Police Federation

The Dual Role: Parenthood and Policing

For Parent Mental Health Day, Paul Williams, PFEW wellbeing co-lead, discusses balancing parenthood and policing.

27 January 2024


In the challenging realm of policing, where officers navigate the complexities of their duty, there are many aspects we rarely consider that affect the occupation - the delicate balance between parenthood and policing. As we delve into the lives of parents who wear both the uniform and the mantle of caregiver, a blatant narrative unfolds, shedding light on the unique mental health challenges we confront daily.

The life of a police officer is marked by the unpredictable nature of the job and complex decision-making. Combine that with the demanding role of a parent, and a delicate juggling act ensues. The duty to protect and serve extends not only to the community but also to the officer's own household. Time constraints become obvious as officers strive to meet the needs of their families while responding to the daily needs of communities and, in many aspects, harrowing situations. This dual responsibility can give rise to a number of challenges, from missed family events to sleepless nights spent on the frontline.

The inherent stressors of police work, from exposure to trauma to the constant vigilance required, can take a toll on mental health. When coupled with the responsibilities of parenting, the burden becomes even more pronounced.

Long hours, the ever-present potential for danger, and the emotional toll of the job contribute to heightened stress levels. As we examine the mental health landscape, it is crucial to recognise and address these stressors to foster the wellbeing of police officer parents.

The impact of the police officer-parent dual role extends beyond the individual, influencing family members and dynamics. Children may struggle with the absence of a parent during critical moments, while spouses navigate the challenges of managing a household alone. Striking a balance becomes a delicate art, requiring open communication and mutual understanding.

Some officer parents share strategies that have helped them maintain a sense of normality, such as establishing consistent routines and making the most of quality time when available.

Recognising the unique challenges faced by police officer parents, establishing robust support systems is imperative. Police chiefs and staff associations can play a pivotal role in promoting mental health awareness, offering counselling services, and implementing family-friendly policies.

External organisations and communities can also contribute by providing resources and creating a network of understanding. By building resilience through collective support, we can empower police officer parents to navigate their dual roles with reassurance of support and reduce even the fear of becoming parents due to their occupation, which should never be a hindrance.

As we consider and acknowledge the sometimes complex and difficult interplay of parenthood and policing, it becomes evident the mental health of police officer parents is a crucial, yet often overlooked, aspect of their lives. By acknowledging the challenges, understanding the stressors, and promoting support systems, we pave the way for a healthier, more resilient policing community. It is all our responsibility to ensure those who protect the public are equipped, not only for their duty on the streets, but also for the complex and sometimes stressful duty they hold within their own homes.

Parents show great self-sacrifice and sometimes self-neglect in dealing with the complexities that naturally present themselves when bringing up children. But combining this with the high risk/stress of a unique job such as policing, with exposure to severe and regular trauma, can create a very delicate balance for parents in a 24/7 role on and off duty.

It is right that we as PFEW ensure this is not overlooked. I would also encourage a thought to those who parent the parents. As we advance in life, many of us witness slow decline and degeneration of the ones who brought us into this world, and often a role reversal takes place. Many of us I know are silent about these struggles and the emotional journey which stays with us for the rest of our days, yet we as cops are expected to hold those up and become that pillar of strength and resilience.

Recognition and support for these areas is as vital as any other level of support we offer, and the importance should never be overlooked.

Please contact your local Fed rep to find out if your force has a Parent Support Group.

Oscar Kilo offer resources for family members of those who work in the police.

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