Police Family Life: Creating Holiday Traditions with Untraditional Schedules
The closer we get to the holidays, the more stressful planning celebrations can become. Add in a work schedule where one (or in some cases, both) parents have to work the holiday and suddenly things get more complex. As parents, we want to create magic for our children so they grow up believing in the magic of Santa Claus, learn that it IS better to give than receive and spend time together as a family doing activities that are special to this time of year. In that way, we are not so different from non-law enforcement families.
Custom badge number ornament by BtBL member-owned Doodlebug Design by Kimberly.
Never mind the pressure of Pinterest. Most of us police wives are more concerned that our officers come home safe at the end of their shift than worrying whether all the charger plates coordinate with the goblets. And let's not talk about the family dynamics that can be a little more, well, dynamic during the holidays.
"No, Aunt Bea, Jenny can't make it for midnight eggnog after mass."
"Hi Mom, I checked with Luke and he confirmed that New Year's Eve time off requests were booked in March. I'll come to the party by myself. Again. And don't worry about me, I'll be fine and have fun with everyone else."
"Sorry, David. Hubby says to light tonight's candle on the menorah for him. He'll call you when he finishes booking his arrestee."
When you are a police wife without children, it can be lonely attending family gatherings without your partner. And when you are a police wife with children, it can be lonely in a different way. With no partner along to help corral the kids, what should be a relaxing visit to your sister's house to hang out with your parents, nephew and extended family you haven't had a chance to see in months ends in toy throwing tantrums and you leave before dessert is served. Yes, I'm talking about our Thanksgiving. Even so, I still call it a good holiday because my husband came home safe to us that night after a day spent helping people who needed him that day just a little bit more than we did.
And so it goes when you are married to a police officer who has to work during the holidays. Police Wives Have a Choice As police wives, we have a choice whether to see ourselves as victims of our circumstances or empower ourselves to be good role models of strength and independence to our children and family members. I know that I am not alone when I say that I strive to be the latter. In fact, the stories and traditions shared by our Backing the Blue Line members below will demonstrate this. It's definitely a point of pride among our members that we find ways to make it work no matter what complexities we have to manage.
Be Inspired by the Brilliant Blue Line Families of Minnesota
We here at Backing the Blue Line invite you to cozy up, read on and be inspired by how some very strong, creative, resourceful and thoughtful women make the very best out of the holidays when their partners have to work untraditional hours and days. Don't be surprised if you find yourself stealing some of these brilliant ideas! We also share one very special Backing the Blue Line holiday tradition.
One lucky Backing the Blue Line member is married to "Mr. Christmas" and shared this photo of him in action.
Katie - "We are already talking about next year when it will be our first baby's Christmas and he works into Christmas Day - he said he will stay up to open presents with us then sleep! Every year we get a tree together and do a Christmas puzzle....every year we have to listen to the same Christmas album when we put the tree up and we always have to do it together. This year we decorated in the middle of the day before he went in for night shift!"
Mel - "My Dad is a LEO (Law Enforcement Officer) and growing up, he worked shift work, so we had family dinner and opened gifts either before, during or after his shift. Now we work around my Dad's schedule, my LEO's schedule and my own as a dispatcher. This year we are celebrating the weekend after Christmas. Next year we may be lucky enough to celebrate on Christmas, but probably not. In the end, it doesn't really matter WHEN we celebrate, what matters is that we are all together for it."
Andrea - "The past few years we’ve gone and spent Christmas Eve night at our boys’ biological Grandparent’s house and then we spend Christmas Day with them. Santa brings one gift there for each of the kids and then delivers the rest to our house so we can open them with Dad when we get home Christmas night."
Sharing a cup of coffee with her hubby before Christmas is one of Jennifer's favorite traditions.
Jennifer - "We seemed to have fallen into a tradition of opening small gifts when my husband is home days leading up to Christmas. It gives them all something to look forward to. Our daughter’s birthday is on Christmas so we try to make it as much of a celebration that day for her as possible and wait to include my husband when he is awake or on break. He has worked 6 of 8 Christmas’ so we tend to be creative."
Lee - "This year is different because we're at different departments... but the past couple years the hubby and I volunteered to work on Christmas even though we had the seniority to get it off. We decided together to do this because that meant 2 more of our co-workers could be home with their little kids instead of being stuck at work. We don't have any kids yet but hopefully some day soon!"
