Op-ed: Being present for your family IS the present, but the key is in balancing family and the job


The article is written by guest writers: Thomas J. Cline & Brian T. Mc Vey, MAP. It includes editorial content that is the opinion of the writers.

Family Time is Critical for Well-Being

Being physically present with others is important; but not as important as ‘YOU’ being there, too.

Many officers work overtime and side jobs to pay their bills, and seemingly never get a day off (a clue that one is living beyond their means).  Many officers are working in short-staffed departments and overtime is always an available temptation.

These same officers say the money is good, however, their spouse often has a different take. They would rather have them home more often.

The solution-take a day off! 

Give yourself, your spouse, and gift your family with your presence.  If you can’t afford a day off; you are living beyond your means. Stop spending!

Your family needs you more than the money if your finances are in proper order.

Some law enforcement officers develop a disordered dedication to the job that leads to neglect of more important things like family and appropriate stress management.

Have you ever said this:

“I can’t believe they’re paying me to do this s***!!?

Face it, what is more fun;

1- chasing a bad guy, using skills and power to subdue bad guys in the name of truth, justice, and the American way.

Or 2- changing diapers, reading Cat in the Hat for the 600th time, and listening to a spouse’s mundane, daily story?

As fun as the job can be, cops on their deathbeds do not wish they would have made another felony, gun, or narcotics arrest.

Instead, they regret not giving proper attention to loved ones and wish they would have focused on the family and relationships more.

The lure of the job is strong. Overcome it, or it will overwhelm you.

Op-ed: Being present for your family IS the present, but the key is in balancing family and the job
Stock photo.

Test Yourself

Are your priorities in order? Take this test to find out.

WARNING: It takes guts and discipline to complete the test. It’s a testament to your commitment to well-being.

  • Write five things to which you assign high value in your personal value system, and one sentence explaining why each is valuable to you.
  • What are the five things that consume the most time and/or effort in your life? Measure the hours spent in each activity, exercise, socializing with family, reading, internet, videogames, TV, etc.
  • The job will be first on this list because, including travel, it is likely that sixty hours per week are used. Write the other four.

Now, the big question- do the lists match? They ought to, with the job being the outlier.

There are negative consequences for inconsistencies in the lists.

Are the things you claim to highly value given high effort and/or time?

If the lists do not match, you won’t need a crystal ball to see your future, be honest with yourself.

Being divorced has taught me how precious my time is with my children.  They must be my priority.

Today’s culture is grooming children to be comfortable alone as increasingly, both parents increasingly are working and are exhausted when they need to be present for their children.

Their devices groom them even more for unspeakable things.    Fathers must get off the couch and engage with their children.  In this ever busy, evolving world, it would seem this should come naturally for most dads to give at the very heart of our human life.  But some of us are damaged from our fathers and they are damaged from their fathers and the cycle continues. You must be the one to break the cycle.

Perhaps it comes ‘naturally’ in the sense that true love calls for our presence. But that does not mean it comes easy- it requires effort. Even when we love, we can still be distracted, and fail to ‘be there’ for loved ones in even the most basic ways.

From the perspective of a husband who must spend a significant amount of time ‘away’ from their wife and children, there is a simple exercise that has amazing fruits.

If you are gone for a period, a simple note by the sink or nightstand with … “I love you dear” or “I’m sorry” can go a long way.  Try NOT to use technology to send those types of messages.  A handwritten note sends a more powerful and heartfelt message than a digital version. It engages you’re a loved ones in a special way.

Op-ed: Being present for your family IS the present, but the key is in balancing family and the job

Be There for Them

 I am grateful to have a father that was present.  My father taught me and my brothers the importance of ‘being-present’.   To my dad, being present meant we worked next to him most weekends painting parking lots.

We not only learned to paint, but we also learned the benefit of going to bed early knowing we were going to be up before sunrise.  We learned math quickly by looking at the blueprints for those parking lots. We learned the city well traveling all over for these paint jobs without a phone or Google Maps.
It was a gift to be with him and understand hard work, while learning life lessons.  He taught us the gift of being up before sunrise, we learned tremendous lessons about life while working with him.  We learned what to do and what not to do.

After a long day of work, we would sit together and eat dinner as a family.   Following dinner, we would often watch a football, hockey, or basketball game together.

I am very grateful to my dad for being present.

Michelle Gale, author of Mindful Parenting in a Messy World said:

“Being mindful isn’t something you do once and you’re done. You have to practice in order to get good at it.”

We don’t need research studies to prove that our phones and tablets are distracting us from, basically, everything. But here’s what I didn’t know: Kristen Race, Ph.D., founder of Mindful Life, an organization that trains parents, schools, and businesses to practice mindfulness says:

“Just being around an electronic device can be detrimental. Even hearing a phone vibrate makes your brain go someplace else.”

Try implementing these rules with your family today!

Dr. Race suggests starting small.

  • In 2023 we shall not pick up our phones after 6 p.m.
  • Put your phone in a drawer during meals.
  • Stick it in the glove box for short car trips.
  • Leave it at home when you all walk the dog. Try listening for five different sounds along the way, pointing out five different things that are blue, or checking out the cloud formations.
Op-ed: Being present for your family IS the present, but the key is in balancing family and the job
Stock image.

Eat as a Family

If possible, eat dinner together as a family. Kids that eat dinner with the family regularly have higher grades in school! This was important in my family.

If you can’t make dinner, have a nighttime routine, whether it be reading to your kids before bed, or reviewing your day with your spouse. Whatever is important to your family, turn it into a routine, so being more present with your family becomes a regular way of life.

Also, be grateful, if you are not a believer, simply take a moment for everyone at the table to give thanks for something in their day.  It may stimulate a topic for discussion at dinner.

You must look for ways to carve out airplane mode for your family.  Again, most of us know that on your death bed, nobody will ask how many arrets did you make or how many awards did you receive.

Make moments now, give time to your family and create these moments that turn into incredible lifetime memories.

About the writers:

Brian T. Mc Vey, MAP,
Proud Dad, Chicago Police Officer injured in the line of duty in 2012.  Brian has a master’s degree from Adler University in Chicago Il.  Brian is also a freelance writer and consultant.
Brian likes to talk, email him at: [email protected].

Thomas J. Cline,
Spouse, Father, MBA, MAP, 52-years in law enforcement, is past president of the International Association of Ethics Trainers, Law Enforcement Training Trust board member, a writer/trainer at the Chicago PD, and a consultant. He authored “Cop Tales! (Never Spit in a Man’s Face…Unless His Mustache Is on Fire)” and “Psych Firefight: L E Job Satisfaction in a hostile environment.”
For information on training and workshops email: [email protected]

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Op-ed: Being present for your family IS the present, but the key is in balancing family and the job

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