I have heard that one becomes an expert once they reach 10 years of experience. Well folks, call me the expert pilot wife (although I am sure as hell I have a lot more to learn!). Through all my years married to my dear husband, my dear pilot husband, I have come to learn how to help survive this marriage. Being married to a traveling man, who is gone half your life, isn't easy. So, yes, there are certain survival tips that I follow...and, here I am passing them along to you.
1. Bite your tongue.
Let me set the scene: I have been with the kids for the last 4 days, non-stop. One kid has been sick the entire time, and the other kid has been a fussy mess. Not to mention, I have been stressed at work. Come day 4, I have had it up to my ears, and I am about to break.
Steve gets home from his trip. The trip was loaded with full duty-days, early-ass shows, and min-rest. He is a cranky-ass due to his exhaustion.
As much as I want to throw in the towel the second he gets home and run for the hills, I realize he is exhausted. His eyes are blood shot and he basically limps into the house dragging his exhausted body behind him....I bite my tongue, I put a smile on my face, and continue to do what I have been doing the last 4 days. I realize that he can't just jump right in, so I bite my tongue and not seek the immediate relief I was looking for. It takes a lot of my energy to continue through that evening, but I know I need to.
Or, how about the exhausted Steve who has practically picked a fight with me? Again, I bite my tongue and avoid an argument. I chalk it up to his exhaustion, and realize that a well rested man will awake in the morning, and things will be back to normal. (See The Cranky Pilot for this story)
I realize my role in this family, and that is to make everyone happy and healthy...and that includes my tired husband when he gets home from a trip. The common denominator in all these stories is exhaustion. I realize that exhaustion turns him into a beast, and that is why I bite my tongue...no use in arguing with a drunk, sort of speak. I think most pilot wives have plenty of bite marks on their tongue from all the times we do what it takes to keep peace in the house. And I am sure that most pilots take for granted the amount of grace we have when it comes to exhaustion causing bad attitudes.
|no, you go ahead and nap, I will take care of the kids...|
as long as you promise to sleep off that bad attitude!
2. Realize that you have to give up stuff...and don't hold grudges about it.
I used to play recreation volleyball. I stopped once I had babies. Once the kids are old enough to not have to pay for a babysitter, I will play again. Yes, I miss it, but it is what it is.
I used to coach volleyball, and I really loved it. At this point, I just can't commit the time to it with a traveling husband. I work outside of the house, and my kids are starting to fill their own calendars (Polish school, gymnastics, swim lessons, ect) and I just can't go in all these directions with a traveling husband. I realize that.
I missed a purse party the other night since Steve was working. No sense in paying for a sitter, simply to spend money. Not to mention, they were with a sitter all day while I was at work, and I didn't want to have them with another sitter for the evening as well. I gave up the party, even though I would have loved to go, and I will be sure not to make a fuss about it to Steve. No sense in that, because it will get me nowhere.
3. Take time for yourself.
I fully believe that in order to maintain sanity, it is important to reserve "me time". And to the pilots that are reading this, it is important to understand the importance that your wife has "me time."
When you make this time for yourself, you are re-energizing. Being re-energized will make you a better wife, mother and friend. If you have been taking care of the kids non-stop, and the same thing is expected of you when your pilot gets home, you may very well break. You NEED "me time"! You need that time to dedicate to you and you only...you have just given your entire self up for the last 4 days, so it is now your time to take some time for yourself!
It has been you in the house with the kids for the last 4 days...non-stop. You need to catch a break. You have been working hard and managing it all. Take time for yourself, because you will be back at it in a short 3 days, so you need to recharge so that you can gear up for what is to come.
4. Make the house a warm and clean place for him to come home.
I read all about this, and even wrote a blog post about it, and it makes perfect sense. (How to be a better pilot wife). Set the mood for when your husband gets home, and make that mood a "warm fuzzy" place to WANT to come home to. I promise that if your pilot walks into a warm, happy home, it will start his time home off right. Sure I can do this for selfish reasons too...I would much rather have Steve walk into a happy home, which would set him happy. His time home is so short...set it off right!
5. Embrace his
We all hear that pilots are cheap, and yes that includes my pilot. For sure, he is cheap on the road. Take the other night for dinner while on an overnight in Sacramento. He hit the hotel bar for happy hour - 1/2 off appetizers. One can surely eat dinner from appetizers, especially if you aren't a big eater, like Steve.
