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Sergeant Hodel Harris – balancing family and career

Published:Saturday | June 20, 2015 | 12:00 AMOrantes Moore
One of Jamaica’s top law enforcement officers, Sergeant Hodel Harris.
Harris advises young, career-focused, single-mothers that the path ahead is exhausting, but ultimately rewarding.

As a single mother, full-time student and one of Jamaica's top law enforcement officers, Sergeant Hodel Harris acknowledges that much of the time she would like to spend parenting her five-year-old son, Marcelle, is spent developing and executing crime-prevention strategies.

Harris, 30, is a charming, intelligent and ambitious member of the St Mary Police's Community and Safety Branch (CSSB). She was voted Lasco Police Officer of the Year in 2014.

She is in the final year of a project management degree course and loves working as a police officer, but often feels guilty about prioritising her erratic work schedule.

Harris told Family and Religion: "Earlier this month, I was at a party for a police officer who was retiring and she said something during her closing speech that brought tears to my eyes. She apologised to her kids for all the missed classes, events and parent-teacher meetings.

"As a professional woman, that is something we face on a regular basis. My role at the CSSB is not a nine-to-five job. It's demanding and we can be called upon at any time because we police by demand wherever the need exists. If that means we have to go somewhere in the morning and leave at night to forge a bond with the community, that's what we do.

"It is really hard to balance and sometimes I shed tears over simple little things like bathing my child and preparing Sunday dinner, which feel like luxuries to me because police officers work six-days-a-week, so on my days off, I have to cram in all the washing, cleaning and everything else.

"Sometimes I deliberately overcompensate with material things and know it's not the ideal thing to do, but I do it to show him how much he is loved."

Harris notes that around 60 per cent of children in Jamaica are raised in single-parent, matrifocal households. She advises young, career-focused, single mothers that the path ahead is exhausting but ultimately rewarding.

She said: "As a professional, working mother, you can't have your cake and eat it. It is not possible to balance both ends of the pendulum; something has to give and most times you have to yield to your job because that's what pays for the well-being of your child. It's a sad state of affairs that I attribute to the harsh economic constraints we endure.

"I'm not going to tell people to wait until they get married before having children, but they need to be cognisant of the fact that it's not rosy or peachy, but very hard work.

"There's always light at the end of the tunnel. It's just that sometimes you need endurance and patience before you can see it. Sometimes, in the most desperate of moments when you really want to see the light, you won't be able to see it, but keep persevering and you will get there in the end.

"And don't sit and mope over the fact you're a single parent. It is not a curse," adds Harris. "It's just an obstacle in life, but just like every other obstacle, you get up, brush off the dust and get over it.

"But don't continue to make the same mistake because if you're three times a single parent, there is something wrong with your decision-making process."