Let him in

When Steve got his September schedule I knew he would be gone on my birthday.  The big 3-5. No big deal.  Not the first time he has missed a birthday, and it won't be the last.  We would celebrate when he got home.

On my actual birthday Steve sent me flowers from he and the kids. 

I took the kids to dinner since, of course, a Mother should not have to cook on her birthday.  And Steve wished me birthday wishes multiple times throughout the day over the phone.  All-in-all a fine day. 

When he got home the next day, we went to dinner as a family and had birthday cake when we got home.  As the evening started to wind down, I started to think...a birthday gift wasn't coming my way.

When the kids were down for the night, Steve made his way into the family room and sat down.  I looked his way and said "am I correct in that you didn't get me a gift?" I was trying hard as hell to hold in the tears at that point. 

He gave me the most desperate look, and responded with a "no, I didn't."

I immediately went upstairs to our bedroom, shut the door and cried my eyes out.  It was that really ugly cry, too.  Red face...tears everywhere...can't catch your breath...

Steve came up twice trying to talk to me.  I would have none of it.  I basically shut the door in his face and demanded I not speak to him.  I was crushed...just crushed.

I feel asleep at some point, and woke up the next morning with Steve on the far side of our king sized bed.  I got ready for work, walked downstairs and found that Steve has emailed me around 10:30p the night before.  We often communicate via email or text when we are in the middle of something - we find this way really works for us to work things out. 

Here is a part of his email to me:
what I can tell you is that I think after fucking this up again, I might be getting a little clarity on what your birthday means to you ..... I know you ,and I know that you are not a materialistic person, so this is obviously not about a gift per se....but I think what you are looking for is some validation for all that you do.....lets face it, you keep the ship running.....the laundry is done, the house is clean, the kids are happy and I am happy.....but you don't really ever get a big THANK YOU for all that you do to keep the ship together...and for you, one place you expect to be shown the appreciation you deserve is on your birthday.....your are working overtime to make things work, but yet I have not expressed my gratitude to you for this....I have not shown you just how much I appreciate what you do on a daily basis for our family.....for that I am sorry, because you DO deserve to be pampered....and you deserve to be pampered on more days than just your birthday.....lately it's been all take and no give....I am sorry that this has happened.....

I was glad to see the email.  I was glad to see that he may be finally starting to understand this whole birthday thing.  In the past Steve has been known to fuck up my birthday...anything from not even acknowledging it until I actually said something, to being away on a guys weekend...so it was great to hear that he came to this enlightenment. 

During the next couple days, I was trying my hardest not to be mad. I knew his actions weren't meant to hurt me, so mad wasn't really an emotion in the equation.  But, I was just so crushed that I was down...really down. 

Here is another part of his email to me:
I hate myself for hurting you and letting you down again....really, you make me so very happy and I never express that to you.....I want to make you happy and I want you to feel appreciated.....You are a wonderful wife and an even better mother....the kids and I are so blessed to have you in our lives....you give and give......you are so selfless when it comes to us....you always put us before you.....I want to ease your load and make you happy....if you will let me, I would like to start to relieve some of your load.....I can cook dinner when I am home....I can take the kids to Polish class, Gymnastics, etc., I can take CC to school and pick her up, I can give the kids baths and put them down....I can do anything else you want me to .....I just want you to be happy.....

The reason I am bringing this situation up to all my fellow pilot wives and pilot readers, is for three reasons:

#1. Show appreciation to the person that keep the house running when the pilot is away.  Our job is not easy, and it can surely wears on us.  We need to hear and be shown that appreciation and validation for all that we do.  And if you don't, you get one pissed off pilot wife!  Tell her she is awesome.  Show your appreciation for her.  Give her a break every now and again.  I know you pilots may not be the best at expressing what you feel.  I still blame that on the demand to respond to ATC.  But, do it.

#2.  To all the pilots out there - give a little more. 
Before this "birthday thing" Steve would have said to me on the afternoon post-redeye "Joanna, I am just so exhausted, can you get Cici from school?" 

And I would do it...even though I have been doing drop-off and pick-up for daycare for what seems like every.single.day for the last 6 years of my life.  I knew he was tired so I wanted to make him happy.  And I didn't want to poke the beast that he can be post red-eye.  But now, post "birthday thing"?  Steve will go get Cici without hesitation.  He knows it is his turn, and doesn't add me to the equation.

In the mix of all of our texts and emails, there was one text that stood out:
I just want you to know that the last week you said some pretty hurtful things to me and I have let it slide, but it was hurtful enough that I feel I should say something...I am asking you to STOP telling me that I am interrupting your routine...it hurts bad...basically you are telling me that I am in the way and I should butt out of your lives...that I am not needed because I get in the way.
This text message goes deep, in that Steve was gone a lot during the months of late August/early September to care for his Mother. (Duty)  When our schedule got back to our normal, it took a good number of weeks to recover.  Steve and I were at each other...a lot.  To the point where our family was even taking note of it.  One night in particular Steve was putting the kids down, and since it was so late he told the kids he wasn't going to read them a bedtime story.  Cici did not take this well, and cried and cried.  I butted in, told him that it is our routine to read a book, and that of course she was going to cry when her routine was interrupted. 

