Tuesday, June 21, 2011

the evolution of the pilot wife

Steve and I are celebrating our 8th wedding anniversary today...ahhhhhhhh.




So, what better time to talk about the evolution of a pilot wife than today. I find that the older I get and the longer I am married, the more in rhythm I am about being a pilot's wife. It took a good while to get in a rhythm, but I have done it.  Being the wife of a pilot is no longer a chore or a burden or something that I bitch about every day...it is simply our way of life. 

I have been with Steve since 1999, and from Day 1 he was a pilot.  That night at the bar I met "Steve the pilot" (Hey Baby, I'm an airline pilot) and "Greg the accountant."  Glad Steve was the one that called me the next day.  He flew corporate. That Fall he got hired by a regional. So, since fall 1999 I have been a commercial airline pilot girlfriend. Wife since 2003. I have been with him for 12 years, and we have come a long way!

It took a long time to REALLY understand the whole industry. And it took a really long time to get adjusted to being with a pilot. And it took a really long time to get adjusted to having the father of your children be gone all the time.


****


The first couple years of our relationship wasn't really effected by his flying. Since we met when I was in college, I was busy doing my thing and he was busy doing his thing. I learned things about the industry here and there, and over the months I learned more and more.

I remember being afraid for him when it was storming outside and I knew he was flying home...now, I don't worry much at all. If he doesn't call right after he is supposed to be in after a 4-day, I figure he was called in for a pee test.  I remember wanting to hear from him after each leg, practically. Now, I am content with hearing from him once a day, even if it is just a text. His job was exciting to me. I am sure all the questions were annoying to him, but you gotta learn someway or another.

That first year I got used to his life as a pilot. I got a feel for what his schedule was, how many legs he would fly in a day, what cities he would go to, ect.  I started to understand the lifestyle more and more. I started to get more comfortable with airline lingo and all the damn acronyms.

In terms of money, I never had a sense that he made what he made. He made shit money those first couple years...all regional FOs make shit money those first couple years....I didn't know that. He made it work, treated me well, and I never knew. 

After I graduated college, I went off to far away place for Peace Corps. During PC, Steve came to visit 3 times, which was awesome. He was able to bid his schedules so that he could come for 2 weeks at a time. I truly believe that this time prepared us for our airline pilot lifestyle. We would go up to 4 months without seeing one another. What is a 4-day, compared to 4 months? Piece of cake!  Since we were an ocean apart, I really wasn't effected by his schedule at all...aside from thinking it was awesome that he could gets weeks off at a time without having to take vacation.

Absence truly does make the heart grow fonder. The truth is that Steve knew he was going to marry me after our 2nd date, but we really started talking marriage and a life together during my time in PC.

When I got back from PC, we started to settle into life as a couple. We had our adjustment period, for sure. But, it all got ironed out through communication.

I also remember being super into welcoming him home from trips. I had the time and energy to totally put together a nice welcoming home. I am sure he appreciated it. I had fun with it. Now, I am happy if I get a kiss when he walks in the door.  But I am okay with that since the kids are the ones to run up and greet him...and that is all I need.

******

Steve proposed in 2002, right after we bought our first house together.

Life was good. Aside from Steve being downgraded from CA to FO, due to the attacks of September 11, which meant a pretty significant pay cut, he was able to maintain a pretty regular schedule. He usually worked Monday - Thursday and had the weekends off.  We were sort of like a normal couple, in terms of him being home.  Life was good. 

Our first house was pretty turn-key, but there was work we wanted to do on it. I distinctly remember the old kitchen floors in the house. We like real hardwood floors, and the previous owner had installed fake hardwood floors. They were horrible and even splintered if you slid across them.

One afternoon, Steve was on his hands and knees scrubbing the floors. He was so frustrated with work and was just wanting "his break." According to his plan, by that point in his career he should have been an FO at a mainline, or at least a CA at a regional.  For a good number of years, I was the breadwinner.

Patience is key....


*****

Steve got hired by a mainline carrier in 2006. Hurray! Steve and I decided it was time to start a family.

Now, having kids is really where adjustment to an airline pilot husband/father really comes into play. I sort of skimmed over the first couple years of our relationship since it seems like such a long time ago. We had our adjustments. I had to learn his lifestyle. I had to learn THE lifestyle...but, it was just the two of us. I could talk to him, it was just us. Getting things worked out was easy.

We did go through crap things like getting downgraded from CA to FO, and reserve and crash pads, and working every holiday, and missing him like crazy. A house is so lonely when it is just you. The only noise is the tv when you get home from work. The loneliness is almost scary sometimes. You question why you ever signed up to a marriage where you were alone so much.

