This is the 5th blog in the 2016 Mothering Matters blog series:
Shifting Gears: Marriage & Motherhood from the Perspective of a Police Spouse
By Jody Laird
“At home I was dealing with all things baby, a weakening sense of independence and a hero who needed less noise.”
– Jody Laird
When asked to write a blog about being married to a shift worker with a young family, I spent hours peeling back the layers of what this means to me: as a mom, as the wife of a police officer, as an ex-shift worker, as an ex-police dispatcher, as…me.
I find it ironic at all the bombs (a.k.a. sensitivities) that this could set off – being that my police husband was a Bomb Tech for the Tactical Unit when I met him. So I put out to the blog universe a caveat: as unique as we are as individuals, our stories of shift work and police-spousing are perhaps even more so. This article is not advice, just a peek into one home…fair?
Let’s get started:
What I didn’t know when I started dating Glenn is how him becoming a father would change the kind of wife I had to be. Our whirlwind romance was awesome, sexy, fun, fast, loud, quiet and complimented each other’s single lives.
I know it is to my advantage that Glenn was already a police officer when we met (I hear it’s tough for spouses who live through that “change” in the state of the world that police officers go through) and I feel like I have a bit of an advantage in my husband’s mental-toughness at work because I became a dispatcher in the first year of our relationship.
What also saved us is that I didn’t stay in that shift work and position – I had my taste and I got out. I’ll explain why that was important in a moment.
I have come to learn that we don’t marry the Hero, we marry the Man.
The hero has to be strong, the man needs to be vulnerable. The hero has to be “on,” the man needs time to shut off. The hero has to smile around job disappointments, position post promotion, the promotions process itself, and an outside deteriorating respect for putting his life on the line.
It was becoming a Dad for Glenn that put a magnifying glass on this dichotomy. It amazes me how as DINKs, the Hero/Man tug of war was mostly fought by Glenn on his own. Don’t get me wrong: I was a loving, supportive spouse – but Glenn could go off with the guys at a drop of an invite, spend extra hours at Choir Practice, sports trips were a saving grace and peace and quiet was abundant.
Because I was confident in who I was I didn’t mind the extra time to paint, hang with friends, chick flick marathons, and I loved the til-4am life conversations we would get into when we met back at home. We balanced well.
Glenn and I didn’t have easy births of our two gorgeous children…one highlighted my mortality on the delivery table – the other almost caused it.
At home I was dealing with all things baby, a weakening sense of independence and a hero who needed less noise. Shift work became the avenue of never ending work. In the earlier years, I was still working at the 911 centre and there was plenty of high-fiving-at-the-door as the other parent traded pressed uniforms for puke-booger covered shirts with I-haven’t-showered-in-3-days smell.
Before we knew it…no, let’s be honest, we knew it: outside the family became our escape. And the high fives turned into fingers of the single digit as the Parent watched the Hero go to work.
And then I found my Why. I wasn’t OK watching our family disintegrate and knew that the man I married was still there… I just needed to find him.
I was always fortunate that I never took the side effects of police work personally. I knew when we were in the middle of a full on shouting match and he would answer his on-call phone with a smile and sweetness I rarely saw – it wasn’t about me. He wasn’t “on” at work to get back at me, he was “on” because that’s what Heroes do.
I did know that I wasn’t finding my husband again while on shift…it wasn’t happening when we shared the same 10-code world. Hence my escape from shift work. I was lucky enough to be a speaker for the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund and then started my own business in order to carve the space that my Hero at Home needed.
Our story only has room for 1 shift worker.
Is it all roses? No. There are missed assemblies, child care nightmares, loud shushes while he tries to get 5 consecutive hours of sleep in, traditional role arguments, cold sides of the bed, and more.
But I do see his smile more – not the “on” smile…but his. I see when the Hero turns on as he gets ready to step out the door to work – so that he has the strength to build leaders, protect the streets AND to make it back home safe and sound where he always knows it’s a great place to land.
Jody Laird is a financial educator and public speaker. Jody delivers workplace safety presentations for the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund and is a financial advisor for World Financial Group. To find out more, please visit her on LinkedIn. Jody lives in Airdrie, Alberta with her husband, Glenn, and their two children, Aila and Gerald.
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