When it comes to backing the blue line the wives and husbands of police officers across North America put up with a lot. We do so willingly and with love. However there are many challenges that families of RCMP members have to face that other police forces do not. It takes commitment and strength to be a part of the red serge family.
- An RCMP family moves, on average, every 3 to 5 years. Sometimes a little longer, sometimes a little less. Just when it seems like you get the last box unpacked you find out you have to start all over again.
- Moving affects every aspect of our lives. It means uprooting the family, leaving behind good friends and finding a group of new ones. Getting used to new cultures, revamping budgets, researching schools, housing and neighbourhoods, finding childcare, and looking for employment takes over your life for the better part of a year.
- There is also the added job of changing over all our documentation after every move. For example items like cell phones, addresses on licences and health cards, etc. all require updating. It is an unavoidable fact of moving, but it takes time and money.
- Probably the biggest problem in this category is learning loss that comes with moving around so much. Moving so often means pulling kids out of school and adjusting to a new one. Sometimes mid term. There are huge differences in what part of the curriculum is taught in a certain school division as opposed to another. This is usually based on the needs of the community. Some sections are left out in certain areas and heavy emphasis is placed on other areas that maybe weren’t in a previous posting. Also one teacher may teach a unit early in the year while another teacher may wait until the end and so your child may be taught the same unit twice or miss an entire unit. RCMP parents are then forced to do extra teaching in reading and math at home simply to keep their child at grade level.
- Children and parents also have to adjust to a new school, friends, teacher, way of communication, events and way of doing things. We went from not having to pay for any field trips to having to pay upwards of $200 for field trips and school events per child per year. All communication with the teacher is through an app on our phones and email now, whereas before it was all in person.
- In my husband’s career we have gone from an urban community, to a rural ukrainian town, to a First Nations reserve, and now a Mennonite community. Each of these comes with its own way of doing things, unique celebrations and events, turns of phrase and speech patterns, and sensibilities of what is acceptable and what is not. Culture is deeply rooted in each of these places. As a newcomer we have to decipher all of this in order to fit in plus face any cultural backlash there may be towards police. Don’t get me wrong… it is an adventure and we’ve had amazing experiences every time, but it is also a challenge.
Finances and Income
- RCMP get paid the same no matter where you live in Canada despite the cost of living varying from place to place. A family that can afford a beautiful gigantic suburban home in Winnipeg can barely afford to pay the mortgage on a tiny condo in Surrey. A gallon of milk will be a few dollars in southern postings but skyrockets upwards of $13 the farther north you go. One can go from being an upper-middle income family to a low income family where even the cost for the hot lunch program at school is out of budget.
- Many families are forced to live on a single income because work or childcare is not available in the new community.
- Every time a member is moved the spouse has to give up his or her pension (if the job had one). If I were to out live my husband, any pension I receive from him is cut in half while mine has been compromised our entire married life.
- Oftentimes there is lost equity on homes due to a transfer.
- It used to be a rule of thumb that the RCMP was paid a salary averaged from the top three paid police forces in Canada. We are currently ranked at 79th. This means our spouses earn less than 79 other police forces in the country. Is it any wonder there’s currently a mass movement out of this once prestigious profession?
Sense of Place, Permanency and Home
- Home is where the heart is… or rather where the RCMP sends us! Children of members do not have a sense of place and permanency to associate with home. They don’t have the privilege of growing up with memories associated with one particular house, a room where you hid your contraband under a loose floor board or the door frame marked with your growth from the time you were old enough to stand.
- There are many instances of families having to live on a single income due to demanding shiftwork schedules at their detachments. Many detatchments are understaffed and time off for holidays or other leave (like to cover an admin day when the kids are not at school) is not granted.
- And going back to moving, after a transfer spouses are often not able to find new employment. This is especially common when members are transferred to Ip’s and remote places. Remote communities are usually tiny and there just aren’t a lot of jobs on the whole.
- Spouses are constantly giving up seniority or tenure. It is frustrating to have to give up seniority every few years to start over at the bottom rung in a new place.
- Employers also look at resumes and question our commitment to the workplace.
- In my opinion the RCMP have an excellent benefits plan for member’s dependents. However, RCMP families are covered under the national standards for healthcare costs, which, in some provinces, are not as high as provincial standards, so our coverage denies certain prescriptions and care.
- Families in remote areas also have to cover long distances to see specialists. In some cases milage is not covered in our benefits and must be paid out of pocket.
- With every move there is time spent having to find new doctors, dentists, pharmacists, etc. In each case the new doctor has no understanding of the family’s health history. Often families can’t find new doctors because of a shortage of doctors in rural areas where mounties are transferred to.
- It’s super hard for police and their families to make friends because of the prejudices associated with their job. For children (and parents), to have to continually make new friends, often in the middle of the school year, is difficult. A sense of security that comes from having that friend you’ve known forever is lost. Long term friendships are done online, rarely in person.
- Something I’ve noticed in my oldest is that feeling like you can just move away from your problems and not have to deal with the consequences of long term involvement in difficult social situations. Every time there is drama with her friends her first reaction is that it’s time to move. I have to confess I get this way too.
- There is no extra support for RCMP families. Military and city forces have support programs like family resource centres, holiday parties for the kids, family events, and child care services. We don’t even though we are just as transient as the military.
Ldp’s, Ip’s and remote postings
- In many detachments there are a lack of medical resources.
- In isolated posts there are often inadequate or expensive groceries. It becomes expensive to feed your family some very plain meals. I once saw a $5 apple! It is especially hard to stick to certain brands when your family has allergies or food restrictions. My family has dairy allergies and soy milk was not sold anywhere in town during our last posting. I had to grocery shop two and a half hours away just to buy certain brands of dairy free goods.
- Force housing is usually run down. Our last place had a leaky roof and bullet holes in windows. The place was freshly painted complete with bright yellow footprints across the living room carpet. The plug by my daughters’ room sparked every time I plugged something in it. We came to find out later had we continued to use it the house would probably have burnt down. The plumbing leaked and it took 6 weeks to get the parts to fix it and even longer to get a plumber in because there was none in that particular town. In my son’s room the heat would not turn off turning it into a sauna, in our room it would not turn on, making it freezing cold in the winter if the door was closed. I’m lucky my husband is handy. Because of isolation members are unofficially expected to fix up their own places even if they have absolutely no know how.
This article is not to complain but to draw awareness to these facts. We face these challenges head on every day because we made the choice to join in this life. I have never met a stronger group of people. Stay strong Mountie spouses!