And then you have kids...having kids is where it gets complicated and adds an entire new dimension to this whole pilot lifestyle thing. Having kids opens up a whole new can of worms.  It trys you and challenges you and tests you every single day.  You question your ability to handle it all.  But, it is so worth it.  The house is no longer quiet all the time.  His trips no longer drag on...they fly by. 

I got pregnant with Ben in 2006. I got pregnant with Cecilia in 2008. I know pilot wives that have issues with their husbands schedules, in terms of being home to conceive. We were blessed and didn't have any issues.

Steve was on a trip when I went into labor with Ben, but made it home for the birth. Steve was on day 2 of FMLA when I went into labor with Cecilia. Steve took FMLA for 8 weeks with both kids. The best thing ever for a pilot family!!!

After having two kids, the two biggest adjustments are: sleep and control.

I never thought that I would resent Steve for sleep, but I do. Not so much now, but I did a whole lot in that first year when the babies would wake up every couple hours. Even though sleep is a non-issue now during the night, I still resent Steve for napping. Just the other day he only ran 12 miles at 6am, and when he took a nap later on I was pissed. Why is it that he gets to nap when he is home, and I never do? Why is it that he can sleep in on trips, but I never sleep in? I have no idea why I am so sensitive to the whole sleep thing, but I am.

The other issue is control. Before I was a mother, I never thought I was that controlling. Sure, I would schedule things for Steve, but nothing too crazy. Now, as a mother, I am VERY controlling. Steve has adjusted well to this, and usually steps out of the way and lets me lead.

I think this controlling thing comes from the fact that I am a single-mom a lot. I need to keep things in order and in line with the kids, otherwise, things would get out of control and crazy. Things have to be done my way, and sometimes I have a really hard time stepping back and letting Steve take the lead.  I am sure this controlling thing is due to the fact that the kids are still so young. I am sure the older they get, the less controlling I will be.

Steve is a very patient man when it comes to me being the mother I am.  He knows where to pick his battles, and knows when I need him.  He knows when to step back and knows when to lead.  Of course we have our spats about things here and there, but we are united in this parenting thing and we are doing okay at it. At least, we think we are.

*****

Through the years, I have grown very accustomed to the fact that Steve will be working every holiday for many years to come. I have grown to realize that Steve will miss birthdays and anniversaries and special parties. Not to say I don't get upset when his work schedule gets in the way, but I have learned to not let it take over me.

The first of everything is always the hardest, but the more it happens the more numb is becomes. As this life continues, he will continue to miss a lot of everything. It will always suck when he misses things, but the more it happens the easier it becomes.

We have been through training a couple times...I now know what to expect. He will be out of reach most of the time. And when we do speak, his brain will be so over processed that he won't want to talk on the phone with me. We have done the commuting thing. Sucks, but it is just a temporary thing. We have been through work issues that keep him up a night. But, those issues pass. We have been through a 57% pay cut, but we made it through. We have been through contract negotiations...never a strike, and I hope never a strike...but, if it comes to that, then I will support him.

Up until Steve's hire at a mainline carrier, we were always reaching for that next step.  We are no longer reaching.  Steve is where he wants to be.  We are living in our dream house, and I really hope to never move again.  We have two children, that are perfect in my eyes.  We are where we want to be. No more reaching and trying to get somewhere.  We are here. 

The longer we are together, the better I am able to process everything that comes with this job. The longer we are together, I hope the better his schedule gets and the easier this job will be for him, me and the kids. The older I become, the more chill I am about what life hands me. I don't dwell on the negative, but I embrace the blessings I do have. 


To my groom 8 years ago today:  Happy Anniversary Steve.  I love you more today then I ever have.  I wish us health and happiness, and a lifetime filled with love and memories we will forever cherish.  Here is to us!  

19 comments:

  1. Happy Anniversary! I've said it before but thank you for being so candid. It's so encouraging for me as I am about to start the life of being a pilot wife!

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  2. Happy Anniversary! This is a great post, and I feel the same way you do about so many things, although, I think we're still kind of in that "reaching" phase you described, but I think we're getting closer to the goal every day :)

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  3. I was in the airline industr for a good many years only to get out and go into trucking. The fuuny/sad thing is the samething a pilots wife goes through a drivers wife goes through as well.

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    1. no question we live the wives live similar lifestyles!

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  4. Happy Anniversary a year later! I am a flight attendant's girlfriend and I really appreciate your blogs. We just had our one year anniversary on Monday. I know he wants to be a pilot in the future so I find this all very helpful! Thank you :)

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    1. You are so sweet! Thank you for the anniversary wishes. I am glad you find my blog helpful. I do tell things as they are, so you are can see how things can really be. Best of luck to your boyfriend in his quest to being a pilot.

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  5. beautiful post.
    Wannabe (never will be) pilot at the age of 32

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    1. thank you. Wannabe commerical pilot? Or wannabe leasure pilot?

