Making Space for Strong Family Relationships as a First Responder
Date:Friday August 6, 2021
Being a hard worker and a great parent and partner is a tough (but obviously rewarding) job. It takes most of a person’s time in the best of circumstances, however, as a first responder, you’re often asked to go above-and-beyond at work and may find that it’s hard to have much left to give when it comes to forming great family relationships at home.
That being said, the benefits you draw from caring for your family and receiving their love and support in return are very valuable. A strong home life is protective when difficult events happen at work, reminding you that there are many elements of our world that are worth defending with the service that you perform.
To create space in your life for both the work you care about and the family members who matter to you, keep these key thoughts in mind.
Put Your Own Mask On First
Your family members need you to utilize the resources you have when you need them. Go for that run, don’t eat junk food, see your doctor regularly, talk to a therapist, go to bed early–whatever you need to be your best self. As they say, you can’t pour from an empty cup. While you of course have pressing duties at home, remember that it’ll be harder to be present for your partner or care for your kids if you are exhausted and mentally spent.
A Little Planning Creates A Higher-Quality Memory
When it comes to time with your partner and kids, quantity isn’t always as important as quality. For instance, a 15 minute drive between home and the daycare center can be a source of fun car games and chatter between family members or just another time when sniping or silence rules the day. When you find yourself with a minute or two of spare time, waiting for the gas to pump or the coffee to brew, think about the next time you can make a memory with your partner or kids.
Make Overtime/Overwork the Exception, Not the Rule
It’s a fact of life that first responders cover for each other, work long hours, and are often ready to stick around after the technical end of the shift if the need exists. You know the facts of your own agency best, but try to make sure that you’re thinking through whether you have to work this much or you’re choosing to do so. When it’s possible to take a break, consider not picking up that extra shift and spending that time at home instead. You have to make the choices that work best for your own circumstances, but choosing to avoid needless overwork can allow you to have more to give to family and friends at the end of the workweek.
Resources For Building Your Family Relationships
- Resources to help parents and children connect well, including some by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- Psychology Today’s point of view on work-life balance for first responders.
- Zen Habits put together a wonderful resource on ways to have free or cheap fun with your children.