Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Stressors on Pilot Wives- Who's not an expert?

I was very happy to visit my local library to pick up my long awaited copy of “The Sources of Stress on the Wives of Commercial Airline Pilots”, published in Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine, April 1985. Because of the age of the study (24 years), I was curious to see if the stressors then were the same as what I perceive as stressors now. Sadly, they are similar.

The study was done by British researchers on wives of members of the British Airline Pilots Association. Sixty percent of the pilots were employed with British Airways and just over half of the pilots were Captains. The purpose of the study was to asses the impact of the pilot’s job on the personal and life satisfaction of his wife.

Then, as now, the number one stressor was “domestic role overload”. No surprise there. Feeling like a one parent family, difficulty involving husband in this he has missed and feeling rejection and upset when husband is tired all made the list. “Fear of Husband’s Job Loss” came in second on the list. “Threats to Marital Relationship”, “Distance from Husband’s Career”, and “Job’s Impact on Social Life” rounded out the 5 major factors. Looking at any pilot wife forum today, these five topics come up repeatedly.

Surprising to me, lack of communication during time away was not mentioned in the survey. I would have expected that in the time before things like cell phones, instant messaging and skype that communication would have been very limited and that would be a stressor for wives as well. With modern communication, it is much easier and cheaper to stay in touch and involved.

Researchers also found that working wives were less vulnerable to the stress and life dissatisfaction than full- time housewives. They hypothesize that pursuing one’s own career achievements is seen as a positive source of personal and life satisfaction that counters some of the negative aspects of being a pilot wife. They also found that wives of pilots who work for smaller airlines experienced more dissatisfaction than those of pilots of larger airlines. This was linked to the work demands and schedules of smaller airlines where were less regular and more changeable and thus more disruptive to family life.

The overall conclusion was “it would appear that the wife of a pilot most at risk of personal and life dissatisfaction is a full-time housewife who feels that her husband’s job places undue strains on her in terms of her domestic role without the compensations of a satisfactory social life. This may be exacerbated by the fact that her husband may be working for a small airline and that the industry may be contracting, placing her husband at risk of job loss.”

If you want to read the article yourself, any librarian should be able to help you special order it based on the citation I gave at the top of the post.

14 comments:

Nicole said...

It sounds very interesting to me! Please forward along a copy...I'm pretty sure you've got my email already.

Flying High said...

I think I'll resist pointing out to those researchers that they clearly come from the Ministry of the Bleedin' Obvious! Still, it's nice to know someone actually bothered to do some research into our lives, eh...

Dr. S said...

Wow, exactly what I am experiencing right now! My husband is a pilot and stays at places for weeks at a time only coming home for a day or two. Right now he is New Orleans for 4 days. Hard to swallow sometimes when he is at the Mardi Gras and getting paid while I stay at home and do everything including raise our 5yr old son with autism. I WANT A VACATION!!! Could you please send me a copy of the article?

Someday said...

As a reminder- I need to have an email address in order for me to send out the study. Please use the email address near the top right of this page. Thanks

Anonymous said...
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Dawn said...

Could you please e-mail me this article. ChelsMitch@yahoo.com and my name is Dawn. My hubby just went back to the airlines after being on active duty for 2 1/2 years. On top of it he is in training for 6 weeks and only home 1 day. And I have 2 kids now instead of one. I am so not liking this! I miss him so much. It is nice to know I am not alone. I am so depressed and need to snap out of it. I did this for 4 years when my son now 6 1/2 was little. Why am I wimping out now:)

Denise A said...

I would love a copy of that also...mommyalti@yahoo.com.

Maribel said...

My hubby is a airline pilot & I sometimes like it when he is away ! 5 or 10 days is sometimes long but we have always had a long distance relationship until we finally moved in with each other & its the same thing still I am used to it we don't have any kids ! I think that is good for us . I am independent & have my own life I support him 100% , I do miss him but at the same time its his career you either deal with it in a mature way or you don't ... I am postive most of the time & enjoy the perks of flying for free !

Jamie Willow said...

I'd like to read the article as well. jwillowb@yahoo.com

thanks!

Elenor said...

Definitely send me this elenorbg@live.com. My partner just merged with BA from BMI. WOW! The lack of sleep, tired, stress ..my social life/work life started to suffer! I ended up going away for 3 weeks so that he could sleep and get some rest.

My 2 year old boy needed some space to be able to be a 2 year old. ..rather than me having to keep him quiet so that daddy could study/sleep/rest!!

My friends all think having a pilot husband is fabulous! no one seems to understand the impact of this industry on a young families life.

Anonymous said...

It's amazing how much God and love have to play a factor in staying a pilots wife. It's hard on days u hvent seen or heard from them. The lack of communication can really take its toll on a marriage. My husband loves to fly, loves to have friends, has two other jobs. He is a dive instructor and also a volunteer fire fighter. He loves to ride his motor cycle. With all these active interests it doesn't seem like our relationship can work but it does. I'm a nurse so I understand that his career is essential to who he is. But when I need time with him I make him stop everything and come with me for a fun filled afternoon. But if he is gone working then I hop a plane to find him. It's not easy but it's our life. No kids yet so it's easy to go find him when I miss him. I always try to find the love and happiness an not dwell on the bad. It seems to work. Along with my prayer journal. It has helped me the most in letting him be him and not holding him back.

Anonymous said...

It's very easy and very nice when you don't have children. We have a 4 month old and I always loved that my husband was a pilot until now. I mean I still love it but I hate him being away from us allllll the time. Its very hard when I am the one left to do everything and he is gone 4-9 days at a time and then only gets 2 days off. Not easy. Like I said very fun and not very hard if you don't have children but I could never ask him to quit because its his passion, unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

I have been married to my pilot husband for 7 years now and I am terrified to have any children as he is away all the time. I am not very happy being on my own in the house. We have lived in 4 different countries within the past 2 years with no sign of a permanent job. :(

Unknown said...

THIS is me! Any advice would be helpful! I am struggling with resentment. I am the "full time mother who feels like like a single mom" that was described.