|The Little Note|
|By Brent Parker|
It’s so easy for the corrections professionals to become all-consumed by the work of corrections. Corrections is a 24/7 endeavor, so we often think we need to be engaged 24/7. Most corrections professionals want to do their very best and this requires great dedication and hard work. Certainly, we need to be loyal, and while we are at work and on-the-clock we need to be focused and fully engaged.
Many corrections professionals have the desire to contribute more, promote through the ranks, and earn a position of leadership. Most would like to earn more money, and this may drive us to devote even more time and energy to the work. We tell ourselves that we’re dedicated, loyal and hardworking, and this is probably true, but the consequences can be costly. It is also very common for the corrections professional to cut ties with non-corrections friends and spend less and less quality time with family. This formula may result in us becoming a corrections workaholic.
Because of the associated stress of corrections work in general, the corrections workaholic may be end up isolated, unhealthy and unhappy.
We tell ourselves we’re working long hours to provide more for our family, but the family suffers along the way, with this often leading to divorce and, tragically, no family at all. Family and true friends don’t really care what we do at work; they just want us to be there for them. Not just today; but also long after corrections.
A few things to consider:
You may feel important while you’re rising through the ranks, and as a public servant you are. However, your agency was there before you and will be there long after you.
When the work is done—and eventually it will end—what you will have is your faith, your family and friends, your health and a hobby or two … hopefully.
The long hours of work may cost you what you can never get back: family time, special events and lasting memories, true enjoyment, and real life fulfillment.
How do I know this is true? I was a corrections workaholic … for a while.
I was about eighteen years into my corrections career. I was working myself silly, 70-80 hours a week, sometimes more. I was contributing, moving through the ranks, becoming a better leader and supporting my family. I went to work early, stayed late, and took work home because I thought it was important. I thought I was important.
Then one evening I was at home, pouring over policies, working on important Department stuff. My seven-year old daughter, the youngest of four kids, came quietly into the room. She slipped a little piece of paper onto the desk, smiled and left the room. This little note changed my life.
From this moment on, I was still a hardworking, loyal and dedicated employee. I continued to promote and left the Department in a good place, but my priorities were different. My faith, my loving wife and my family came first again. I was happier, less stressed and less bothered by the temporary importance of the work and the Department. I’m sure I was even a better employee and leader at work. I don’t think the people I worked with noticed I was working fewer hours, which tells me they probably hadn’t really noticed the previous long hours either.
I read what my daughter had written, and knew then I needed to do better. I held on to this little note and the lesson it offered.
My daughter’s little note read simply … Daddy when can we play? I love you.
After reading the note, I cried a little (you know, inside, because that’s what dads do). This was such an important message from a small child. I thought I was a good provider, but I was not being a very good dad. I closed the desk and I left that work for another day.
I scooped her up and we jumped on the trampoline that evening until I was exhausted. I spent time jumping and playing every chance I got, with all my kids. I didn’t miss any events, school functions or games, unless it was absolutely necessary. I coached teams, helped on school projects and spent more time than I can count watching and cheering them to success.
My wife had worked hard with four kids and carried the load when I was away at work. She was always so supportive and deserved more from me, so I tried to be a better husband. I tried to help out more than before, and even though I still didn’t do the laundry right, I was trying, and our marriage got stronger.
I retired from corrections in 2016, and I have fond memories. Many work partners remain my very best of friends, and the work was rewarding. We kept people safe, and we probably helped some people along the way. But nothing could replace the quality time I spent during those same years creating memories with my family.
I’m so thankful I slowed down to enjoy such blessings, and I’m eternally grateful for my loving wife, four wonderful kids, and my daughter’s little note.
Brent Parker, Husband and Dad
This article as been reprinted with permission from the July 2017 Issue of Correctional Oasis, a monthly e-publication of "Desert Waters Correctional Outreach".
Brent Parker is a semi-retired corrections veteran with over 33 years of experience at the state and county levels. He has served in many capacities from Corrections Officer to Director of Training and Specialty Court liaison, consultant, and staff trainer.
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