Galley Gossip: A question about being a flight attendant and having a young child at home

Dear Heather

You said your husband travels over 100,000 miles per year, and you are spending January away from home. Isn’t that hard on your child? I think I’d find a career that kept me home more often.


Dear DJ,

Two weeks ago I found myself commuting home in first class sitting next to a seventeen year-old boy on a flight from New York to Los Angeles. “Are you going to LA on vacation?” I asked him.

“No, I’m going to Sydney, Australia. I’m just connecting through Los Angeles,” he said as he took a bite of ice cream covered in hot fudge.

I looked around the cabin for his parents, but there were no parent-y looking people sitting nearby “Are you going there alone?”

“Yeah. I have friends there.”

“Wow,” I said, because not only had I never traveled overseas until I began working international routes in 1998 at the age of twenty-six, I still haven’t been to Australia, a place I’m dying to visit one day. “I’m really impressed,” I added.

He smiled. “My dad’s a Captain.”

And there you have it, ladies and gentleman, the benefits of being the child of an airline employee. Something tells me that the kid I sat next to in first class, the one eating an ice cream sundae who was on his way to meet friends in Australia is not complaining about the fact that his father worked a job that took him away from home. Though I could be wrong.

Even though my career does take me away from home when I’m working, I feel I have more quality time with my son than other parents who work a regular job who have limited time with their children in the evenings due to after school activities, chores, and parent fatigue. Because when I’m home, I’m home for days at a time. Sometimes even weeks at a time. Keep in mind that a typical flight attendant works twelve to sixteen days a month. Sure some flight attendants choose to work more hours, picking up extra trips on the side, while others work less – like me!

As you mentioned above, my husband does travel over 100,000 miles a year, but he leaves on the first flight of the day and usually makes it home by dinner time. Because we don’t have family nearby to help us with our two year-old son, I work a reduced schedule. On months that I can hold a line, I usually work three, two-day, trips, which totals to six days of work a month. That means I work one week and have three weeks off. Not bad, I say.

Because my husband travels often and I commute from Los Angeles (where I live) to New York (where I work), when I’m on reserve (which isn’t often) I bring my son along with me to New York. Though I am on call to the company 24 hours a day, I do have twelve schedule days off. That means I’ll be on-call for five to six days straight and then have three to four days off. This month while I’m on-call, my son is staying with his grandparents who live in Long Island, a twenty minute train ride away. On my days off we spend time together. Some months I’ll even fly him to Texas where he’ll spend four to five days with his other set of grandparents. You can bet they are all excited to have this time to bond with him. During the last week of the month, I will fly with my son back to Los Angeles where he will spend one week with his father who has been forbidden to travel while I finish out the month on reserve in New York. It’s during this time he gets to bond, really bond, with his father. And that works for our family.

While it’s not always easy for me to be away from my son during reserve months, he looks forward to seeing his grandparents and spending valuable time with them. In fact, the minute he got off the airplane last week he wanted to go to his grandparents house.

“Let’s go see grandma!” he kept saying, rolling his Mickey Mouse bag behind him through the JFK terminal.

In my book it’s because of my crazy schedule that he has become a very well rounded and well mannered child. Let’s face it, if it weren’t for my job, the one that takes me away from home, and the traveling benefits that come along with the job that takes me away from home, my son probably wouldn’t get a chance to get to know the people who love him so. And that, I think, is a good thing!

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