"Being the daughter of a pilot can be both amazing and challenging at times. As I got older I soon realised that the positives outweigh the negatives, but it didn’t always feel like that when I was younger."
There are some very useful psychological tips for managing the absences plus some great ideas for managing the teenage years. You might consider sharing this account with your own child… there are some tips for them too, on how to manage pilot parents.
Being the daughter of a pilot can be both amazing and challenging at times. As I got older I soon realised that the positives outweigh the negatives, but it didn’t always feel like that when I was younger. I’ve been very lucky as the most obvious positive is the ability to travel. When I was as young as 8, my Dad took my brother and me to Disney Land, in America. We flew there and back in Club seats which is a privilege at such a young age. Trips like this enabled my brother and I to become used to flying, so we never experienced any issues with air travel.
Opportunities such as these are directly as a result of the ease of using staff travel tickets. These are available to us as a result of my father being a pilot, and have given us the opportunity to visit places that we may not have otherwise visited.
When I was at primary school I remember having to board once a week, to allow Dad to continue doing short haul day trips. In amongst the short haul flights were occasional long haul flights. This would often mean that my grandparents would have to travel and stay for a weekend or during the week to ensure we had someone looking after us, as Dad was a single parent.
At this age the hardest aspect was maintaining contact with Dad. I found this particularly difficult as he was my only parent figure and being away from him was something I wasn’t used to. As a result of this strong attachment, I reacted very angrily to separation. I often found myself not talking to him for at least a day on his arrival home, which at the time was my way of coping with the distance. I wasn’t old enough to have a phone, or understand how to use Skype whenever I wanted. Taking this into consideration, my first suggestion would be to organise and plan out, in advance, set times to call and stick to them. A routine often helps to get used to time away and gives something to look forward to, if I had done this I would have eliminated the occasions when I called and got upset if there was no answer.
For convenience my Dad stuck to short haul flights, my brother and I continued to board, once a week. As I found this challenging at times, one of my teachers recommended to me that I buy an A1 world map and pin it up in my room. Every time Dad visited a country I would put a pin in the map at his location. It almost became a game to me, to see how many pins I could fill the map with, or how many times he could visit one place.
I was fortunate that the father of one of my close friends was also a pilot. She dealt with the situation differently, every time her Dad went away she counted the number of days in the duration of his trip and recorded it. Her mum would then put a sweet for each day in a jar, so every evening she would eat one, until the last day when her Dad would arrive home. This became a distraction as she became more focused on when she would be allowed to have her treat than the fact her Dad wasn’t there.
As I’m getting older a lot of these issues don’t affect me as much. I now fully understand that my father’s job is to fly and he thoroughly enjoys it. The only issue that still frustrates me is the limited holiday that he has compared to the long school holidays. As well as flying Dad has office duties, as a result of this, most nights he doesn’t get home until 19.00. Unfortunately, this applies in the holidays and on special days including family birthdays.
His office job can be very demanding in hours, so when he arrives home he is often tired, so we eat dinner together and then go to bed. If anything serious was to occur at work he could be called in at any time, so his work phone is never far wherever we go. The only thing that makes this easier is being old enough to understand that he doesn’t have much choice.
I’m now of an age when I have a mobile phone so if I need anything urgently I can call him, and if it’s not urgent I can send a message knowing that I will get a reply as soon as he has a chance. Now I am older it’s easier to enjoy the positives of his job. If I ever travel anywhere, or on family holidays I can be sure to visit the best restaurants, and see the unbelievable sights. As more often than not he has been there before and made a note of all the right places to go.
Little things make the difference too, I always know that that there will be fresh egg tarts and a new orchid in the house after a trip to Singapore, this makes the time away more bearable as it involves a treat at the end.
Parenting - A view from the other side