This is How She Does It: B.C. RCMP Officer Spends More on her Nanny Than her Mortgage
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to be like Jake and Amy from Brooklyn Nine Nine, then this interview is for you. This Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officer spends her days (and sometimes nights) investigating serious crimes, but instead of Brooklyn, picture B.C. And instead of car chases, picture lots and lots of paperwork. OK, maybe reality isn’t as much like a sit-com as we imagine. We caught up with her to learn about investigating serious crimes, what it is really like to move across the country for work, and how she keeps stress in check with work and two kids under 4-years-old at home.
The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Why did you get into policing?I've always been a person who likes to solve problems and put those pieces together and speak to people. I was in the military for five years. I was a naval officer — and that’s just how my brain functions. That's what I was interested in and it was just a natural transition from the military. I knew where I wanted to go.
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How did you end up in British Columbia?I'm originally from Ontario. I've been here for several years. Once I joined the police force, I got posted directly to (B.C.) with my husband, who is also a police officer, and we’ve been here ever since. He also works as a police officer. I work as a plain clothes investigator in the RCMP, we don't call it detective, but it is essentially a similar line of work.
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What it’s like working on serious crimes?Every day is different depending on what file you're working on. Let's say there's a serious file that comes in, we would respond, and then that would mean very long hours for the next week or two. Where you have to basically control the scene and gather all your information for the entire investigation that is very timely and sensitive — and has to happen at that time.
And then it's more of a paperwork and document game. I don't think people realize how much paperwork we go through. I'd say that's like 75 to 80% of the job.
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What are RCMP officer hours like?It’s a mix between high intensity action: tending scenes and speaking to people in interviews and that kind of thing to literally Monday to Friday business hours, making sure all the documents are in place for court.
It's unpredictable in terms of what kind of files you get. You have to just react to it. There have been seasons where it's really slow and there’s other seasons where there are three homicides you have to deal with.
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How do you handle the work stress and crazy hours?It can be a strain if you're not careful. Particularly when there’s two of us. My husband often has really long hours that can change on a dime. You have to watch for that relationship strain, how you interact with your kids and your own mental health too. If you don't take care of it, it can catch up real quick.
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How do you balance your job and your health with two young kids?It’s hard. I find one of the biggest challenges for me is after a really long day that requires a lot of mental strain or I'm dealing with something very emotional at work with clients. When I come home and then you're dealing with children that are two and three years old, it can be — it can be a lot. There's not a lot of time for yourself.
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How has having young kids affected your career?I took about 8 months of maternity leave with both of them. They are 15 months apart, so it was like ‘boom’, ‘boom!’ My husband took off four months for each child, so in terms of career, it affected my career a little bit more but it was a little bit better for both of us.
I'm lucky in the fact that my husband is very active in parenting. So I'm not doing it all my own. We also have a really amazing nanny that we pretty much call our third parent.
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What has it been like being a woman in policing?In my experience, in this generation, I found it's been really, really good as a woman in the police force. I don't feel the marginalization that other women have felt in like the 70s and 80’s. I find that there's a lot of opportunities. If you want to try something that is more male oriented, the stigma isn’t there. It’s really about your own attitude and your own efforts. That's my own personal experience. I'm, I'm sure other women have different experiences depending on where they are in Canada.
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What should women know before considering a career in the RCMP?I think people think “I want to join the RCMP and I want to go and do things like the FBI.” It's quite rare to be posted straight into federal policing. Keep an open mind. When you say you are ready to move, you are going to move, and you’re typically not going back home.
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Do you own your home or rent? How much are houses?We bought a house. Moving from a different place and coming from the military where you’re always on the go, we rented for a while then saved up for down-payment. But the cost of living here is much cheaper than Toronto. There’s a millionaire’s section like anywhere, but middle-upper class people can buy a house for anywhere from $280,000 to $450,000. But in Toronto these would be selling for $1 million easy.
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Is your mortgage your biggest expense?No, our nanny is. We’re pretty much paying two mortgages, a mortgage and a nanny. The nanny is quite a lot because she is live-in, which isn’t for everyone, and we’re both on-call, my husband and I. Sometimes we require her a lot.
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What’s it like to move across the country?I grew up in Toronto and when I moved to B.C., it was a huge eye opener for me in terms of our Canadian history, culture and all the issues that our country is facing outside the city. But if you're open to the adventure, that is this job. I think that (visiting family in Ontario) would probably be (our) biggest expense. In order to just fly out you have to go to Vancouver. It's kind of like our vacation. We never really have vacation because it's usually going home to family, which is not the same thing.
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Do you and your partner talk about money?We're really open about finances that way. I find the more we communicate, the easier it becomes rather than because it's a huge issue for a lot of couples’ families if you don't kind of deal with that problem right away. We literally talk about money all the time and it comes like a normal topic of conversation. And that way there are no bad surprises.
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How do you budget?We actually use an app called YNAB (You Need a Budget). We used to use the envelope system but we started using this because we needed something cross-platform. We have a flagging thing. Every time you spend something you can see it on your phone. Also, you're aware of what you spend because your partner sees it. We're really open about finances that way. I find the more we communicate, the easier it becomes.
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How did you learn about money? Parents, friends, trial and error?My parents were terrible with money. We came from a communist country where credit wasn't a thing. My parents didn't understand the (Canadian) system, so they got into debt quite significantly. If anything, I'm learning from their mistakes and I learned to save for things rather than spending, then trying to pay it off. I think a lot of immigrants deal with that when they come from significantly different countries.
My sister taught me a lot. She's really smart with numbers. She gave me like an excel formula the first time I was learning about finance and budgeting. She helped me significantly pay off my student debt.
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What’s one area you wish you could do better with money?When life gets really stressful we have a tendency to let our budget lapse and that's when we get into overspending. I know it's a big problem for a lot of people. They stress and use consumerism to make themselves feel better. Right? Like, I'm going to go shopping. Retail therapy.
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What’s one piece of advice you’d give to our readers?You are not your job. Your identity should not be your job. Find your identity outside of work and be that person. That should reflect in your job, in your family and your life choices. I'm all for career advancement. I'm in a pretty career-heavy place but I don't let policing influence my identity.
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