Although I've been married for six months, I feel like I am still a single parent--except the added inconvenience of keeping two lively boys from disturbing my third-shift officer husband's sleep. I'm beginning to believe that he is the world's lightest sleeper and the boys were exchanged at birth with children from the Chaos family. Of course, they aren't the only ones who add to the volume.
One early afternoon, I decided the house needed to be cleaned. Thankfully the boys were at school and I had a couple hours to organize before they got home creating a tornado once again. So, I dusted, swept, mopped, and cleaned the guest bathroom. Sneaking into our bedroom to the master bathroom, the first thing I did was knock over a picture on the counter. Then, I hit the closet door with the mop handle, knocking it into the wall. Holding my breath, I peeked around the corner to make sure my husband was still a motionless lump in the bed. He was. That is, until two of our cats, playing commando exploded from their hiding places, colliding right above the bed. They landed on my husband, clutching each other with four feet, and then used his body to propel into the air and out the door. All right before I tripped over the dresser, knocking over a decorative bowl of rocks.
I take refuge in the fact I am not alone. I don't know if it's a communal-type comfort or more of a ha-ha, I'm-not-the-only-one-type vindication. Either way, two out of the three shifts officers are offered wreak havoc on family life. Trying to keep normal daytime activities from disturbing your spouse in the middle of their night adds stress to the difficult occupation of an officer's spouse. Thankfully, there are ways to combat the inconvenience.
Not that there really are such things, but these are the days where your officer works only their scheduled hours. And isn't held over. And doesn't have court. Or training. Many second shift officers come home around midnight. If your children are still young and you don't work a nine-to-five type job, try to adjust your family's hours to match your officer's. Most officers like to come home to lights on and be able to kiss their children goodnight. Then, spend quiet time with their spouse and maybe even have intimacy. For third shift officers, allow them to spend a few minutes with the children in the morning and take them to school. After all, if you are anything like me, I am more than happy to let my fully clothed husband deal with the traffic around the school. Once they get home and ready to sleep, there are a few things you can do. After all, sleep deprivation adds another threat from slow reaction time to vehicle accidents.
The first strategy is to invest in a good pair of fitted earplugs. These may seem uncomfortable at first, and some officers might view them as a hindrance to their ability to protect the house, but they will get used to them and you can assure them you have their back while they sleep and will wake them if you need their help. Second, a source of white noise in the bedroom will help override noise. Third and most important is turn the ringer off the phone. We can handle the routine calls during the day. Special cases, like court stand-by, will be addressed later. With these simple solutions, officers will sleep better and we can relax a bit more.
As if police work wasn't inconvenient as it is, but days when our spouses come home late or have other obligations during the day, our best efforts at routines can be thrown out the window. Even if the kids are in school, the days when he gets home can change household habits. Often you are required to keep the kids quiet for several hours after school and dinner might have to be made around 7 p.m. Patience and understanding are the key words for us on these days. We do love our spouses regardless of the inconveniences. Maybe we could have voodoo dolls representing messed-up schedules. I'll supply the pins. As if these days aren't annoying enough. What about stand-by and on-call days? Ladies and Gentlemen, we can handle those too.
Communication. This word is the most important in an officer family's vocabulary. Although you have to screen the home phone and their cell phone, talking with your spouse about what calls they might be receiving is essential. If they are required to respond incidents, you can answer the phone and wake them up if needed. After all, it would be silly for your spouse to be awoken just to tell the phone company they are satisfied with their service. I know you are not their secretary, but with the fun of being an officer's spouse comes--the fun.
Lazy Summer Days
Even if you have the best routine in your house; you get the kids to school and manage to keep them quiet when they get home, the inevitable happens--Summer Vacation.
Now what? Your spouse's hours don't change. A few changes to your routine can help your husband get the sleep he needs. First, arrange for outside time while he is sleeping. Encourage the kids to sleep in a bit longer and when they wake up, take them to the park. Even older children can be encouraged to skateboard or play street hockey. Second, schedule quiet time for inside.
Activities such as reading, movie watching, and summer work can be arranged at the kitchen table. Look at this time as your time with the kids. Just make sure when your officer wakes up you ask for the personal time you need to take a walk, enjoy coffee with friends, or even a bubble bath with a glass of wine.
Another option is to trade kids with other parents. Having your children spend time in houses with those who are not sleeping and allowing their children to spend time with you when your spouse is not home is a time honored way to help each other out. After all, we are a family within the thin blue line. Use it to your advantage. Again, you are not alone.
Being a police officer's spouse is not easy. I sometimes wonder why I signed on for a second tour of duty. One thing is for sure: sleep is possible. Regularity can be scheduled. Your spouse and you have to communicate and understand each other. Police marriages can work. You just have to be willing to draw outside the lines.