If I just told a pilot wife how to be a better wife to her husband, now I am going to tell a pilot how to be a better husband to his wife. Of course, this is from my point of view and real experiences are guiding these points.
Let me start with something very simple: greet your wife with a simple kiss each and every time you get home. Your wife just spent the last 4-days caring for house and home. It is very possible that your wife thought about your homecoming all day long...perhaps all pairing long. Maybe it is because she can't wait to catch a break. Or, maybe it was because she can't wait to lay her hands on you (in the good way!). Either way, this homecoming has been in the works the moment your car pulled out of the driveway. So, when you walk into that door, make her feel special. Just like you always give one another a proper good-bye, make sure YOU always initiate a proper hello. When YOU initiate that kiss hello, it is a simple way to acknowledge her.
Ok, so if you start with a kiss, you need to then tell her what mood you are in. If your brain is clear and you are just plain old happy to be home, simply say "honey, it is great to be home!" Your actions will speak loudly and the evening will be set off right.
If you are brain dead from the 3 legs you just flew, which happened to be on min-rest, oh and let's throw a couple storms in there, say "honey, it is great to be home, and I missed you like crazy. I had a long day, and am rather tired, so bare with me."
Just like a man isn't a mind reader, neither is a woman. We don't always know what your day/trip was like, so we don't always know what attitude we are getting when you walk through the door. It isn't always easy to tell the difference between mental exhaustion and if you are ignoring me and the kids. Sure, us pilot wives want you to jump right into the thick of home life when you arrive. But, if you can't just jump right in, then tell us right off the bat and we can accommodate. Women stew. Don't let us stew. Put it all out there. Be up front. I promise it will make a world of difference. For the woman, if you tell her you are brain dead she will go on loving you and won't be pissed off at you for not engaging when you are home. And for you, since it is in a woman's nature to be nurturing, if you tell us you are exhausted you may get some special, nurturing, treatment from us. Honey, here is a beer. Put your feet up and relax.
However...try your hardest to remember that we want you to jump right into home life, regardless of your day. We can have the toughest day ever, but we still have to manage house and home when you are gone. Remember this whole parenting thing falls solely on us when you are on a trip, since there is no other option. When we need that tag-team parenting thing and you aren't home, it is all us. We don't always catch a break but we still keep going. So, when you are having a bad day try to put it behind you, and know that we really want for you to engage in home-life when you get back.
Going back to having the toughest day ever...another way to be a better husband to a pilot wife is to remember to ask how her day was. Just last week I may have had the worst day EVER at work, and I am really not exaggerating. I have been at my job for 11+ years now, so this is saying a lot. At a couple points in the day, I actually was sick to my stomach. Really, no exaggerating. And you know what made matters worse? That day, Steve did not once ask me how my day was. Fine, I can deal with that since maybe he had something going on. I don't always know what his days look like when he is on the road. But, when he got home from his trip and never asked how my week was...that sucked. You betcha that turned into a issue.
Remember that it is very likely that you are your wife's best friend. Remember that she wants to talk to you about things...about life. I know you don't want to have gossip hour with her, especially if it is after a 12 hour duty day. That is exactly why we may let the question pass on that certain day. However, make it a point to ask about her week when you get back. This shows her that you have concern for her, and are interested in her life. Yes, most weeks are mundane so chances are her week was fine, but you just never know...
You are gone a lot. Make it a point to talk about what is going on during your absence. I have always thought that since Steve HAS to respond to ATC while at work, he gets into a mode when he is home where he doesn't want to talk. Put that aside and talk to your wife. Converse with your wife. Make it a point. Because if you don't make it a point, then life can slip right through your fingers. (Catching Up)
Also, make it a point to tell your wife that you appreciate her. Gratitude. When your wife doesn't give you shit about going away for the weekend for extracurricular activities, bring flowers home to show her your appreciation for her keeping house and home, again, when you are gone, again. When your wife had to deal with a water leak in the basement when you were on a trip (Shit Happens), show your appreciation because she cleaned everything up. This could be flowers, or even a nice embrace with a direct look into her eyes while saying 'I know that must have sucked for you to clean up. You really are great for dealing with all this.'
I have made it known that my love language is physical touch. But, I still need to be told 'thank you' or 'I appreciate you' or 'you are the best for doing all the hard work that you do' from time to time. I also like a bouquet of flowers from time to time. Or, how about a 'hey honey, I know this past trip was hard on you, here is a gift card to the nail salon. I made an appointment for you at 7pm. I will take care of the kids tonight. You go relax and enjoy yourself.'
To switch gears, let's talk about phone calls you make to your wife when you are on the road. When you call your beautiful pilot wife, make the point to speak with her. That sounds kind of obvious, right? I would think so too, but we both know this isn't always the case.
If you are going to be all Mr. Grumpy-Pants on the phone, then just send her a text. Tell her that you are in, and you will call her in a bit. Or, take your Grumpy-Pants off when you call and dedicate the time to her. When you are on the road, it is very possible that you will talk to your wife only twice in a day. Hell, maybe it is just once a day. It is very possible that these call(s) will be just a few short minutes a piece. Make it a point to give her your all during these phone calls.
I recall Steve calling me once when he got into his hotel and I could tell he was totally distracted. He was disengaged from the call and was basically an ass. His reason? He was hungry. Go eat...THEN call me! Give it your all doing your calls home. It is very possible that our only glimpse of you that day is a short
few minutes on the phone. Make it worth it, because if you don't then we hang up the phone and say things like "ass" and "so, why did you call me?"
The last thing I want to add is that it is obvious when you come home and are an ass. Let me set the stage from a recent homecoming: Steve worked a 4-day, which ended with a red-eye. He was also sick. The combination of mental exhaustion, physical exhaustion, a stuffy nose and an achy body did not make for a pleasant man. I ignored his bad attitude. This is definitely a case of "welcome home honey, now go back where you came from." There are plenty of times where we ignore these bad attitudes. We don't always know what is going on with work and contract negotiations and unruly passengers and flight plans and weather and maintenance, or whatever...therefore, we do allow you time to step back into the pace of home-life. We try our best not to jump all over you, especially when we know your mind and body are kicking your ass.
So, the next morning as I was walking out of the door, Steve grabbed me and gave me a big hug. I asked him what that was about (I was just going to volunteer at the hospital) and he told me that he felt badly for being an ass. Well, the bad day was done, and we were into a new day. Steve apologized, and that is all that I needed. So, on the occasions that you get home and are an ass...apologize to your wife, and whatever other party may be involved. This speaks volumes. We know being bounced around the country at 35K feet isn't always easy, and we know flying can take its toll on you. Us pilot wives keep our mouths shut a lot of the times until it passes. It is awfully nice to hear that apology. Knowing that you are grateful for dealing with your shit makes us keep going. Remember that.
So, there you have it: my suggestions on how a pilot can be a better husband. These points come from my experience. No, I am not a marriage counselor. No, I have no formal education on relationships. What I do have is the schooling from real life. Steve and I have been at this for 9+ years now and although things aren't always CAVU we are still going strong, and that speaks volumes.