Another example, he will regularly buy a Subway 12" sub for lunch, and eat 1/2 for lunch and eat 1/2 for dinner.
Ah, but let it be know that he isn't that guy that shouts through hotel lobbies asking where the free coffee is, which was done by a CA on a recent trip (really, your salary doesn't afford you to spend the $2 on a coffee?!).
He will try to spend little on the road, and I get that. Sometimes he even boasts about how little he spent "Joanna, do you realize I only spent $20 on my last trip?" But, on the flip side he drives a BMW. What he saves in one pocket is spent from the other pocket on things that really matter to him.
Not to mention, he is absolutely fearful that he could lose his job in the blink of an eye. I think most pilots think this. Another 9-11 could happen, and then what? What happens if their contact negotiations go south and a strike happens? And then what? His skill is so focused that finding another job wouldn't be as easy as hitting the pavement and throwing out resumes left and right. I think this fear is always in the back of his mind, so parting with money comes with a lot of thought. Having this prudence is a good thing! Embrace it.
6. Realize that he won't always call you, or be pleasant on the phone, or respond to text messages.
One trip I texted Steve eight times over 3 days...EIGHT times!...and he didn't respond to a single one. He just didn't.
Another common phone conversation scenario: he has worked all day and is exhausted, relaxing in his hotel room. I have been working all day and then I come home to care for the kids. He calls me. We talk about the yard work I have been doing in his absence. The yard work isn't to his standard, so then he gets an attitude and tells me how he wants it. I don't care to hear about it, and so the conversation ends quickly. Listen, I am trying to manage house and home and work...the last thing I need is your criticism. See tip #1 and bite tongue.
There are plenty of times when a day passes and I only "hear" from Steve via text. It happens, and I realize that is sometimes just how the day goes. I have said again and again that our relationship doesn't progress while he is on the road, rather it is in a holding pattern, if you will. So be it...sometimes this is simply the case.
7. Know what you need to manage this all.
I suppose this could tie into #3. But, if taking time for yourself doesn't help you get through this crazy lifestyle...do whatever it takes. If that means blogging about it to vent :) or having girlfriends to bitch to, or having a glass of wine every night...then so be it! Do whatever you need to do to get through this lifestyle!
Being a pilot wife is NOT easy. You have to realize where your boundaries of success are, and if you are approaching the boundary you need to know how to pull yourself out of the danger zone.
Realizing these needs take time. Also know that with each year, with each child, with each move, ect, these boundaries and needs will change and adjustment will need to happen. Which brings me to the next tip...
8. Go with the flow. Adaptability.
** Me - 8 weeks post-partum with our second born, at a wedding without Steve. It happens. And bless my friends who understand his crazy schedule, and a grandmother who came with me to help balance a newborn without a husband around.
|I am on the right. |
Wish my boobs were still that big!
** Me - at work Holiday Dinners alone. It happens.
** Me - in labor with our first born, while Steve is mid-pairing trying to get home. (He did get home) It happens.
** Me - having to deal with water in our basement, while he is working. It happens...twice!
Go with the flow. Nothing is predictable. Your ability to just go with the flow will increase your happiness level. Believe me, I LOVE everything planned out to a T. But, when it comes to Steve being home sometimes, and sometimes not, I deal. I go with the flow, make the most of it, and that is that. Otherwise I would be miserable, which would make my attitude towards Steve miserable.
You have to be adaptable in this pilot life. I just said it, and it begs repeating, nothing is predictable. He is supposed to be home at 17:07, just in time to get home and get ready for your son's school performance - and there is a maintenance delay for 3 hours. This happens, and your ability to adapt and just go with it will make or break you. Don't let the unpredictability break you...work though each and every situation that challenges you. And with each challenge, you will grow stronger.
9. You will have bad days, and that is okay.
Have I had days where I cry in front of the kids because I am so frustrated? Yes. Tonight being one of them. Have I had days where I question the life I got myself into? Yes. Have I ever wished my pilot had another job where he was home every night? Yes. These thoughts run through my head on bad days. But remember that tomorrow is a new day...and one day closer that your husband is getting home.
Everyone has bad days here and there, and that is okay! Don't think you are a failure, or that you can't get through this. You are not a failure, and you will get through this. You are stronger than you think you are!