A while ago, I posted Divorce. I had been working on that post for a month+. To me, the topic was easy to write, but I was very careful in my delivery. Being careful with delivery can take work. I talked a lot about the post with friends, wanting feedback and validation on my draft.
While drafting, one of the best conversations was with a neighborhood friend at our monthly book club evening. She has been married far longer than me, and the perspective was awesome. Not only did she give me validation to my then draft, she also gave me a new term to use in this whole pilot wife thing: re-entry.
Her husband traveled every week: left on Tuesday and came home Thursday or Friday. He wasn't a pilot, but he was gone every week. Many things she was sharing with me resonated, especially the term re-entry. During our conversation I kept thinking "this is totally my next blog topic."
Re-entry: the adjustment a pilot (or any traveling husband) has into the home after a trip. Additionally, the adjustment a pilot wife has when your pilot comes home.
Sometimes re-entry is awesome. Seamless. Perfect. No problem. Super. Validates exactly why you married the handsome stud you did.
And then there are times when re-entry stinks. It's awful. It makes you want your pilot to go back where he came from. It makes you question why you married the man you did.
I think there are three things that contribute to a tough re-entry:
- going from solo to couple
I have said this over and over again: I am the captain of our ship when Steve is gone. Period. I control everything. I have to. Let me lay out a couple recent happenings in our home when Steve was gone. Our dog found a low bird's nest in our front garden. Niko didn't eat any birds, thank the good Lord because that would have been horrible to deal with, but we had to watch the nest for about a week to make sure Niko wouldn't get to the nearly mature birds.
The night Niko discovered the nest, Steve called to check in for the day. I gave him the run down on the found nest. "Put chicken wire around it, that will keep Niko away," Steve suggested. The problem was the birds were too big, and that suggestion wasn't totally right. I just reassured Steve that we had things under control. I took care of the situation. I had to.
Ben's glasses broke the other day. We went to get a replacement pair ordered, and the awesome optician simply pulled off the sample frames from the wall, popped in Ben's lenses, and we walked out with new frames. Awesome! When Steve called in and checked in that night, he offered some a suggestion. My response? "Ben already has the new frames." He offered great advice, but I already took care of the situation. I had to.
My point from above is that I manage everything when Steve is gone. I got this. Most times I think I got this pretty good. I control everything. I am conditioned to be the one in charge. I am the one who makes the decisions. It's all me....
...and then Steve gets home.
... and I have to give up some of that control.
... and I'm not always so good at it.
...and Steve may not be so happy that I can't give up that control.
... and I may not be happy because I have been conditioned to be in control for the last 3 or 4 days.
This back and forth of control isn't always so easy. Re-entry.
What is the best way to make re-entry easier when it comes to control? Give a little - on both sides. For you: make a point to give up the control a little. Let your pilot pack the kids lunches, even though he may not spread the peanut butter on the bread exactly the same way you do. Let him help with the laundry, even if that mean he washes a silk blouse of yours. Thankfully, the blouse came out unharmed.
For the pilot, give her a minute to let you in. Don't just jump in and try to do everything your way. You don't have sex without foreplay, right? Same goes here...ease into it. Remember that your beautiful wife has been running the ship for the last number of days. Ease into it. Steve is great at asking "what can I do to help?" or "what else can I do?"...this means he knows I like to do things my way, but is wanting to pitch in and help. Long ago I gave up the thought that "he should know what I need help with" because, simply put, he is gone too much. He doesn't know all the in's and out's of our life, so he needs reminders.
Let me set three scenes in our home. All of which are true scenarios when Steve got home from recent trips. All three are very different.
Scene 1: Steve left on Tuesday morning and got home late on Thursday. There was an embedded red-eye in his pairing. On Wednesday night into Thursday morning Steve flew into ORD from the west coast. He had a day over in ORD, and flew one last leg home Thursday evening, which got him home-home (meaning in our garage) around 11pm.
Steve has been doing his current gig for nearly 11 years now, so red-eyes are very manageable at this point. He knows what to do to make everything work with his body clock. But, as a pilot wife I realize that as great as he managed a red-eye there is a strong chance that a non-typical mood for Steve will walk through our door at the end of the day.
Around 10ish, the kids went to their rooms for the night, and I took a shower. I was settled in the family room watching Masters of None, when Steve got home around 11ish. I don't even recall if we greeting one another with a kiss. We probably did. As typical, he immediately went upstairs with his bags, changed, most likely unpacked his roll-aboard, and checked on the kids. Cici was still awake, reading. Ben was sleeping. I heated up his plate of food.
Steve came downstairs, got his food, and then come into the family room to watch the show with me. I know better, by now, than to jump on him the moment he gets home. I have to get a sense of his mood, and play off that accordingly.
"How was your flight?"
Ok. He's tired, I thought.
We continued to watch tv.
He continued to eat. I think he also poured himself a beer at some point.
We continued to watch tv, and finally went upstairs after the episode was over. I would imagine this was sometime around midnight.
