Sunday, January 29, 2012

Pilot Wife Guilt

There is a certain amount of isolation that comes with being a pilot wife. Sure there is the time spent fending for ourselves but that's not what I'm referring to. I'm pretty independent anyways so I get by just fine with The Pilot is away. The isolation I'm referring to is that being an aviation family is completely unique. My husband doesn't work a 9-5 desk job. Many people don't but he works 3-4 days at a time and with weird hours that don't always mesh with my own work hours. Example: Recently we didn't get to talk one day because either he was flying or I was at work. And then his overnight was in Canada (too expensive to call) and he was going to bed when I was finishing up my dinner. We try to at least talk once a day but that doesn't always work.

And then there is the "unique" feeling of stirring in the middle of the night and waking up slightly only to find a body in the bed that wasn't there when you feel asleep. Yes, this is sometimes startling when you are in a 1/2 asleep state. As was the case the other night when I woke up with a start to find my husband sleeping next to me. " weren't there when I went to bed. I sure hope this body is my husband because if not, I just snuggled up with a stranger. Weird."

The only other people that understand what this all feels like are other aviation families. I follow several other pilot wife blogs and I often find comfort in that I'm "not alone." I have some of the greatest friends in the world and they all have their own unique career situations but for the most part, their spouses come home every night so they "just don't understand." They probably don't have a fear that someone will put in an offer on your house and their spouse isn't available to consult with and you will just have to make a decision(yes, I'm talking about my own fears). My non-aviation friends certainly don't have a fear that their husbands could possibly miss the birth of a child because they are in the air nowhere near home. (No, I don't have a reason to be worried about this yet - ie: not preggo, but it's a genuine fear).

See what I mean about this being a unique lifestyle? See how that can sort of feel isolating? Sure, we adapt (I adapt) but every once in awhile, I sort of realize that our life isn't the "norm." And sometimes I have trouble with days where I've had a rough day at work and I just want a comforting face and hug to come home to and he's only one day into a 4-day trip. No hugs for another 3 days. I did mention that I have great friends so its not like I can't call one of them or meet up for dinner or a workout with one of them (which is often what I do to fill the time when he's not home) but it's not the same.

And then there is the guilt. I sort of feel guilty for even feeling the need to whine about the lifestyle from time to time. I feel guilty because when I'm bummed out and missing him, imagine how he could be feeling. He could be having a rough day and wants a hug but he's stuck in some weird airport hotel with a crew he may or may not like all that much. He could want some comfort and he's only one day into a 4-day trip. At least I have some comfort in coming HOME. At least I can sleep in my own bed or relax with the fur-kids. I can call up a friend to go for a run.

And speaking of a run, there is more guilt there... I feel guilty when I have a workout scheduled when The Pilot is home. Especially if it's a workout he can't join in on (We only have one gym membership for me and there are some workouts that I need to do at my own pace). I try to schedule my workouts for when he's not home but those long trainings must be done on the weekends and if he's home, I can't skip them. He fully supports my training craziness and knows its better that I workout than having a fat, cranky wife on his hands. Despite his support though, there is still some guilt there.

I was recently chatting another pilot wife that we know. She's in an even more unique situation. She is a pilot wife (her hubby works for a regional airline like my hubby does) but she's also a pilot herself. How bad a$$ is that? I'm going to refer to her as PBA from now know, Pilot Bad A$$. She flies corporate which is a completely different can of worms. The time she spends with her hubby is probably even more limited than my time with my hubby. She mentioned that she feels guilty that she waits for him to get home and then jumps all over him when he walks in the door. I know the feeling. You want hugs and kisses. You want to tell him all the things you haven't had the chance to say in the last 3, 4 or however many days. More guilt. You feel guilty jumping all over the poor guy right when get gets home from work. That's often that last thing I want to do when I get home from work. She mentioned she tries so hard to give him some space but it doesn't always work.

PBA also mentioned that she tries to schedule her trips to the gym or time with friends around his schedule so that when they are both in the same city, they can spend all the time together. I do the same thing and well, that just doesn't work. Other people and activities put demands on your time. He can't very well have his own social life if all of his time is spent with you when he's home. It's not like he can have dinner with a friend while he's away on a trip like us wives can. She said they are still working to find that balance. I felt relieved when she said that because it make me feel "normal" and I told her as much. Just knowing that we're not the only couple with these challenges made me feel better.

And another source of guilt for me is sometimes I'm just ready for him to leave. The Pilot was just home for 6 days. I was ready for him to leave. I needed a little time for myself. I feel incredibly guilty for thinking that and even for putting it on the blog for him to read. But then you want to know the kicker of it all? Within about 12 hours of his departure, I miss him like crazy and want him to come back. PBA must have been reading my mind when she stated that she learned to be independent when her husband is away and it starts to feel normal. Then, when the hubby returns, there is a different "normal" and your independent normal is all out of whack. I'm not even sure if that even makes sense to a non-pilot spouse. PBA said it perfectly that it's all about balance. And she's so right. Her and her hubby's marriage has a couple months on us and she felt she was just starting to manage that balance better. She reassured me that sometimes it's difficult but eventually you do find that balance.