Bad Joanna, I know.  But, I have made a point to keep the routine of our kids the same with AND without Steve around.  I have done this because I feel it is important for the kids to not feel the affects of Steve absence, and so far it has worked for us.  I feel that when Steve is home he needs to meld into our routine, and that is usually the case.  But, since he was gone for such a long time, I believe he got out of step with our routine. 

 #3.  To all the pilot wives out there - let him in

I realized post "birthday thing" that I needed to let him in.  Let him into your life at home.  Instead of criticizing him for not knowing "our routine" gently guide him to get into the routine...don't demand it and shame him for not knowing it.  Work together.  Be that united front with the kids, not on opposing teams. 

Looking back, I realized how controlling I was over the kids and the house.  Part of it is my personality, and part of it is out of necessity because I have to run things when Steve is away.  But it took this "birthday thing" for me to realize that it may have been a bit too much.  Instead of trying to run every aspect of our lives every.single.day, I have learned to let him in and let him take care of things. 

After knowing Steve since 1999 / after being married for 10 years / and after 6 years of being parents I/we are still learning and growing.  I do believe that everything happens for a reason.  The "birthday thing" told me to set back and stop trying to control everything...to let Steve into our lives.  Hopefully this birthday thing has taught Steve to never fuck up by birthday! And I know that it taught him to show his appreciation to me, and to help out a bit more. 


  1. Joanna ma'am,I've been waiting eagerly all month to read your blog..I just came home from night shift( I work in the NICU) and I was checking everyday ,eagerly waiting for a post from you, you see....this is my first comment to you,and I've been following your blog since some time,I just had to tell you this- your blog keeps me going........my fiance is a pilot, we both have crazy work schedules...and there's this really weird uncanny coincedence of parts of your life n mine...wish I could explain.....it's just that,reading your blog gives me strenght and more than that....it helps so much to know,that I am not alone in what I go through....you dint post for so many days ...I actually got worried!!!! N started to wonder n pray that everythings alright your side....belated happy birthday ma'am:).....btw,I jus had to post a comment for this particular post of yours....because I can TOTALLY IDENTIFY with your whole birthday incident....I dunno,if it's pilot thing or what...but even my guy..well....invariably manages to f@&% my birthday.....I dunno how they do it,but yeah....when I read ur post I totally felt what you must hav felt....becos...It happens to me sorta every year...to th point I'm dreading my upcoming birthday....I should be optimistic...I know.....( btw,even I follow pastor Joel osteen...that's just one lil coincedence;)......oh man I'm forever talking Postive stuff to myself....gosh,this post of mine has become an epic!!!... But hey....I'm so glad ur back,so happy to read your post..keep up the good work.....I'm far far away from you in far away country,but your blog gives me hope that it's all worth it...my pilot can be one grumpy perfectionist.....but I love him with all my heart,all these yrs I felt so lonely cos no one ever understands what I go through,people always see glamour n style ,they don't understand.....but when I came across your blog....I feel so happy!! Becos you understand....behind every successful pilot is an angel:).......you are an angel.

    1. Hi! You are so very sweeet. I have to say, I love getting comments like yours, as they continue to keep me motivated to keep writing :)

      I have found that my blog posts are slowing down...I used to blog every week or two, and lately it has been about once a month. But, I am constantly on twitter and facebook...follow me! I put much more concise thoughts on there.

  2. Hi Joanna,
    Love this post, every word is true. I am 10 weeks pregnant and very sick with the flu, and of course pilot husband was away for the worst 4 days of it. I could barely get out of bed and couldn't take NyQuil or cold medicine to help with the symptoms. I have a 4 year old to take care of on top of everything else. When I picked husband up at the airport today I cried tears of relief. We are each other's partners and having separate lives for days at a time, it is hard to remember that and we throw each other's routines off. It is definitely a different marriage dynamic and it changes so much when kids are thrown into the equation. There just isn't enough time in the day and we need to constantly be appreciating each other for the work that we do while we are apart. It is easy to get resentful. I know piloting is exactly glamorous but there are many days when I would love to get away from home, jump on a plane and spend the night in a hotel. Anyway, your blog post was just what I needed after a 4 day from hell. Survival mode is a tough place to be in.Appreciation from them goes soooo much farther than they maybe will ever know.
    Happy Belated Birthday to you.

    1. Thank you for your kind words!

      Oh, you poor thing! Glad to hear that you are past the 4-day from hell! Ugh...that sounds just awful! Yes, I can totally see those tears of relief.