We got ready for bed, quietly brushing out teeth next to one another.
We climbed into bed.
The actions I wrote above seems rather mechanical. And it doesn't seem like much interaction, right? At least that is my intention. The reason for this is because Steve and I weren't talking much. He was quiet.
His attitude was almost non-existent, it was like he only had enough brain energy to eat and drink. Gotta love those red-eyes. He was exhausted. I let him be. I didn't push. I chose to not get an attitude about him being all quiet. That would have gotten me nowhere. I know Steve. I knew he simply needed to just chill. Ironically, that night we had good sex...you know that kind where you can sense that you really missed one another and are glad to be back together....that kind of almost makes it a perk of being a pilot wife. It just goes to show you that even though words aren't always spoken by your pilot, it may not mean anything other than mental drain. By choosing to keep a good attitude, despite his quietness, we were able to set a great tone for his set of days off.
Scene 2: So, if the above scene showcased Steve being very quiet and not very interactive when he got home, this scene is totally opposite.
I don't recall the exact details of the trip, but I don't think it fucked with him too much. It was a short 3-day trip. When he got home that Thursday evening, he did his usual routine of going upstairs, putting his bags away, and getting out of his uniform. After checking in on the sleeping kids, he can downstairs. I warmed a plate of food for him. He ate, sitting at the end of the island. I drank some peppermint tea, sitting on the side of the island. After he finished eating we stayed at the island and talked. And talked, and talked and talked. We must have talked for an hour in the dim light of the kitchen.
A lot of stuff happened that week, from Cici's eye appointment for her ocular migraines, to intense news regarding a friend, to an anxiety attack I had while having dinner with a friend.
Both our attitudes that evening were great. We were both happy, and our behaviors reflected that. We were simply enjoying one another's company. Re-entry was easy this time around.
Scene 3: To show a totally different attitude, this is the scene where you are just nipping at one another. Talk about a tough re-entry.
Steve got home from a 3-day trip last Friday. He got into the airport around 1 in the afternoon, which put him home around 2-something. The nanny took the kids ice skating and they got home around 3:30 or so. I ran some errands after work, and then we all had to run to the cell phone store. We finally settled in for the evening around 6pm, just in time to make dinner. We were having burgers, corn, watermelon, and salad.
Steve always gives Niko a voice. And it's funny. The kids will ask "hey Niko, what's 4+4?" And Steve will respond as Niko, in this dopey voice,"6."
"Hey Niko, do you want to go on a walk?"
"Yes, yes! I would love a walk?"
"Hey Niko, did you have fun at the boarding place?"
"yes, yes I did! I made lots of friends."
You get the picture. It's something Steve does and it's cute.
Well, as we were sitting around the table eating dinner, Cici tried to do the "Niko voice." I knew she was trying to do it. But, Steve thought it was her doing her baby voice, which is this thing she is into now that we are trying to correct.
"Cici, stop with the baby voice!" Steve directed.
I glared at him across the table. "She was doing her Niko voice," I said in a low tone.
And he immediately apologized, "oh, sweetheart I'm so sorry..."
He was probably tired. He was short-fused, obviously. And that all came across in his behavior. Even Cici felt stung by his direction.
This scene, obviously, is the hardest when it comes to re-entry. Most times when Steve comes home he is good. He is conditioned to this job. But, every once in awhile, he isn't in a good mood, and it shows. The best thing the kids and I do when it comes to this scene is to just let things slide, and realize tomorrow is a new day.
Going from solo to couple:
At night when the kids go to bed, I will sometimes hang in our family room...just me, the dog, and real housewives of whatever county. Just me...and the sleeping dog...in the quiet family room.
Then Steve will be home the next night, and I can't watch my housewives. And he is sitting next to me eating almonds. And that "crunch, crunch, crunch" is so deafening that I have to actually close my ear which is closest to him. Re-entry.
When Steve is gone for work and I leave the house in the morning, I come home to the same mess in the kitchen sink, which typically isn't much. When Steve is home and I leave the house in the morning, I can come home from work to my mess in the sink, plus his mess. His egg pan from breakfast, along with his coffee cup. His dirty bowl from the soup he ate at lunch. And let's throw in his water glass as well. Re-entry.
How do I manage going from solo to couple? Honestly, I bit my tongue a lot. I remember that Steve lives here too, so sometimes I just have to let things be. Now, don't get me wrong there are certainly times where I have to voice myself, like the dishes, because I simply can't take it. But most times I like to think I let things slide. I try to not get upset about annoyances, but rather let the moment pass.
If you live this life, you get it. Re-entry can be HARD. Sometimes it is easy, sometimes it isn't. Sometimes it depends on my mood. Sometimes it depends on Steve's mood. Sometimes the wind blows out of the east, and that throws everything off. I'm kidding here, just making the point that sometimes there is no rhyme or reason as to why re-entry can be hard when it was perfect the trip before. And take comfort in the fact that all travelling households deal with these exact same situations.