[Not] Home for the Holidays
Every year it’s the same. Aviation families all around the world hold their collective breaths waiting for that moment that makes or breaks us. It’s the moment when we find out if he, our beloved pilot, will be home with his own family for Christmas…or making sure other people get to be with theirs.
The release of the December schedule!
It’s a delicate emotional precipice – a moment that either leaves us giddy with joy or broken-hearted. If the scheduling gods shine down upon our lives with favor we are granted a glorious season of togetherness, family, and our pilots home for Christmas!
But more often than not…
When hoards of other human beings are desperate to get home to their own families for the holidays, it means the majority of our pilots will be [not] home with theirs.
It means on Christmas morning he will be completely alone in some faraway hotel room and you will be stuck at home trying to put on a ‘Christmas spirit face’ for the kids’ sake while inside you feel like curling up in bed with a warm blanket and crying your eyes out.
That, ladies, is the pilot wife life.
There’s no denying it bites. Big time. I’m not going to sit here and try to convince you this life is all silvery snowflakes and shiny bows when sometimes it’s more like charred cookies and cocoa stains on your favorite shirt.
I’m not here to tell you to pretend that his being [not] home for the holidays is easy or fun. It’s not. I’m here to ask the essential questions. How do we survive it? How do we find some semblance of normalcy in the chaos, if not for us then for our children?
How do we find moments of laughter in the loneliness and positive perspective in the negative? How do we live it well?
1. Celebrate as a family. If Santa has ever had to make a special early trip to your house so ‘Daddy can celebrate with you,’ you might be an aviation family. It is more important for your family that you celebrate together than it is to celebrate on the actual date. Choose a day when daddy is home and have Santa make a special trip just for your family! He won’t mind; after all, he’s a pilot too!
2. Don’t project blame. The aviation life has many nuances, and spending holidays apart is a big one. We must be careful that we do not inadvertently misplace our frustrations about the job upon our spouse. You want him home, sure. And he wants to be home celebrating with you too! Don’t let your frustrations with the job affect your attitude toward the person. Love him fiercely and remember he misses you as much as you miss him.
3. Spend time with family and community. Even though you celebrated the holiday on a day when you were together, there is still something depressing about being apart on the actual day. Spending the day with family or perhaps gathering with a group of other pilot wives will give you something to do other than wallowing in self-pity.
4. Volunteer. There are innumerable organizations serving the community or less fortunate that are in desperate need of extra hands during the holidays. Feeding the homeless, serving at an orphanage, walking shelter dogs, or visiting the elderly is a beautiful way to spend the holiday. It is nearly impossible to feel sorry for yourself while serving the needs of others. You are also teaching your children an invaluable lesson about compassion and positivity.
5. Skip the social media. Seeing other people with their spouse when you are already feeling down is depressing. Stay off social media the day of the actual holiday so that you are not constantly exposed to pictures of other happy families spending the day together (and we are happy for them!). Instead, make it a ‘no social media day’, and fill the day with F.L.Y.ing – reading your favorite books, playing with your kids (if you have them), visiting the elderly in a nursing home, baking cookies for the fire department… The possibilities are endless.
6. Take advantage of technology. We are lucky in so many ways. Our aviation brothers and sisters not so very long ago didn’t have Facetime to keep in touch. Opening gifts with Grandma? He can be there! Taking a walk in the beautiful snow in a foreign city? She can come along! Take advantage of technology to be together for those special moments…even when you aren’t!
7. Remember his perspective. We can get so caught up with having to ‘do Christmas alone’ that we forget that he is really doing Christmas alone. We have family, children, friends, neighbors, a familiar community. He has a strange flight crew, a strange hotel, a strange city. Try not to bog him down with complaints, but rather find ways to make his day a little brighter – slip a little gift in his bag, call him, text him sweet notes. Make sure he knows you are thinking of him. It’s hard to be stuck on the road on holidays.
8. Go to him. If your pilot is away at Christmas, and the opportunity presents itself, go to him! We always think from the box that he has to ‘come home to us’, but home is where the heart is; and he is your heart! Therefore, why not come ‘home’ to him. You never know what amazing adventure await you in a city far from home.
9. Stay positive even when it’s hard. There’s no doubt that it’s difficult or less than ideal to be apart from your pilot during the holidays. However, remember that it’s also hard for your children and your pilot too. Intentionally choosing to focus on the positive and speak words of encouragement and joy instead of bitterness and complaining can make the situation a little easier for everyone. Even though you’re not face-to-face, you can still remain heart-to-heart.
I hope that your pilot is home for the holidays. If he is, I celebrate your joy with you!
If he’s not, I pray that you keep your head up and remember that you are not alone. Your aviation family is right here with you. Though it’s not easy, I pray you find the moments of love, laughter, and light and hold onto them with all your might.
Remember: it’s not about celebrating the date on a calendar; it’s about celebrating with the ones you love.
You are beautiful, aviation sisters. Stay strong.
Merry Christmas and happy Hanukah!
~Angelia (a fellow Pilot Wife)