Raising kids and having my husband travel comes with its challenges. There have been times that I’ve questioned my mothering skills and have become so frustrated that I would cry if his trips were one day too many.
A couple of weeks ago I asked my adult daughters how they felt about their dad traveling. More importantly, I was curious how they saw me as I was carrying that extra parenting bag on my own.
Paige, my oldest daughter, was little more descriptive in her answers. I guess you could say the firstborn view came out in her. Paige was born into the military life with Jeff who was gone for 6 months at a time and was surrounded by other kids who had their dad gone for long periods as well. Paige was a strong-willed child and still is. She would let you know if she was unhappy and she was definitely not afraid to speak her mind. Now that she in her early twenties she has become an amazing young woman. She is independent and strong, like her mother. She works full-time for a start-up company in Austin. Surprisingly, she and her sister, Jillian, live together!
My youngest daughter, Jillian, has always been the wise, old soul kind of girl. She often tells me to settle down, or says, “Mom, you gotta pick your battles with Tobin or Adin.” Jillian helped me a great deal when I was dealing with health issues, and she immediately stepped up and helped out with family responsibilities that I couldn’t handle at that time. I will always be grateful and blessed for her help and attitude. She is in her early twenties now and works at a Flour Mill. In addition to her job, she is a part-time student at a Junior College in Austin studying Organic Farming.
Here are the five thought-provoking questions I had asked my girls….
- What’s it like having a dad who travels all the time?
Jillian: I’ve never thought it was that weird because that’s how it’s always been! It’s cool that any city I go to he has recommendations. The opportunities to travel both as a kid with the family and now as an adult is amazing and all the trips we’ve been able to take because of his job is incredible… not something to take for granted!
Paige: Kind of annoying. But it just becomes life. At some point, I realized how weird it would be if dad was home all the time and how annoying that would be.
As a little girl, teenager and now in my early twenties?
- Because everything was about ‘me’ when I was little, it felt like a personal thing. Like “oh dad doesn’t care if he misses my birthday.” – not true
- As a teenager, I started adopting my own independence. I didn’t take it as personally. It was just the way our house worked. I got to have his car when he was home.
- Now, I’m an adult. It doesn’t bother me. I learned to crave the space from growing up the way I did, watching mom and dad orbit around each other to an extent. Occasionally, I’ll call dad and the call with go straight to voicemail and I know he’s flying; I just know to call him in an hour or two and fix problems myself.
2. Did you learn to play-off on Dad and I when he was on a trip? How was I when dad was gone?
Jillian: Mom is the person to ask about most things but for the “big” decisions you talk it through with mom and get the final vote of approval from dad. Dad’s harder to talk to sometimes and sometimes more strict… but I think that’s based off military experience, not pilot life. Mom was always firm on “I’m the same person no matter if dads here or not” so not much of difference.
Paige: Not consciously? Mom, obviously, took the brunt of the parenting just because of proximity.
- Was I scared of Dad for a long time? Yeah. He was the hammer. He would get home and whatever trouble I got in 3 days ago was suddenly remembered. It was like “ah I love my dad but he’s scary.” He’s really tall and his voice is really deep, it as a lot for me sometimes.
- Mom was a little more stressed out with dad gone. She had 2 kids to take to school, a dinner to cook alone. Then, we decided to add another lil baby in the mix. At a few points, mom had a job so she was doing all that plus working with dad being gone. She constantly had to tell her friends “oh Jeff is flying, he can’t be here.” In a world where a women’s place is based on her husband’s success (and arguably, availability) I think that was hard. Some of mom’s friends just didn’t get it I think.
3. Did you enjoy your dad being gone? Cause I recall a few times you girls asked when he was leaving.
Jillian: Sometimes! Because he gets antsy when he’s home too long! But also sometimes I’d think “hmm when is dad gonna be home for longer than a day or two?” when we were working on a project or he got called in semi-unexpectedly.
Paige: Yes, sometimes. We were a house full of girls. He was (and is) this giant man who booms around the house. I’m making him sound like a giant, but he’s not. He just takes up space. Like any human does.
- Me and dad butted heads a lot as I got older. When I was mad at him, it was great having him gone. I didn’t have to deal with tip-toeing around him trying to be nice when I was fuming.
