I see you. I see how hard you work to manage your family’s schedule amidst impossible odds. I see you circling days off on the calendar and realizing yours never line up with your spouse’s. I see you tentatively making plans because even though your spouse should be off work at a given time, it rarely ever works that way. I see you sitting and sleeping alone most nights, and the anxiety that causes as you turn your phone up to max volume and leave the bedroom door open, just in case the unthinkable happens and you need to hear a knock or a ring. I see you looking through your spouse’s academy books about “emotional survival” and thinking, “I thought for sure that would have been an exaggeration, but now we’re living these words.” I see you skirting around questions from your kids about whether Daddy or Mommy will be home soon. I see you looking at “days off” with yet another court date penciled in. I see you going to church alone and wondering if people are praying for your spouse’s salvation, assuming they aren’t the solid believer they are because of their infrequent attendance. I see you celebrating Christmas on December 23rd because that’s when everyone is home together.
I feel the pit in your stomach every time they leave for a shift. I feel how frustrating it is as you learn to quickly resolve conflict so they never leave while you’re still in a fight. I feel how torn your heart is as you try to resolve your gratitude for their job with your longing for predictability and normalcy. I feel you muster up your smiles as you walk into holiday events alone, wanting to explain to everyone why you’re solo, but never really able to. I feel that tinge of sadness at parties as people ask for cop stories and you remember the ones that are too gut-wrenching to repeat. I feel your anger as people, even those you consider friends, silently (or not so silently) question and judge your spouse’s profession (and sometimes them). I feel your heart sink every time the news breaks that an officer has been harmed. I feel your relief when your spouse walks in the door. I feel you remembering that you chose this life, but at the same time, knowing you had no idea what you were getting into. I feel your loneliness as the people closest to you struggle to understand your world.
There’s another side to this life that I also know, though. I know your pride as you hear about how your spouse protected people who will never know it from a drunk driver. I know your admiration as they share how they talked with a young kid on the brink of suicide. I know your relief when they say their shift was quiet. I know your joy when they say their vacation request was approved. I know there are few things in life that make you feel ridiculously grateful and overwhelmingly weary at the same time. I know that, even though there are weeks or months that seem unbearably difficult, you resolve to press onward because it’s more than a job, it’s a calling. And it’s more than only your spouse’s calling, it’s your family’s calling.
My fellow law enforcement spouses, we can do this. We can muster another “if that’s what you want to do, that’s great, honey” when our kids tell us they want to help people like Mommy or Daddy when they grow up. We can stand proudly in the face of whatever accusations, assumptions, and judgments are thrown our way, knowing that our spouse operates with integrity. We can take another step forward, and then another, until we reach the finish line.
Keep going, friends. And thank you for your service.
With deep love and gratitude,
A fellow LEO spouse
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