Partner of a Pilot
The Candid Diary of an Airline Pilot’s Girlfriend

Career dilemma-which way to go?


I am experienced mixed feelings today.  For some time, Bf’s company have been strategically cost-cutting and not recruiting, whilst using natural wastage to minimise the chances of redundancy. Unfortunately, it looks like they are going to have to make some redundancies-though luckily Bf has enough seniority to remain safe and secure in his company.

I cannot tell you how much of a relief this is, but Bf’s job will not be without changes. With his working lifestyle as it is currently; he would never consider a move. However, with the proposed changes he is feeling less satisfied-albeit not unsatisfied.  In a bid to reduce the number of redundancies, and I guess also to keep their options open/recruitment costs to a minimum when the industry does pick up a little; the airline have now offered it’s secure pilots a financial incentive to take a career break for a few years-with the added incentive of retaining their current place on the seniority list on return.

Bf initially didn’t seem tempted by this offer, but it seems that recently Bf is suddenly paying a great deal of interest to the aviation recruitment market, and is ‘casually’ dropping in remarks about how this Captain is going to use the opportunity to earn mega-bucks doing some contract flying, or that First Officer is going to use the opportunity to try out life with a different airline, whilst having the safety net of a good job to go back to if it turns out to be less than desirable.

Well, this week, he seems to have gone into crazed job-hunting overdrive. At first I was unconcerned, because a) I know that the aviation job market is pretty unstable and static at the moment, and b) there are masses of out of work, qualified pilots out there looking for employment. However, he has now become obsessed with the idea of re-locating to a far-flung country for a few years. He has even posted applications on-line to a couple of airlines in the far east and middle east!  I am completely out of my comfort zone. We have not yet even properly discussed the implications of expat living on our family life!

For starters, I have a job that I love, and said to him

“Well, hang on a minute! I have only just found this job, and I love it! MAYBE I can work from abroad, but what if I can’t?!”

“”Well, you could just take a sabbatical for a few years!”

OMG! I just couldn’t believe how nonchalant and self-focused his answer was. He is so swept up in the idea of this opportunity and how fun it could be to have a different cultural work experience for a few years that he is being completely blinkered about how unpractical it is!  I think that because he is the main bread-winner of this family; he is (unintentionally) being a little bit arrogant in the assumption that we should all follow his dreams.

What annoys me, is that a few years back; I turned down an extremely well paid job. It would have seen me earning 50% more than he does currently. I had passed the 3 stages of interviews, and had the job offer on the table. However, the company wanted more than their pound of flesh in return for this salary. We sat down together, and discussed the implications on our lives-and decided between us, that it would likely lead to the demise of our relationship-and also significantly reduce the time I spent with my family as a whole. On this basis; I rejected the offer in favour of another job where I earned less than a quarter of the salary I’d rejected!

At the moment he says that he is only assessing what options are open to him, career wise; but I hope that he fully intends to discuss things with an open mind, because, aside from my job, which I would hope I could do from abroad (but have no guarantees of)… My eldest son is less than 2 years away from starting senior school. I don’t particularly want to keep uprooting him and switching schools… We haven’t even finished extending our house yet! We’re mid way through re-modelling and getting it just as we want it, and I am FINALLY feeling settled in this area! I don’t want to sell up or rent it out to someone else to enjoy!

Also, whist it would not ultimately be the deciding factor; I cannot even begin to imagine how my ex will react if I tell him we’re moving to the far east with the boys! YIKES, I think I’d need to hire a personal body guard at best!

I’m torn between excitement of making it work and having a potentially awesome experience, sheer terror at HOW it would all work logistically; and the impact it would have on the children and I.

I am NOT the sort of person who suits a ‘house wife’ lifestyle. I NEED to work, otherwise I become bored, and insecure. I feel a loss of self-worth and a lack of identity and start obsessing about Bf’s job. When I was on maternity leave I felt as though I had nothing interesting to relate to Bf about, and became convinced that I was boring and that he’d run off with some hostie! It was crazy; but it was ultimately down to insecurities that I had as a result of losing my work identity. I dread the thought of doing a job I hate, and I dread the thought of not working even more.  If he were about to lose his job, naturally I’d feel differently; but he isn’t – he has a perfectly good, secure job-and this is entirely down to choice.

I must be the only job-hunting pilot’s partner who is praying that he doesn’t get a job offer! Part of me thinks that maybe I’m the selfish one for not immediately jumping at this chance-am I being a drama queen? How would you feel?

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19 Responses to “Career dilemma-which way to go?”