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  6. My husband (30 years old) is a pilot (commandor B737) in Russia. So I am a pilots wife as well, it was nice to read your post and to realise that our problems and difficulties are so common no matter where we are and which country are from...Sometimes it is really difficult, but we get used to it and in Russia (and not only) so many people are working as managers not less and dont have holidays as well (and earn much less), so we cant feel pity to ourselves, even dont have a right to... It is just a normal life.
    My father was a salor (now retired) and wasn't at home about 6-9 monthes, can you emagine?!! (I cant!) She was alone during very long periodes, we grew up, the seasons changed, time passed...we had holidays, weekends,sorrows,performances at schools, mother had long lonely winter evenings... and father was somewhere...very far...So I think, whats really not an easy task- is to be a sailors wife! And we are-just pilots wives! :)

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    1. Oh, I can't imagine a sailor's extended absence! Your mother is a strong woman!

      And yes, across all boarders, I believe that we share common lives!

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  7. I've been a pilot's wife for almost 2 years now and we are starting to think about having kids. My husband flies on contract in Africa for 8 weeks at a time and is then home for 4 weeks. We both really want kids and I feel that we cant wait for too long to have kids. I'm 28 and he is 30 so there is still time. He has achieved a lot in his career and he is definitely moving forward, but not as fast as we would have liked! We have an very strong relationship and we have been through a lot together. I also know not to put too much meaning to special days and occasions and rather celebrate them as we choose. My question or rather concern now is that if we have a baby, will it change our relationship so much that we will end up regretting it? It is something I fear so much as I know that I am going to have to deal with be a single mom most of the time and I'm so scared of resenting him for not being around. I love my husband so much and deep down I know things will be OK, I just want to do what is best for us at this time of our lives

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    1. When you have a child, it will most definitely change your relationship! It surely changed ours. Assuming you and your husband are in a situation where you can care for children without strain, I can almost guarantee that you will not regret having children.

      You will resent your husband for not being around. I did a lot when the kids were very young. Now? Not so much, as the kids are older and caring for them is a lot easier. I have said many times that raising children is the hardest part of being a pilot wife. But, it is also incredibly rewarding!

      I think because you have thought all these thoughts...that means you will be able to manage children well! You seem very responsible and capable! And I tell you what...pilot wives are strong women...stronger then we every would have thought!

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  8. Ma dear one missed his guy (a pilot) suffering a hell lot now without him ...it wld be the same story similar to above if he wld have said a single wrd yes to her ......

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  9. Hi! Thank you for writing so honestly! I'm a commercial pilot in the making's gf, and we are in a long distance relationship where we meet about 2 weeks a year. Will the loneliness really affect me when we get married?

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    1. Thank you for reading! I think the lonliness will always be there...but with time it becomes your norm and just a regular part of life. I have found that the kids fill that lonliness...not all the time, but most of the time.

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  10. Thanks for the honesty you put into this blog. Your perspective really helps me with my own pilot romance. We've been talking about the future lately, and our biggest worry right now is the big move. We live in a non-hub city at the moment with all of our friends and family, but have come to the conclusion that when we marry we will move to a big hub city. Did you have to make such a move, and if so, how did you cope? Any insight or resources you might have would be greatly appreciated. Thanks. Keep writing! :)

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    1. Hi! Thanks for your kind words.

      I have not had to make a move. In fact, the hub was just closed in our city, but the pilot base is still here. We were 75% sure we were going to move, but one day he told me "i want to stay" and I said okay...we are staying put, and if he has to commute - so be it.

      The thing about our decision is that we (hopefully) won't go through any more reserve periods. I think commuting on reserve would be the pits. Steve holds a line, and will make sure he always bids aircrafts and positions to enable him to hold a line - as long as the kids are still home.

      Check out this blog post, you may find it worth reading:
      http://comebackdaddy.blogspot.com/2014/02/commuting-versus-relocating.html

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  11. I’m sitting here reading your blog and my neck is starting to hurt from nodding my head so much. Are we the same person?

    My husband Steve is a FO for a mainline and everything you say hits home. We have been together for 11 years, married for 6 and have a 9 month old baby. We had a great routine as a married couple, but having a baby has made our lives more complicated (totally worth it though). When our son was 4 months old my husband got hired by the mainline he now works for and had to be out of state for 2 months of training. I also started a new fulltime job at that time. Talk about stressful! We do not live in a hub city and my husband is on reserve out of state, so he is renting a room in an apartment to help save money (cheaper than paying for a hotel).

    Your blog give me hope that things will get easier as he builds up more seniority and is able to hold a line. Thank you for your honesty!

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    1. Your plate surely seems full! And yes, it will get easier when the kids are older and he holds a line.

      I have said it over and over again, us pilot wives really do live very similar lives!

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