Sure, there is some guilt associated with being a pilot wife. There is some isolation because others don't get "it." But that's what we signed up for. If you married a pilot not knowing that was part of the gig, then that is unfortunate. I certainly knew what I was getting into. It doesn't make some aspects any easier, but I haven't encountered much in married life that I didn't already know about.

So I knew all of that going in but I still married the guy because there is a great perk of being married to a pilot (no, I'm not talking about travel benefits). One of my favorite parts of being a pilot wife is that I miss him. Every couple of days, I get to miss him like crazy. That means that when he comes home, I am super excited. I literally feel giddy all day when I know he's on his way home. Sometimes I even get nervous. Almost like I'm waiting on that first kiss at the end of a date. I know we are still in that honeymoon phase but PBA told me that it still hadn't worn off for her and her hubby. Though they are still newlyweds too (they haven't been married a year yet), they have been together longer than The Pilot and I have. She said she feels that way every time she gets to see her hubby. I also think that if that feeling wears off, then there is a problem. I'm not completely naive and I know life (the stress of work, kids, house, whatever) will try to get in the way but in order to keep this strange married life afloat is to make the time to be excited and giddy when the husband is about to come home.

So, The Pilot will come home tonight and will most likely scare the crap out of me when he climbs into bed after I'm asleep but I've been super excited all day. :)

How about you guys? Do your significant others have weird schedules with quirks that you have learned to live with? What makes it worth it?


  1. I feel all the things you are feeling too. Working out definitely gets thrown off when Greg is home. Usually I opt for a walk with him and Clyde instead of a run so that we can all be together. I also feel that same 'I'm ready for you to get out of here so I can have some alone time' feeling at the end of a stretch of him being home. I think it's "normal" for pilot's wives to feel these things. :)

  2. The giddy feeling doesn't go away...together for 14 years, married for 8 1/2 years. Now, there are plenty of times when I don't get the feeling, but there are plenty of times I do.

  3. OMG it's like you read my mind. hi, I'm Megan! I just came across your blog through Brittney's. I am a pilots wife too but also a flight attendant (we work for the same company and this is our second airline together). I have a lot of the same feelings as you (Super BIG fear of him missing the birth of children and no I'm not pregnant either.) Missing him when he is gone but adjusting when he is home.

    I have one difference in that we can usually line our days off and have similar schedules. However, as much as I LOVE to see him/be around him... I need at least one full day alone each month- At home. A few hours in... I am totally missing him and wishing he was there but I need the time to miss him (oh and go to Yoga since I hate to leave him when we are both home as well!)

    Just wanted to say hello and that you are not alone... there are many of us out there feeling just the same way as you. :)

  4. Yup, yup, same feelings... need to have him here, need to have him go, miss him like crazy after a little bit and get excited to do it all over again!
    However, there is NO WAY my pilot could come to bed without me knowing it. Our 4-legged security system goes off as soon as headlights turn into our driveway at night. If that happens to go unnoticed, our dog barks like a scrap-yard-doberman when he hears the kitchen door open. I'm WIDE awake by the time my pilot is in the house!

  5. I saw this a while ago but I was sick and dying in Scotland, so I wasn't able to comment!

    My live-in BF also flies for a regional and I know the feeling. I wish he could come and climb into bed with me... he keeps his car at his base, so I have to always pick him up and drop him off at the strangest hours. I feel guilty sometimes too... some days, I have to be at the airport for 5 am with him, so I go into work 3 hours early and I'm running on no sleep and cursing the hell out of him. Other days, I get mad because I see spouses running together and we don't get to do that. He was trying to get to Scotland for the wedding we were invited to, but he got everything BUT those days off... so because of his schedule and me gone for a week, we'll have spent over 3 weeks apart, when we live together.

    I just do my best to look at the benefits. I was sick and miserable and while I would've liked a hug, I got a big bed to myself to cough and sneeze all over. I got to sit in the living room and drink tons of juice and watch my TV shows. I can schedule The Bachelor viewing parties with my friends and not have to feel bad that I'm getting home at 11:00 pm on a weeknight and I've ignored my sig other all day (because he's not there!). I can shop in the States all the time (I'm Canadian and it's expensive here!)... I go to Cheesecake Factory at least once/month when the nearest Cheesecake Factory to my house is about 6 hours driving time. I get to do cool things like go to Chicago for a nice steak dinner on a Friday night...

    I absolutely hate the way the regionals in the States work, and I'm hoping to get him up here to fly one of these days (pay is 4X better, he gets a pension/benefits/health care, etc), but I can definitely relate to those days where you just don't want to go home to an empty house.

    If you ever need an extra shoulder to lean on, I'm here too! :-) We are an interesting group...