I have been working in police departments since I was seventeen. I became a dispatcher during my junior year in high school and then two weeks out of college I was sworn in as the youngest police officer my department had ever hired. I was basically a kid myself when I got that gun and badge, so becoming a parent was the furthest thing from my mind at the time. Heck, I just wanted to make it through probation!
Fast forward fourteen years. I was married to husband number two (also a cop) and we began thinking about starting a family. I was approaching my mid-30s, I was a patrol sergeant with some seniority, I had a pretty stable work schedule and so did he; it was now or never. Even before I got pregnant, I began to fret about daycare. I only had a couple of female cop friends who had kids; one had a nanny and one lived next door to her own mom, so their daycare issues were handled, although still sometimes difficult.
One of them, a fellow sergeant, was a single mom who had to pay her nanny a pretty good buck to spend the night when she worked graveyards. One of the guys on her shift had a toddler son and a wife who worked a normal 8 to 4 job, so he was the primary caregiver during the day. As soon as he got home, he was on dad-duty and was only able to nap here and there when the baby did. I hoped I could work out a better option when my baby was born, but I had no idea how. My husband and I worked the same shift (afternoons) but with different, rotating days off. Some weeks we would need only ten hours of daycare, some weeks we'd need thirty. We also had to plan for court time, hold overs, and call ins, and neither of our families lived nearby. I was at a loss for a workable solution.
Enter my watch commander's wife, who had a three month old daughter and a son due in six months and two weeks (don't ask). She wanted to be a stay at home mom, but on a cop's salary, they needed some extra income. She offered to be my babysitter and work whatever hours I needed her to be available. Her husband and I worked basically the same hours (he was my boss) so she didn't mind keeping my baby during odd hours and on varying days off. They lived right on my way to the station and in the same town I where I was a cop so I could visit the baby during my shift; this was an answer to a prayer! However, that first day I dropped my infant daughter off and went to work, I was racked with the acute guilt that I still wrestle with sixteen years later.
How do you deal with working mom guilt when you work outside the home, much less at a police department? Here are a few of the things I learned along the way, and I'm guessing that some of you have even more great advice for the rest of us. If so, add in your thoughts by commenting below!
Plan Ahead, and Plan for the Plan to Fall Apart
I was pretty successful at determining during what stage in my career that I'd get pregnant (after age 30, after I'd made sergeant, after I'd worked on a narcotics task force and in juvenile investigations, two assignments I really wanted to be done with before I had kids) and I was fortunate that God didn't just laugh and decide another fate for me as a mom. However, I failed to plan beyond the actually pregnancy. My daughter was nearly born in the afternoon shift roll call because I refused to acknowledge that babies sometimes don't adhere to their due dates. I didn't know she'd be prone to ear infections that would require frequent doctor visits, I didn't anticipate personnel shortages that would keep me at work well past my shift. I didn't think I'd get divorced (again) when she was a pre-schooler and that my daycare situation would change dramatically once she started school. I also truly had no idea how much I would miss her when I was at work and how ridiculously fast she would grow up. Plan in advance as much as possible, and then learn to be flexible.