FEATURED IN LEADERSHIP
I'm a policeman in the Atlanta area. I’m coming up on my 10th year and have been part of the motor and SWAT units for seven years. Those units add stress to my life, in addition to the stress of the job and from the PD. I’ve come to a crossroad. With the recent death of a partner, I’ve started to seriously think of my own mortality and future. I know the stigmas: Cops are mean, tough, don’t have feelings and don’t cry. I don’t like to put up a front, but I’m still a human being. Am I over-thinking things? Or am I the only one who wants more out of my life and career? I try to please everyone and volunteer for a lot to prove myself and show that I’m a good asset, but I neglect my family and myself while doing this. Where do I go from here?
Thank you, sir. I enjoy your posts.
Sorry I had to play Bruce Lee on your question by knocking off all the coal to find the diamond, but this is a short column. I’m sorry about the death of your partner. Let me share some advice that may help you.
Learn to Say “No”
Many of us, myself included, struggle with this. I see many reasons for it.
For me, I like to always be the “go-to” guy and sometimes I spread myself way too thin. New project? I’m on it. Fix an issue? That’s all me. Unravel a political mess? Not only am I there, but I thrive on it. Essentially, I love to keep the brass happy while also doing my best to protect the cops so that they keep working. I enjoy it even more when I can help fix the cops before the brass sees an issue. That way the brass can find something else to occupy their time.
Others of us signed on because we’re people of service and volunteering is what we do. We look at those who don’t as lops. Many agencies have structures in place that require us to volunteer if we want to move forward. If you want to be a K-9 officer, you have to spend your days off coming out and taking bites. It’s wrong, I know, but many of us will continue to do it at the expense of our home life.
You admitted you’re neglecting yourself and your family to be an asset to your department. So you do know how to say “no”—only you’re saying it to the wrong people. It’s time to say “yes” to your family, and to yourself, and “no” to your agency.
Don’t get me wrong—when you’re at work, give it everything you have. But leave on time and get home so that you can give your family everything they deserve. Spend your days off away from police work and with your family. Help with homework and go to as many kids’ sporting events as you can. Do some laundry. Share some emotions with your wife and kids. They won’t judge you for it. They’ll probably even thank you.
Finding a Balance
Bottom line: There’s plenty more to life and it’s right in front of you—living under the same roof. When you stop neglecting your family and start reconnecting with them, you will likely find what you’re seeking.
I remember when I told Mrs. Bullethead that I had the equivalent of about eight months of different types of time off saved up. I thought she’d be happy that I’d planned so well for a rainy day that might never come. If not for Ol’ Bullethead’s advanced training and cat-like reflexes, she probably would have dotted my eye. What she meant to say was, “I know planning for a rainy day makes you happy, but taking the kids and me on vacation will make all of us happy—so get on it!” Ultimately, we’re more fulfilled and I’m able to do a better job when I’m at work because I can concentrate now that my life’s in order.
To accomplish this, you may have to look for new opportunities. Maybe it’s time to be promoted or move into an investigative assignment. Giving up a public safety job is like giving away a winning lottery ticket and our profession needs people with your level of experience. Bottom line: Give what you can at work without sacrificing your family.
Got a question or complaint? Let Bullethead hear about it. He'll give you his opinion WITH BOTH BARRELS. Contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or fax him at 619/699-6246.