4. Were you ever worried about Dad flying? If so, Why?
Jillian: No. I think flying with him in smaller planes 1-on-1 and seeing his knowledge really solidified how much knowledge he has about flying/air safety that I can’t even grasp. He’s also an observant guy who always talks about issues in the news/scary stories openly and I’ve never doubted he can think smart and quick to manage any situation.
Paige: During 9/11 yes. I remember that day.
- When your dad is a pilot, there’s just always a certain amount of fear associated with the profession. Being 30,000 Ft. in the air in a metal tube isn’t a natural place for humans to be. So, of course, it’s a little scary. You have to become comfortable with accepting the fact something bad might happen. You have to trust that things will turn out.
- When dad started flying with a gun and going to the shooting range, that’s when the danger of what he did set in a little bit.
- When I was little I remember sobbing when he left. I thought he was never going to come back. I totally just neglected the fact that he already flew airplanes every day.
- There was a night in college when I woke up from a dream and dad had died in a flying accident. It was 5am and I called mom and dad. It’s a scary dream, my worst nightmare, but it’s just a fear.
5. What have you learned by having a dad who’s a pilot?
Jillian: Airports aren’t scary or stressful unless you make them that way. Time management is the key to life.
Paige: Traveling is fun.
- Traveling is stressful.
- Traveling is taxing, emotionally and physically.
- Traveling is worth it.
- I will forever have a love for aviation. If I get to retire early, or ever get to have time in my 30s, I would like to learn how to fly. Just for fun.
- The space mom and dad had in their relationship is rare, and they made space work for them. They had to establish a lot of trust. As an adult, I’ve realized I couldn’t live with someone who comes home and lives in my world every day. Having a dad that traveled and a mom that stayed at home made me live with 2 very independent parents. They trusted each other and were really a team in both providing for the family and raising us. For the most part, they made it look easy, even though I know it wasn’t.
Just for fun, I asked the girls what they told friends if they asked what their dad’s job was…
Jillian: My dad flies airplanes and its cool. My friends thought the same thing. Plain and simple.
Paige: What he did for work and what he did in child rearing are 2 different things, but related.
- When I say my dad is a pilot, people think it’s cool. It allowed him to do adopt a pilot with my 5th-grade class. Now when I say my dad is a pilot, it’s usually followed up with explaining how much training he had to do to get there — I have a lot of friends who are scared to fly. I’m like “get over it, my dad is a pilot. He literally has to go through so much training.”
- But, raising us, he made me f*** work for s***. Sorry for the profanity but it’s true!
- When I left for college and didn’t have a car, was living with 14 other college students in a house, and had little money my friends were like “Wait, what? Won’t your dad help you with school? Why do you have to have a job? So mean.”
- Now I describe him as an airline pilot, highly intelligent, if not conservative-leaning, hard-working dad who worked really hard so we could live comfortably growing up. He loves me, he loves our family, but he’ll also give me advice + compliments sometimes at weird times. Imagine being home although Christmas and having your dad say “Have your own finances together before you get married, you should buy your own house.” Or running a half marathon and at mile 8 having him say “Just so you know, I really like who you are as an adult.” Dad is a low-key feminist, but he wouldn’t say that. But he is. He has always prompted us to provide for ourselves, be able to be independent, to not need to depend on anyone else.
- When I tell my friends those stories, they laugh. You never really know what dad is going to say or do next. He might rent a plane and fly to Tampa, he might buy a tiny boat, he might have to have an emergency landing on a trip. His life is more exciting than he thinks it is.
WOW! After reading their honest answers, I cried. But a proud cry. As a mom, I felt like I wasn’t there for them as I wanted to be. I was surviving from sun-up to sundown. I yelled, slammed doors from time to time, and I’d cry in my closet or behind a locked door.locked. I tried hard not to reveal the ugly side of me, but more often than not, I did just that.
Lest you think I forgot about my son for this interview, I promise I didn’t! I was going to ask Tobin these questions as well, being a teenager I knew his answers would only be one-word sentences. So I’ll wait a few more years to ask.
If you’re a young mom, a mom in the teenage season or have adult children just remember that you’re doing a great job. Your kids see that. I had a friend tell me, “The seasons you are in with motherhood become different only cause you get different.”
I couldn’t agree more.