police life

Known Unknown Knowns

Yesterday I read a post on the National Police Wives Association Facebook page from a young woman whose fiancé will soon be going to the police academy.  She was curious to see what kind of careers police wives have and was looking for advice on what she should do about her own education.  She is currently in college pursuing a degree in education; however, she said she had no intention of ever being a teacher.  She is torn between quitting school to take a part-time job with flexible hours and be there for her fiancé when he has time off or continuing her education, knowing she will not have much time to spend with him.  As a matter of fact, she said there would be five months where she would be forced to never see him if she continued in school and she really doesn’t intend to ever use her degree.

As I read her post, I thought of former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld’s quote when he said:  “There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”

This girl understands the known knowns.  She either knows about shift work or she knows Kenny Chesney’s song about shift work!  Either way…she gets it.  Ain’t nobody working 9-5 in police work.  At least not in the beginning!  She knows that if she’s going to school during the day and he is working nights, they won’t be seeing each other nearly as much as they would like.  The known knowns are easy.

So, what about known unknown?   Shift work is a known known; which shift is definitely a known unknown.  Just because you are on nights now, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re on nights tomorrow, or next week, or next year.  My husband has worked for two different police departments and my son works for a third.  All of them handle shifts and hours differently.  Shifts are pretty much a known unknown that police families learn to get used to.  There will be times when you don’t see each other much.  There will be other times when your schedules are in perfect sync.  Look for the positive in shifts instead of the negative.  When I was teaching school and he was working evenings, we were able to sleep at the same time and he was able to take care of our children while I worked.  I only needed a baby-sitter for a couple of hours instead of all day.  When he was working midnights, I worked while he slept and he worked while I slept but we were always able to eat dinner together and he was there to help with the kids in the evenings.  There’s something good about each shift.  Find the good and focus on that.  Become comfortable with the known unknown.

That’s all pretty straight-forward, but what doesn’t seem so clear are the known knowns that cross the line into unknown knowns.  It’s the known unknown knowns (!) that are muddying the water for this young lady, I think.  She knows she will never use that teaching degree.  She knows that a part-time job will suffice as they begin their police marriage.  She knows she needs flexible hoursI think those are all known unknown knowns and I wouldn’t make life-altering decisions based on them!

If I could talk to this girl and give her my best advice…this is what it would be:

  1. Get your degree. I don’t care what it’s in or if you think you’ll ever use it or not; you still need to get it.  Reach your maximum potential and don’t limit yourself.
  2. Leave your options open. I think it’s wonderful if you don’t have to work or if you only need to work part-time.  But, there may come a time when you will NEED to work full-time to supplement your family income or there may be a time when you find something you are passionate about and WANT to work outside the home.
  3. Study how to make yourself happy. Of course, you want to spend every minute with your fiancé!  That’s a natural part of love.  Realistically, though there will be times when you are alone.  Don’t complain about it…learn to be comfortable with it.  Your happiness is not exclusively dependent on him or being with him and that’s okay.
  4. “Being there” for your soon-to-be husband may not always mean being physically present with him. Being there for him when he is at work and you are at home may be even more important.  Learn what he needs and how to be there for him regardless of physical space.

Oh!  I almost forgot about the unknown unknowns—you simply don’t know what you don’t know.  I’m not going to lie—I don’t know what the unknown unknowns are for her (or me, for that matter) because…well, because they’re unknown.  I have good advice…but no crystal ball!



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