Samantha - "I’m a dispatcher and my boyfriend is a police officer. We work Christmas Eve AND Christmas Day. We also have two kids under the age of 3. I start work at 1830 (6:30 p.m.) and he’s off at 1700 (5:00 p.m.), so I got someone to swap with me and come in early so I don’t work till 2230 (10:30 p.m.). That way we get 4 hours together and with the kids before I go."
Kristy - "We just started dating around the holidays last year...he went out with me to my family property to cut down the most Charlie Brown Christmas tree. (I was living with a friend who didn’t want a Christmas tree so it had to be small enough to fit in my room.) We decorated it together...then he worked the power shift then came over afterwards to celebrate with my family. This year we are living together (and with two pups!) so we went and got a Christmas tree and decorated it together! He’s off this Christmas. His brother is also a LEO and it just happens that they are both off Christmas Eve. So our plans are to go up the night before and stay at his parents celebrate with them then head to my aunts since we have a Christmas Eve tradition of wrapping presents and watching Hallmark movies. Then we will celebrate Christmas Day with my family since he’s off this year. I’ll cherish this since it won’t happen often and he works overnights now."
The wonder of Christmas at an age where they don't know what day it falls on.
Kimberly - "I’ve been fortunate enough that my husband has been off every holiday since we’ve had kids. When we didn’t have kids yet, I did ride along a with him on holidays. I’m not from here and all of my family is in Texas."
Thanksgiving at the station with the on duty crowd.
Laura - "If he works holidays I have embraced coming into the pd to share a meal with him and the officers (and my little guy). On Thanksgiving we brought in two turkeys and some other stuff and other officers brought a dish. Christmas will be pasta this year! Then we just do other family stuff on days off or evenings."
One little guy happily enjoying a new train set.
Rebecca - "We always spend Christmas Eve with my family. So even on those years that he couldn’t be there, I was with my biggest support system. Then we would meet daddy somewhere in the town he works so we could see him before we headed home. Our LEO always stayed up when he worked overnights to be able to watch the kids open their presents."
Natalie - "On Christmas Eve, we bring him (and whoever he's working with) tacos and virgin margaritas (or gas station slushies) and celebrate "Feliz navidad" I love that it gives our kids an extra celebration to look forward to, and it gives me hope that they won't be hung up on the exact day as they get older."
Skipping out of school an hour early to get to the tree farm.
Nikki - "To kick off the Christmas season we cut our Christmas tree down during the week. We pull our daughter out of school about an hour early and head to the tree farm. It’s the best of both worlds because we don’t have to deal with the weekend busyness and get to enjoy time with dad. Followed by dinner out and setting up the tree that evening."
Smiles all around for finding the perfect tree to bring home.
(One Backing the Blue Line member's family played hooky to visit a Minnesota staple of holiday fun.)
Jennifer - We’ve started the tradition of going to Bentleyville as a family. We fit it in when we can due to our busy schedules. Second year in a row, our girls have played hooky from school to stay up in Duluth. Family comes first, and if they need to skip a day of school so we can have some family time, so be it.
This little lady had no idea that Santa come on December 22nd last year.
Brooke - "Last year was HARD! I was driving the Christmas struggle bus, fueled by lonely LEOW tears. It was what the BtBL ladies said that turned my holiday around. I didn’t even think to wake the kiddos up and have a special “Santa” morning on 12/23 before we left dad for the weekend, but by the suggestion of this group that’s exactly what we did. And my little lady was none the wiser and he didn’t have to miss out on her first involved Santa experience. Then we took off for the cities for a bit to see family. At the suggestion of the ladies here, we came home early to spend Christmas Day afternoon with dad before he went to work. I can’t remember who said it, but they told me to give myself permission, if my heart needed it, to be where I needed to be. And that was with my husband at the time, despite missing my extended family stuff. I will always remember that advice because it really helped me. Since then, I have not felt the need to apologize for wanting to stay with my hubby for the holiday even if it’s just a few hours."
Helping daddy drag the Christmas tree to the car.