  1. Having been there before, I can totally relate. Although, we don’t have kids, so I can’t imagine having to deal with that aspect of it. Until you more details, there isn’t too much I can say. It is definitely frustrating when it feels like you are the one who constantly sacrifices for the other’s career. But, such is the nature of being involved with a pilot. As much as I love my pilot, and I know you love yours, pilots as a whole are selfish, conceited, self-important punks who thinks that everyone must pander to them. It’s taken literally YEARS to get to a place in our relationship to where we can discuss career options without freaking out on eachother.

    All I can say is that you will work it out, one way or another. It just doesn’t seem like it now.

    Sending you all my support…

  2. Hi there,

    as you might know, we (wife, 2yr old daughter, and I) moved from Geneva (french-speaking Switzerland) to Frankfurt (Germany) because I decided to change job (non-flying). One of the consequences was that my wife had to stop working, at least temporarily. We discussed that intensively, and on a very open basis. I’m infinitely grateful to her for taking this decision. She saw how bad the old job was for me, and because of what I do relates to ATC, I had to change country if I wanted to stay in the same business.

    It was not an easy decision to make, but now our new life here is settled. We moved from a flat to a house (positive) and she’s more time with our daughter (positive), but also miss having a job (negative) and must learn much more german before she can get one (negative).

    The best thing I can say is that it’s extremely important that you discuss that together, as you did when you had this other offer.

    And if you go for it, make sure that the new company pays for the relocation services. These guys cost a lot, but they do make things much much easier.

  3. Thank you for your detailed response Plastic Pilot;

    I think that this situation is a little different to yours though… The thing is, he actually loves his job! He just wants to have his cake and eat it; he has a great secure job-with a great secure airline (touch wood quickly). The thing is that simply because they have opened the door to another option for him; he wants to sample other jobs from the aviation menu to see if the grass might be greener, or to earn some extra money.

    My fear is that this could backfire… Also, that it would possibly only be a temporary move, and it just seems like a lot of turmoil for us to satisfy his curiosity-when he is satisfied with his current set up.

  4. I think it’s important to have your own career and identity as you said and I can see why you want to keep this – I know I would. I think pilots have a tendancy to seem selfish & I think that is jst because often when away etc they only have themselves to consider and become v independent. I think I would feel the same about uprooting esp if I had children of that important secondary school age. I think your bf may just be considering the options as new offers can be tempting and exciting before the reality sets in. I’m sure whatever you decide it will not be without considering all the factors that you mentioned. I don’t blame you for feeling like this and think it says a lot that your bf has a stable job with a good airline and in the world today that is very important and i’m sure he wouldn’t want to jepodise that on a whim!

  5. That’s the thing though Debs, he wouldn’t be jeapordising it… It’s a risk free option to have a career break with full guranteed entitlement to return to the same role, with the same position on the seniority list when he returns!

    If I bring up my eldest son’s age as a reason not to go-it would only serve to irritate him, because he’d feel held back by step children that aren’t actually his… Actually, my career is probably the main factor that concerns me any way, because I’m pretty sure that the experience would only benefit the boys culturally.

    I would probably need to take out an international restraining order against my ex though!

  6. I don’t think you are being selfish at all. It is something mothers think of, especially when you have kids to be concerned with the uprooting a life. I mean, its like we know this is their jobs, this is what they do, but at the same time, they gotta consider the toll it will take on others around them.

  7. Another thing that is bothering me, is that in some of the countries he is applying for work; co-habiting with a partner to whom you are not married is viewed as socially and morally unacceptable. I know that with some airlines made up of ex-pat employees, you ar provided with accommodation by the airline in which to reside-and it is strictly frowned upon to co-habit with anyone with whom you are not married. One of my aquaintances has experienced this first hand with her partner in a pretty cosmopolitan Arabic state.I do not want to live somewhere where I might be ostracised or chastised for ‘living in sin’ or viewed as immoral.

    Yet more food for thought!

  8. So maybe that “frowning on co-habitation” would lead to a ring being placed on your finger 😉 Only joking!

    I can feel for you. What is it about pilots that makes them so selfish in their careers? I feel like I read stories like this over and over. Heck, my boyfriend applied to an airline in china!! Granted I think he just did it to see if they’d call, but still- I don’t want to live in china!!

    That part you mentioned about him feeling held back because of kids that weren’t his… that struck a chord with me. The way I see it- he loves you, and you come with a package. I know it would be hard for him, but he’d have to appreciate that you can’t just change your life (and that of your kids) at the drop of a hat with no discussions or compromise.

    I just hope it all works out for you, whatever you decide. Keep us posted! 🙂

  9. Hey there,

    I don’t think you’re being selfish. After all, you have your children to think about. The only bit of comfort I can give is that in the current job market, he’d be very lucky to find another job at all!

    Best of luck…

  10. Another thing I forgot to write – it’s actually illegal to live together in most middle east countries if you’re not married, not just frowned upon. And for example in Qatar, if you give birth in hospital and aren’t married, you get arrested! It’s crazy, but true…

    Not really very nice out there in many ways, really…

  11. Thanks Elsja! Hey, at this rate we could be neighbours in China-I have a feeling that our men may have applied to one of the same airlines!