  3. Great post and happy belated birthday! Dh and I went rounds a few years ago over the "routine" issue. It wasn't easy but eventually we sorted it out, and now it *mostly* works. I love your posts they are always spot on!

    1. Thanks! I think the routine issue is very hard to deal with...and I am sure it will totally change from one stage of life to the next. Glad you and your husband has *mostly* sorted it out :)

  4. Thank you for your post. I always eagerly await them, I find they really help as almost everyone doesn't understand what life is like when your pilot is away half the time.
    Happy belated birthday!!( I would have been exactly the same if my husband forgot;-)) glad it all worked our for the best in the end!
    I really enjoy your posts, thank you so much for sharing xx

    1. Thank you for sweet words. I love getting such positive feedback like this!

      Thanks :)

  5. I really related to this post, although my husband was a sailor and was gone for four months at a time. When he came home, he thought he was on "vacation" and wanted to throw all schedule and routine out the window. He bitterly resented my control and rigidity, I bitterly resented his absence on the fact that all his parenting got to be "fun". When he was away for the birth of our second child - our son, who was born four days after I had emergency hernia surgery while working and taking care of our two year old - I was furious when he came home and didn't show his appreciation by pitching in and giving me a break. We almost broke up over it! In the end, he decided to take an office job in Miami and we moved to give our marriage some time to recover. Four years of only being together half the year, with two kids under three - whew. It was hard.

    We are in Miami for three years, then he's going back to sea...


    1. I will totally have to check out your blog. From what you describe, I can totally see how things could get critical. I love that you made the change for your marriage...that shows great committment!

  6. Hi Joanna. I just found your blog. It couldn't have come at a better time too. We just got my husbands schedule for November and I'm telling you I tried not to cry but I did. He commutes to base and the computer gave him a reserve schedule. He has the sim next month, his 40th bday and of course turkey day. Plus we have a 4 year old and 7 month old. I really don't know how I'll get through this but I always do.......Anywho, it's a relief to know there are other pilot spouses "out there" who I can relate with. Thank you for spilling your guts for us. ;) I totally get it. Stay sane. I tend to lose it by day four myself!

    1. Sounds like a rough month coming up, that is for sure! But like you said...you will get through it...we always do :)

  7. Thanks, Joanna! It takes courage to share the 'dark underbelly' of your relationship but it is so helpful to others going through the same thing. For me, it's Mother's Day. And I get that it doesn't even make sense: I'm not HIS mother. But, I just soooo want to be pampered on that day. This year, he didn't even acknowledge that it was mother's day, not even after we talked on the phone and I told him how my kids had taken me to brunch. We had a long and bitter argument in the days that followed. Glad to hear I'm not the only grown woman who resorts to bawling my eyes out over something like this!
    Your insight into "letting him in" was spot on. Rob and I have come to an agreement on this: It's ok for me to ask for help. In fact, I can't get upset at him for not helping if I don't ask for help. He sees me handling it all expertly, he's going to go sit on the couch. That lesson was harder for me to learn than you might expect. lol.

    Thanks again! Really enjoy your blog.

    1. Yes, use grown women do cry like babies...and I am proud of it :) I like the points you made...especially about asking for help.

      I hope your husband treats you right next Mother's Day...as I hope I get a better 36th birthday :)

  8. I can't believe I found your blog after I "#pilotwife" on twitter and found it. Your 35th and my 30th sound so similar, that it is a little scary. He missed the big 3-0, but my girlfriends took me out for a nice dinner. I actually thought he might surprise me and come home early for it...but that is a mistake I will never make again. When he got home, I had to suggest we go out to dinner. This, I thought, was his sly way of doing some big surprise. He knows I love surprises and has ALWAYS done amazing things for me; like surprise me at my parents house on Christmas eve when we were dating (from Ariz. to Ohio) or sneaking a present in while I am at work so I open the garage door to something outrageous and silly. Nothing ever came. At dinner, the table next to us was six ladies who I assumed (correctly) were there celebrating a birthday. When the band came out to play and sing her happy birthday, I broke down right there in the restaurant. It's been three months, and while I am hard at work planning the perfect birthday dinner + surprise party afterwards for his 30th, I have to remind myself not to keep score. "Punishing" him by ignoring his 30th will hurt him and hurt me too. But it is a bittersweet birthday year. Important points you brought up and I think we can all continue to learn in any marriage.

  9. Please tell me you ended up getting a wonderful gift and it did not end at that email. Sometimes I get so excited and wait for him to make things up to me about something that was very important to me. But it never happens, and it always breaks my heart. I think 'men are from mars and women are from venus' is starting to become the most honest truth of my life too!

    1. I actually had to re-read this post...it is amazing how easily I can forget things. No...I don't think he did get me a wonderful gift. But, with the disaster that my birthday was, I don't think a gift would have made any difference because it was after the fact.


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