My kids have only known the airline life, with Daddy being gone a good portion of most months. My wife grew up in a more traditional household, but her father worked at least 70 hours a week. Still, he was home every night, whereas I am not.
As you can imagine, this can create some tension at times. But, when I am home, I am truly home, and I have plenty of free time to live and handle life.
When my kids were younger, they would try to fight over who got to spend more time with me when I was home. One of their favorite things was for me to come to school to eat lunch with them, and it didn’t take me long to figure out that there were going to be days when I’d be eating two lunches, and for a while, in different schools. I got pretty adept at packing two smaller snacks, because they didn’t like to think that I had the “better” lunch with the other one. Kids are funny like that.
The monthly juggling act for years was to try figure out how to be home for as many of the kids’ activities as I could, without making one of them feel slighted. It wasn’t always easy, and it often took some planning. One of the most effective ways to deal with it (at least in my house) was to sit everyone down when I was working on my schedule for the following month, and asking who really wanted me around for something. If they had multiple events, they had to tell me the order of importance. I never promised more than I could give, and a couple of events required some help from another pilot or from the chief pilot’s office. And, if I’m being honest, there were one or two sick calls that had to be used in order to be the best parent that I could be.
My kids got pretty good at giving me a heads up about major events that might be anywhere from two to four months or more down the road. I learned to figure out how to interpret the tone of their voices, so I knew which ones were critical and which ones would just be nice. And there were some things that they didn’t place as much importance on as I did, and that’s OK, too.
Birthdays were always a challenge, because birthday parties almost always took place on a weekend, even if the bid day was on a Wednesday. Because they had sleepovers for years, I always made sure that I was home for those so that my wife wouldn’t feel overwhelmed. But as they got older, I’d ask them if they wanted me home for the party or the actual birthday.
Like any other pilot or flight attendant, there were some things that I’ve just had to miss, and that’s just the breaks. But I’ve always tried to prioritize my family, and I dare say that I’ve done well, but it isn’t always easy, especially if someone is sick. But when they look back, I think my kids will be able to say that, when it was really important, Daddy was there. It takes a team effort, and it takes work, but if you want to do it, you can. Even if you have get…creative.—Chip Wright