Can Pilots Have A Happy Family Life
The short answer to this question is: YES! Just be aware of some trends that are typical among pilot careers.
There is a dirty little secret in the aviation world known as “AIDS”. It stands for Aviation-Induced Divorce Syndrome. It’s not a real syndrome of course, and I haven’t found any concrete evidence that pilots suffer a higher rate of divorce than the rest of the population. However, I will tell you what my personal experience and observations are.
I have noticed some common threads among professional pilots that seem to have achieved a successful family life. Here are two different patterns that seem to lead to a happy marriage if you want to be a professional pilot:
Pattern #1: Your honey or hubby has to be supportive of your career AND needs to be “home-oriented”
Being supportive doesn’t mean they have to like what you do, but they do need to accept that your passion for flying is part of you and comes with you as a package. What I mean by “home-oriented” is someone who is content and fulfilled in not having a career that demands too much of their time. This works especially well when there are children in the family since the parent who is home more predictably can be counted on to take care of the kids. This does NOT mean that your spouse is a “home-body” and doesn’t have an interesting life. They just find fulfillment in being more involved with the home life on a daily basis rather than finding fulfillment pursuing some career.
Pattern #2: Your honey or hubby also has a very demanding career in some industry, but you two have no children
Many times the spouse/significant other is also a pilot or a professional in the aviation industry, so they understand the sacrifices that are required. The successful couples I know that fit this description support each other’s careers, but since neither of them have the time it would take to raise kids, they choose not to have any. Whether they chose not to have children as a result of their career choice or the other way around, the result is the same – a childless couple. This, however, is not such a bad thing. According to a British study, young couples without children were found to be happier than those with children.
Women Pilots Who Want To Have a Baby
If you are a female pilot, juggling a pilot career and raising a family can be very tricky. Women pilots have to either find a hubby that is willing to take on the “home-oriented spouse” role, not have any kids, or be willing and able to receive help in raising their kids (such as help from family/friends or a nanny). It’s next to impossible for a female pilot to care for young children (especially before they are school-age) and simultaneously succeed as a commercial / professional pilot without almost round-the-clock help.
Once children are old enough to be relatively self-sufficient, even single moms are able to progress in their flying careers. However, with seniority being everything in the airlines, waiting years for children to grow to be school-aged kids can be costly and will always put you at a disadvantage versus someone who doesn’t have to take time off to raise children. Taking maternity leave alone will, depending on your company, prevent you from accruing seniority while you are on leave.
A Case Study
I work in a company that employs about 25 pilots, 6 of them women. Only one of the women pilots has children. Two are single (one is divorced). The other three are married without children. By contrast, the majority of my male co-workers are married with children and the two single ones are divorced. Also, several of the married male pilots are in their second marriage, not their first. And, I’m not talking about young people trying to still build up flight time, I’m talking about pilots who are all age 35 and older and are pretty well-established in their careers.
It is possible to be a professional pilot and have a happy family life IF you find someone who supports your career and is willing to take a less demanding career than yours. Hey, no one said it was going to be easy!