coming down with a debilitating sickness.

    Forget holidays, even if you don't work them... you'll work the day after them or will have worked until the morning of and will just want to go to sleep.

    Look forward to being on the top of the list (right above teachers and firefighters) whenever it comes to budget cuts and lay offs. Understand that the toothless guys who cut the grass, yea the ones who's house you keep getting called to for domestics, are going to get a raise from the city and you won't.

    Good news, you can live in the crappier part of town in a sh*tty apartment rent free if you volunteer to be a "courtesy officer."

    And the best part... you can enjoy this lovely lifestyle at the comfortable income of $34k a year (minus taxes, insurance, and union dues)

    That being said... I love this damn job.
    I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man's reasoning powers are not above the monkey's.
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  10. #10
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    Thanks for all the good insight everyone. This is a lot to take in. I am trying to take in the possibility of my first child at the same time. Currently, I am a school teacher so the schedule modifications were already in place. I'd like to try to figure out what it might look like working here. The sheriffs here work 4 days on and then 4 off, 2 days on and 2 days off. Any insight as to how a schedule like that would affect family.

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    Rotating days off don't have to be that big a deal unless the significant other in your life is absolutely fixated on the idea that you have to have weekends off. Then it's a problem . . .

    Mostly the issue will be how long the shifts are and what shift you will be working. Do you know does the PD you're looking at have 8 hr shifts or 10 hr shifts or 12 hr shifts or what?

    And will your retirement carry over or not?

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by albydere4u View Post
    The sheriffs here work 4 days on and then 4 off, 2 days on and 2 days off. Any insight as to how a schedule like that would affect family.
    That depends on your family. It could be detrimental or your family could just accept it as a part of life. I love shift work, even on Saturday nights and holidays, but sometimes it still sucks and gets to you.

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    The shifts are 12.5 hours. I didn't even think about the retirement carrying over. Didn't even know that was a possibility.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by LEO Wife n Disp View Post

    Hope some of this helps.
    Thank you for posting this... I have forwarded to my fiancé and it will no doubt spark some healthy conversation about how we will deal with things once I get hired. Thank you.

    Litz

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    Quote Originally Posted by LEO Wife n Disp View Post
    There are several books your wife should probably read, because being a spouse of a cop is NO easy job.
    Hope some of this helps.
    Also, do you have any particular books you would recommend? Thank you.

  16. #16
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    Law enforcement, like the military serves to accelerate your relationships in whatever direction they are going. A strong relationship will be strengthened; a weak one will be destroyed.

    Your family will support your career as long as you involve them in it, and realize that they need to be a part of what you do to understand why you do it. My wife knows the people I work with, and she interacts with their spouses to teach the newer folks spouses (Female and male) that they are the
    ones that make or break their spouses day.

    My Kid picks out the stuffed animals I keep in my Bag (for kids having a rough night) and he knows I am going out to help people solve problems.

    The single biggest secret to this whole life thing is simple:

    Never let your job be the coolest thing about you.

    It is really that easy.

    M-11
    “All men dream...... But not equally..
    Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find it is vanity;
    but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men,
    for they act their dreams with open eyes to make it possible.....”

    TE Lawrence

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Litz View Post
    Also, do you have any particular books you would recommend? Thank you.
    "Bullets in the washing machiene", "I love a cop", "Cops dont Cry" are my three faves.
    If she is on FB tell her to check out "police wife life", Melissa is the author of "Bullets..." and a police wife, and wonderul person!

    Glad to have helped!

  18. #18
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    Your PM's aren't working, so I can't send you a message.

    I've been working shift work for 10+ years; been with my wife (dating and married) for over 7 years. I was a new employee and working mids when my youngest son was born but I was lucky enough to schedule the birth for my days off (thank God for c-sections!). I've missed soccer, cub scouts, baseball, holidays, etc. I currently work afts and my wife works days - we only see each other on weekend mornings (less so when she works mandatory weekend OT) or my days off (if I'm not working OT) - that way, I can take the youngest to pre-school and drop him off at a relative before work; then my wife can pick them all up from latchkey and the relative's house. It will be even harder when I am finally in a police academy; thousands of times harder if we end up moving out of state.

    The keys are COMMUNICATION, COMPROMISE, and CREATIVITY!

    Communication is essential. She won't understand what you're going through any more than you can understand why she loves chick flicks. You HAVE to talk to her and keep open a line of communication. Even if it's just a phone call or sending text messages (I can't tell you how many text arguments we've had over the years). For us it's a little easier because we're doing it for the kids. We schedule babysitters on my nights off so we can have date nights. We turn traveling to other states for testing/police processes as mini-vacations for just the 2 of us. We make time for each other whenever possible! Does it suck? Yes. But she knows the job is important to me and I know I'll resent her if I don't work in a career that I want because of her and the kids.

    The second key is CREATIVITY/COMPROMISE. We schedule Thanksgiving dinner in the morning BEFORE work. Luckily, her family is OUTSTANDINGLY supportive and they make those types of sacrifices for me. We had a big family Christmas the weekend before (my weekend off) with her family and the day after with my family (day off) - we made Christmas morning about US and the kids - spent the whole morning with them. Luckily, my department gives us 7 days a year to take off no questions asked so if it seems that we're getting to the breaking point, I can take a day off and have a family day. I schedule vacations around the kid's school vacations (when I can). Otherwise, we make sure to utilize any vacation time I get to the best of my abilities and take family time during it. My wife will wait up for me on weekend nights just so we can see each other for 5 minutes before she falls asleep. I'll selectively turn down OT on some nights so we can be together.

    It will probably get a lot worse when I get on the road; luckily, all 3 kids will be in school all day by then so it'll be easier to work out. It's hard, we've had many, MANY arguments - but mostly it was due to lack of communication. Anything is possible with enough work - just make sure she understands and can be very flexible. (I say "she" because I assume you're a male) My wife says that most of the time she feels like a single parent - I'd say that is the most profound thing you can tell your wife her life will be like. But if you have that burning desire to be a cop - trust me - it won't go away. If you want to be home at night and on the weekends and you feel you can live without being a cop - then stay at your current job.

    Good luck with your decision!

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by LEO Wife n Disp View Post
    "Bullets in the washing machiene", "I love a cop", "Cops dont Cry" are my three faves.
    If she is on FB tell her to check out "police wife life", Melissa is the author of "Bullets..." and a police wife, and wonderul person!

    Glad to have helped!
    Thank you! My fiancé and I had a great discussion about this, and I'm sure there will be many more. Like everything in life, the time to make a plan is NOT when you're in the thick of it. She is an RN and understands the value of doing what we consider to be meaningful and important work...and the sacrifices that come with that. We agreed that it is the 'unexpected' that leads to frustration, and therefore if we expect and prepare for the worst then it won't be such an issue when it happens. She and I had talked about it in the past, but this helped to drive it home again...and I also plan on talking with our family support system (mom, grandma, etc) so that we have a plan 'B' and 'C' established with someone who can drop what they are doing if we aren't able to make it to pick up the kids on time. Thanks to the OP and everyone else for the helpful thread.

  20. #20
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    Thanks everyone for your responses it has been very insightful. Thank you all for your sacrifices, I can't imagine how hard it is for you and your family at times.

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