"Girlfriend of Pilot"
HA! Warning. If you start reading, please follow it through to the end. There are some rather bitter and angry parts...hopefully I come full circle by the end.
There are a multitude of blogs written by "wives of pilots" describing what it's like to live with someone who's job has them in the skies 2/3 of the month. I had looked at a couple of these about a year ago, just as Rob was interviewing with airlines for his first job in the commercial airline industry. This was very early in our relationship. It didn't look good to me at the time. The advice ran in the direction of: You must be a strong and independent woman to live with a pilot, not afraid to hire home maintenance jobs on your own, shovel snow, and sleep alone most nights. You must have a life of your own with strong social connections, friends and family to rely on when those 4 and 5 day trips fall on special occasions and holidays. You must remember that his job is stressful and when he comes home, he doesn't need a to-do list, or to hear about how stressful your week has been, he needs you to nurture him, to greet him with a warm embrace and a warm meal waiting. He's out there sleeping in lonely, sterile hotel rooms, sharing meals with people he only just met, flying through storms, missing Christmas, dealing with unruly rampers and gate agents, sometimes hostile passengers and he's doing it all to put food on your table. He's underpaid and overstressed. Your job is to make his life easier.
Yeah. I call bullshit.
Pilots are adrenaline junkies. They do what they do because they love it. They love the thrill and the drama of it. They love the speed and the danger. How nice for them, really, to have a live-in property manager, maid and cook to keep the home-fires burning so when they are done flying their big airplanes they can come home and have someone hand them a cold beer. How nice that you have to take into account how stressful and lonely their lives are but they don't have to take that into account about your life, the life that you live alone, 2 frickin' thirds of the time. Do the math on that one: a twenty year career. How many years away from home? 13.3. Yep. That's more time away than if you were serving a prison sentence. I know. I KNOW. Couples struggle with careers that keep them apart all the time. Think of military spouses. I do think of them. I think of how nice it would be to know that when your loved one made it home, you'd have him there with you for more than 2 or 3 days at a time.
I also think that you cannot compare the two. Military men and women are making a huge sacrifice, in service of something that they value strongly. Airline pilots have a lot of responsibility, sure, much like bus drivers do. In fact, not sure there's a whole lot of difference. Glorified bus-drivers.
This is me being negative. I haven't come around yet. All the blogs say that I will; that is, if this relationship is going to survive. They say that I will, in time, be able to see the positive aspects of his career and how it will shape our relationship in many good ways. They say that the first year is the hardest. I've told Rob that too. First holidays alone, first time having to deal with the mechanic alone, first time having to shovel this huge driveway alone. Really, just the "being alone." The "airline wives" blogs say that I will even begin to appreciate being alone. Hmmmm. I just don't see that yet.
My life is just a holding pattern when he is gone. I go through the motions. I count down the days. I go to work. Yes, I am blessed to share some of that time with my children. They make it better. They make it possible. But the long days alone, when they are with their dad and Rob is off flying. Oh, those days are hard.
He is impatient with my progress. He anticipates my low mood everytime he gets a 3 or 4 day trip. And, mostly he's right. It hits me every time. Not just that he's not around right now, but that this is how my life looks now. He says that I make it all about me, that I don't take into consideration that he is just as upset as I am when his last flight of the day is delayed and he can't make it home, that I don't consider that he is stuck in the crew room sleeping in a recliner because we can't afford a hotel room this month. Well. I do consider that. But, I also consider that he knew it would be like this; he knows it will continue to be like this. And yet, he is willing to put up with it so that he can live his dream.
His dream. That's why I am still struggling with this. He loves to fly. He is good at it. I actually believe that this is what he should be doing. So, when he says, "forget it, I can't do this. I can't risk our relationship. I will quit and go back to selling insurance." I say, "No." I won't be that girl. I won't be the one that grounds him. I really and truly want him to be happy. I really and truly wish I was the kind of woman that those blogs describe: independent, a social butterfly, someone with a large circle of friends and family. Can I become her? Well, I cannot invent family I don't have. I cannot change certain circumstances of my life: the shared custody that means I only get my kids half the time. But, I can and I must be proactive about creating a life on my own. Even just typing that brings tears to my eyes. I don't WANT a life "on my own". When you finally meet that one person that truly completes you, that brings you so much joy you can't imagine you lived without it all your life, the person that you hunger for....you just want to BE WITH them. Who would choose a life that looks like this?
This is how I am. A little bit crazy. I go back and forth. Back and forth. Truth is, I have to make some changes because I'm not going to let him give up his dream and I don't want to live my life feeling like a martyr. This is where I am. One year in. Just cannot see the positive in this yet. I believe those other women when they say it was hard for them in the beginning. That does give me a sense of hope...somewhat. So, I ask myself, what can I do in the coming year to see some improvement? How can we make his crazy career work with our lives? I don't know the answers yet. But, I am willing to look for them.