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Life with a pilot as a partner

by Jane Brown Teacher who is married to a pilot

Everyone tells you it’s marvellous.

“Married to an airline pilot? Oh, that’s fantastic! All those lovely holidays! Does he take you places? Oh, and perhaps he’ll teach you to fly!”

This last comment I did find bizarre; I am not a frustrated pilot, and eventually I bit some poor woman’s head off by telling her that no, and he’d never asked me if I could teach him to be an amazing infant teacher, either.

Until you live with a pilot you have no idea how hard they work.

These shamefaced confessions came from my mother-in-law when Darling Husband (DH) spent six months living with her while he was working from Gatwick, and from a very good friend whose son was just starting out as a young First Officer. You know how hard you work. Enough said.

You are very lazy.

Family members and friends will generally decide DH doesn’t do much work because they discover he has ‘time off’ during normal nine-to-five working hours. They then can’t understand why you can’t all come to the family wedding or 60th birthday party on a weekend in July. They decide you are moaning.

You are effectively a single parent – but with an extra child.

This is the one that will require an extra supper between 10pm and midnight, or wants a quick breakfast at 3.30am. The one who is there physically, but can’t take in any domestic information until well rested, so anything pressing you will have to sort out yourself. Family crises? Medical issues? Kids having problems at school? You’re on your own, mate.

Your kids quickly realise they are different.

They can’t do spontaneous playdates or sleepovers – everything is geared around when their father is sleeping, while weekends, bank holidays, Christmas and Easter are just working days like any other. It is not the upbringing I would have chosen for them. My lowest point was when we had a French exchange student who came to stay in the middle of DH’s work period. His family had been so hospitable and kind when our eldest had been in France, and I felt I wasn’t able to return their generosity adequately.

Having any kind of career and a family is hard.

Because of his flexible roster, you can rely on DH for nothing – so unless you’ve got good childcare arrangements, your workplace choices are very limited. The same goes for your own social life. It can feel like a prison at times.

You’re lucky to have BALPA.

I know this because I’m a member of another union, which is huge and represents a lot of different people and their needs. Over the past 10 years, I’ve seen our pay, pensions and conditions steadily deteriorate while watching with envy what BALPA has managed to achieve. Believe me, I’m jealous!

You don’t need to fly to have a good holiday.

We’ll be heading to Mull this year to watch the golden eagles take to the skies instead.