Ellen - "Hey mom, do you think Santa is going to come early this year because he has so many kids to deliver to like he did last year?" My husband does not want to miss the joy of seeing our children receive their presents so Santa came while we were out to eat last year on the 23rd. Our kids totally rolled with it and we do the best we can to make Christmas feel as normal as possible, even if it has to be celebrated on a different day. On the flip side, it's hard when family is unmovable for their traditions so if my hubby works I load up the kids and bring them by myself. It is stressful, late, and overwhelming to help two little kids open presents well after their normal bedtime. Not to be a downer, but that is just reality for me. It's amazing when family is willing to move tradition to accommodate shift times so we can all be together...whether that means celebrating an entirely different day or eating off schedule! We also cut a tree down each year - this year it was early because of weekend rotations during December. Our kids look forward to it each year. This year our son was old enough to help drag the tree out.
Amy - When my son was little we would: 1) open santa stocking without dad -- but wait til off work (or before work some years) for bigger presents 2) invite others over for Christmas dinner (single friends, etc.) 3) Have hubby come after shift over to family gatherings 4) host family gatherings so they could be with us as long as possible when working 3- midnight or ASAP after shift done 5) go to church without him (when working afternoon/evenings) 6) Watch Christmas specials in mom & dad's big bed 7) Go to holiday events (Holidazzle, etc.) with friends/family without him (as working afternoons/evenings) 8) Be flexible with timing of family celebrations -- my poor MIL never gets the actual day -- as my husband's brother is a fire fighter with odd hours too! My family lives closer so we usually see them one or both days of Christmas.
Cindy - "I've been hosting at least one meal a year (for the on duty crew) since James and I started dating. 1991 that would be. Wish I had taken pictures back then! My way of saying 'Thanks for being a great partner for my guy! And thanks for giving up your time with your first family to protect our city/county.' 6 years ago our local paper did a big article and put it on the front page."
Cathy - "This is the first year in a long time my LEO will be working Christmas morning. Because he goes in very early he will not be here when the kiddos wake up. They were really bummed at first but then we came up with the idea of bringing brunch to his department for those who are working. Then the kids get to see Dad on Christmas morning and others who are working will have a hot meal."
Not So Blue Christmas - A Very Special BtBL Tradition Each year, nominations are solicited to bless a Minnesota law enforcement family who has had a hard year and deserves some cheer. This year, the Bohrer family will be the recipients of the Not So Blue Christmas celebration. You can help Backing the Blue Line give the Bohrer family a Christmas to remember while their daughter Ashlyn waits for a new heart.
Fallen Officer Memorial Roses prepared by BtBL and distributed at the funerals of fallen officers.
Remembering the Fallen This year, our hearts are especially with the families of the officers we lost. For those families, the holidays will never be quite the same as they grieve their loved ones who are gone too soon. May they find comfort in their happy memories of holidays past and find it in their hearts to create new traditions when they are ready. We here at Backing the Blue Line have provided support to them and will continue to do so into the new year.
However police families across Minnesota celebrate the holidays, I think that Shelli, another Backing the Blue Line member, summed it up best when she wrote: "I believe that we are teaching our LE children that Christmas isn't about the exact day or that it has to be just like they see on tv. All of our LE Families are teaching them that Christmas is about love and making memories, whether they happen on the 24,25 or any other day in the month. Kids are so resilient. My kids (16 & 18) still
remember fondly dad coming to Grandma's house with a bunch of his buddies for Xmas eve dinner and Christmas Day lunch. They actually miss it."
About the writers: Thank you to the strong, brave and funny women of the private Facebook page for Backing the Blue Line who contributed their photos and traditions and gave permission to share them here. They represent many areas in our great state and come from a variety of backgrounds. However, they have a lot in common: they love a police officer, they are smart, they are brave, they are strong, they are independent and they want to make a positive difference in the community. The purpose of the private Facebook page is to unite a community of police wives and significant others to provide a community of support through friendships, networking, and discussion. It is also for raising awareness of the need to support our unique lives and share the bond that comes with being a law enforcement family.
We also invite MN police wives/significant others to become full members of Backing the Blue Line to take advantage of all membership benefits and have additional opportunities to give and receive support.
About the curator: Jamie has been married to her LEO for seven years and together they have three young sons. She currently serves as the Managing Editor of this blog. She is a working mama, writer for Twin Cities Moms Blog, professional photographer and loves encouraging police families to enjoy the best of this unique lifestyle.