Aviation Induced Divorce Syndrome – Don’t Let It Happen To You

I am the wife of a pilot. I know what it is like to spend Christmas and other holidays without the one I love. I have experienced the challenges of managing a household and caring for children for weeks at a time without the presence of my spouse.

I also work alongside my husband in our aviation training business. I have seen a twinkle in the eye of many pilots as they recount the planes flown, the accidents averted, and the places they’ve visited. I’ve also seen the twinkle fade as they mention the loss of their family due to the extended absences and sudden departures. I have sensed the joy and sorrow that aviation has produced in many lives.

Aviation Induced Divorce Syndrome may be a tongue in cheek  attempt to express this double edged sword. It’s a means for expressing the love of flying which diminishes other loves. It’s also a means for expressing a set of symptoms from which people desire relief.

While I may not be able to offer complete relief, I should like to suggest a few solutions. I do believe one can love aviation and one’s family simultaneously. It takes some work and some thought, but it can be done. Training is one of my passions. Aviation is another. Take a look at the solutions offered here and consider training yourself to become not only a better pilot but also better equipped to care for the ones who matter most.

Solutions to Caring for Your Loved Ones While You Are Away

  • Let us into your world – It can be almost a surreal experience to be in another country or state and then back home within a few hours. In fact, it can almost be described as a culture shock. Help our two worlds to meet once again. Tell us about your trip. What did you see? Who were your passengers and what were they like? Show us on a map where you went and start instilling in us that wonder of the world and passion for travel that you have acquired. It can also be a means for helping you re-acclimate yourself to our world.
  • Take lots of pictures and videos – We can’t see first hand all that you do, but you can teach us and make us feel a part of your life by sharing your adventures. After you’ve had a chance to unwind, show us what you saw. Play a homemade video of the airport or the town in which you stayed. Make a commentary of the country or state that you visited. Take a picture of the plane and the cockpit. Explain your process for takeoff and descent so we understand the complexity of the job and can appreciate the skill it takes. The extra effort lets us know that you were thinking of us while you were there and that you want us to enjoy the adventure with you.
  • Set up family procedures – Why not make up some SOPs for us while you are gone? Give us the structure we need to compensate for your absence. How can you delegate duties so that things run as smoothly as possible? Can you enlist the support of friends and family? Can you assign chores and responsibilities to the children? Be sure to follow-up on assigned tasks when you return so that everyone is clear on the need to work together as a team and support mom/dad who bears much of the responsibility when you are on a trip.
  • Explain the complexity of decision making – Pilots make countless decisions every day. Many people tend to think that pilots just get in and go. Your family may think so, too, if you don’t share with us. Show and explain your checklists. Read an accident report (ever mindful of what is appropriate for children). Teach us how to read the radar or how you communicate with ATC.  We will be much more understanding of delays and changes in schedules when we understand the rationale behind duty time, weather patterns, company policies and the challenges you face each day.
  • Share your needs – Safety is of prime concern for pilots. It is important to be well rested and focused while flying. Ask us to refrain from texts and phone calls until you have landed so you can keep focused on the flight. Then when you do respond, give us your undivided attention. Let us know ahead of time when you need to get to bed early so you are well rested for the next trip. Try to spend quality time with us the night before so we feel secure knowing that your early bed time and departure is for work related reasons and not because you are disinterested or tired of being with us.
  • Connect often – It’s true. We lead separate lives while you are away. Call us and ask about our sporting events. Ask how the day went and how the children behaved. Ask for details. Really take interest. Face-time us and show us your room and what you ate. Show us your colleagues and your rental car. The more details you pull out of us and the more you share, the more our lives become one again.
  • Express gratitude – Often a less than ideal situation can be softened by a few kind words. Let us know that you appreciate all of our hard work while you are away and the support given to your career. Tell us how proud you are of the help and the teamwork you see. Acknowledging the sacrifices made helps us to feel that we a part of your success and is a good reminder for yourself as well.

Hopefully, there are a few ideas here that will help to ensure that Aviation Induced Divorce Syndrome never touches you or your loved ones. Train yourself to implement several ideas, and then watch to see how your family responds. Take the ones which are effective and make them a habit.

It takes work, but you can enjoy aviation and keep your family. Hopefully, you can have a twinkle in your eye when you speak of both.

Photo Credit: Sergey Kichigin | Dreamstime.com

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