Paternity On PatrolJun 11, 2023
Since becoming a father at the end of last year, a number of people have reached out asking for advice on balancing being a new father with being a police officer.
This blog post will walk through some of the lessons and discussion points that might help you balance having a new addition to the family with the rigors of a career in the police world.
A few caveats for this article: I can only speak to my own experience and what has worked for my wife and me. We’re in a position where my wife is able to take a very extended leave of absence from her employment to focus on our daughter, and my in-laws live close by and are overjoyed to be present and help out my wife while I’m either at work or away for my Army Reserve duties. Additionally, I’ve been with my wife since we were in college, and we’re now married and living together. I recognize that not everyone has the same circumstances, so I’ll do my best to keep the advice and learning points as universally applicable to parenthood as possible.
A final caveat: I’m a dude–I can’t speak to the experience of being a new mother and balancing that with being a police officer (hopefully someday a female Effective Fitness Training team member can weigh in on that).
With those caveats in mind, here are some things that I hope can help a percentage of our readers in navigating the waters of being a new parent:
A reality of being a new parent: you will get a lot less sleep than you did before, largely because you are now responsible for keeping a tiny human alive who is constantly hungry, tired, pissing/crapping in their pants, or any other number of issues. One of the things that was hugely helpful for my wife and I was an educational course that my wife purchased (in the middle of the night, while frustrated and sleep-deprived) that enabled us to better understand our baby, particularly her “wake windows” and how to help get the most out of her overnight sleep, naps, and awake-time. Within about 8 weeks, we were consistently getting 8 hours of sleep out of our baby. The more you can learn about your baby’s development and what to expect at different stages of development, the better equipped you are to handle what’s happening and what’s next. I strongly recommend simply Googling “wake windows” and seeing how long your baby should be awake before getting them a nap. While one might think that keeping a baby up for longer would help them sleep better overnight, being overtired actually just makes your baby fussy and upset and reduces their quality of sleep. The better the baby sleeps, the better you sleep. Knowledge is power; learn everything you can about what’s going on in your newborn’s development.
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Being a new parent is challenging; having to deal with the stressors of law enforcement work on top of that is exponentially worse. It’s very important to clearly communicate everything possible–your schedule, when you’re holding over/going in early, when you want to do stuff on your own, etc. The more advance notice you can give, the better. The simple act of getting out the door will now take significantly longer; you are at the mercy of your baby’s nap/feeding schedule, and you’ll have a ton of stuff to lug around. On this note, my wife and I do our best to plan out the week, when I’ll be where, and what support she’ll need in my absence, but we also communicate how we’re doing. My wife does everything she can on my work days to maximize how much sleep I’m getting. There have been times where she’s been taxed to her limits and she needs additional help. She’s comfortable communicating when she needs a little extra help because we are constantly discussing everything related to our family and the care of our daughter. Direct communication makes complexities of parenthood easier.
While you have a new baby, you still need to maintain your physical fitness as a police officer. This means figuring out how to effectively manage the time you’ve got–many workouts can be done in only a few minutes. When my daughter was super little, this meant while my wife and baby were taking a nap in the afternoon, I would smash some caffeine and get a lift session in (I set up a garage gym a few years ago). Giving up a little bit of time each day to keep your physical fitness helps keep your body in balance, and is necessary for when you’re on patrol to go home to your family. Fitness is not optional for LE; you’re also setting an example for your children to follow.
I’ve said it repeatedly throughout this post–being a new parent is a challenge. A constant theme within my discussions is embracing challenge. Constantly take mental inventory of what’s going on, how you’re feeling about it, and what you can do about it. If you feel yourself getting frustrated with your newborn who won't stop crying, take a breath, recognize that this baby will be grown before you realize it, and you’ll wish your teenage child was a crying newborn again. Challenges mold us; actively recognizing that you’re reacting to challenges in a way that helps you grow is something that will make the hard times much more bearable.
While some of these talking points likely seem boringly simple, actively keeping them at the front of my mind while figuring out being a new parent is something that has helped me keep everything in perspective. Being a father is the most challenging and wonderful thing I’ve been through, and every day is a new adventure.