    Regarding the whole step-child relationship, he has good days and bad days. Some days he is utterly amazing with them; better than a lot of biological fathers; and other days he really ‘Struggles’ (note the capital S). Whilst I’ve been ill, and he’s been more responsible for their day-to-day care; he has struggled with it more-because of the burden of responsibility being greater.

    As you know, pilot’s err towards the selfish side of the spectrum, and they don’t like to be held back by their wives and girlfriends; (hence his flippant remark about me just taking a career sabbatical) let alone children, and step-children! I guess only time will tell how this one will pan out-but OF COURSE I will keep you posted! LOL! Oh, and I think I’d turn down a ring on my finger if the only reason it were proposed were to scratch a career itch of his-hardly romantic!

  12. Flying High – Thank you for that information-I knew that they were quite restrictive; but I had no idea that they were THAT strict! I know that the job market is pretty static, I wish for your sake it weren’t. I’m not totally against him looking. I just wish I felt more included in this process-rather than him just letting the idea run away with him…

    I know that reality WILL kick in eventually; because he’s not an irrational or unreasonable man; but I just feel like shaking him at the moment-because he clearly hasn’t researched it properly. I think he’s just doing what Elsja’s man is doing; which is clogging up the whole recruitment pot with half-arsed applications that may not even be viable! GRRRR!

    Oh, and a BIG THANK YOU to everyone who has left these comments. I’m very touched that you’ve all taken the time to respond with such useful information, or shared your own personal experiences, or provided me with supportive comments. It really is a big help!

  13. […] I have also been foregoing some of the treats I usually allow myself on a monthly basis, in order to afford to make the most of accompanying Bf on a few ’work’ trips that Bf has. There is just one more long-haul trip I plan to go on with him for the foreseeable future (to the Caribbean) in January; as in March; his time away from home is going to sharply decrease (that was the change in work lifestyle I mentioned before in my post ‘Career Dilemma, Which way to go?‘). […]

  14. I know that the situations are different. Before I left my previous job, a “manager” told us that the job was changing, and that we could leave if we were not happy. The situation is not the same, but it always makes some damage when a company that you like (love ?) gives signs that its not reciprocal…

    Regarding the “grass is greener” syndrom, just wait a bit. You can also leave him search a bit, and discover what the other job could be. If it’s outside the airline industry, he will probably realize how different it is… and not always positively. Does he really want to be that much away from home ? A private-jet-driver I know slept away from home 18 nights over the last month… can an airline guy say so ?

  15. Oh no, I can totally see your point. When you’re a pilot’s wife, your life always flexes around his schedule. It’s frustrating sometimes. And if there is a move involved, he should definitely think of discussing it with you first. But that’s the mentality, unfortunately. “The family life has always revolved around me, so why shouldn’t it now?” But, what he doesn’t understand is that you have built a life and career that fulfill you when he’s gone.

    I’m hoping that it all works out for the best. But no, you’re not selfish!

  16. So, I told him about the ‘being illegal to cohabit without marriage’ thing in the Arab states, and his response?

    “Well, you could probably buy a marriage certificate online!”

    Obviously he was joking, he followed it up with

    “Okay, we’ll scrap that idea, and I’ll look at airlines in countries without those laws”

    How to make me feel great eh?

  17. Partner

    Quite shocked by this post! It’s always been clear to your partner how important your career is to you – and the fact that you have already made sacrifices in the past means that he should be more sensitive to not stinting your career growth further, if anything.

    You say you don’t want to hold him back – but what about holding you back?

  18. Ahh, Bless you Jem… Thank you for your supportive words. In fairness, when I turned down the other job; it wasn’t just for my relationship with Bf… I hated the thought of my childminder (as lovely as she was) raising my children from 7am-7pm every weekday.

    I can’t help wondering how serious he actually is about this. He’s posted applications, and chatted to a few guys from some of these airlines; but he is not looking with the same determination that I know he would if he were very very serious about job-hunting.

    That said, I’m dreading the prospect of any of these airlines getting back to him; then the real drama will begin. Here’s to hoping we hear nothing back

  19. I can understand the childcare thing. It just all sounds a bit – never mind that this potentially ends your career, I’ll send applications anyway. Say he gets an offer and accepts – would he stay if you put your foot down?

    I’m with you, I hope for your sake that this doesn’t become an option, but then the fact that he’s gone ahead and applied against your wishes and feelings – seems a bit ???

    As you said though, if this more of a whim than a serious job hunt then fair enough. I guess it could be a nice ego boost to get a few offers, even if he’s not going to necessarily take one…


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