These are unprecedented times for most of us but imagine if both you and your spouse were pilots and you have three children to raise. Airside spoke to Marco and Carmen, a couple who are both pilots and parents of three kids, about the challenges and opportunities of being parents and pilots during Covid-19.
Marco: We are a Spanish and at the same time a multicultural family. We come from Madrid, Zamora and Barcelona and we are currently living in Granada in Spain. At the moment, both Carmen and I are Airside A320 Captains at Vueling Airlines
I have flown the Airbus A320 in short and medium haul in different Spanish and international companies in Europe and Asia during the last 25 years. I have also flown in different types of operations such as regular passenger and charter flights. As part of my professional career, I have also included training and I am currently a TRI and TRE Instructor for the Airbus A320, collaborating with CAE at CAE Barcelona.
Carmen: I have also flown in several European companies of different types. In charter companies, I flew aircraft such as the Boeing 747-200 in long haul (An old generation of aircraft operating in Europe, America and Asia) and the Boeing 737-300 in short haul. With the sector adaptation to newer models, I moved to the Airbus family and to fly the Airbus A330 and the A320. Like Marcos, I have also focused my professional career on training, currently being TRI and TRE of the Airside A320 and collaborating with CAE at CAE Barcelona.
Carmen: Commercial aviation is synonymous with mobility and connectivity. There is a need for people to move, travel, meet, explore new destinations, connect people with people and places. COVID-19 has limited it at its finest, we all went into a lockdown. Our work disappeared as such, it is very fragile. However, the need for mobility continues and will continue to exist, it is part of human nature. Aviation will adapt as it has always done in previous crisis, just as it happened with the birth of low-cost life. You must adapt, establish new work and action protocols and keep flying.
Carmen: Yes, we spent a few weeks grounded although we also flown some flights during the months of lockdown. Right now, we feel we are in a critical moment, depending on the government decisions and the arrival of a vaccine. We are concerned that during this winter we may continue to have some periods grounded.
Marco: Since we work long hours away from home, we are unable to return immediately if there is an emergency. This generates some stress that we have to manage to avoid it affecting our work. We also know when we start work but we don’t always know when we finish and that makes difficult to schedule our family time sometimes.
Carmen: Our daily challenge is to raise our children in a healthy lifestyle. And although we are not always at home or at every football match or theater function with them, they should not feel as though they are missing out because their parents are pilots. This is only one facet of our family life. We as parents should not feel guilty either, we are part of a society that is too demanding sometimes. Finding the balance between ones professional career and family life, although it can be done, it is indeed truly complicated when working in aviation).
Carmen: Today, children have incredible busy schedules. School day, extracurricular activities, sports, languages, friends' birthdays, excursions, meetings with friends… And like many other parents with any jobs, sometimes the daily shifts are very long. Our problem as pilots is that we have to coordinate these activities months in advance, and sometimes our work comes with a lot of uncertainty. You don't always get home on the day or time you had to arrive. We adapt day by day, there are always changes in life!
Covid-19 adds to the complexity of everyday life like never before. For example, we have to establish protocols for when our kids go to school and return home. One of us has to be home at that time, but it’s not easy getting days off to accommodate that schedule since we need to request time off with one or two months of notice. If a child needs to quarantine, there is no warning.
Even with both of us being instructors, our teaching experience in aviation cannot be applied to children. We’ve had to learn new ways to teach them and help them with their homework since the psychology of a child is totally different from that of an adult. And, of course a parent is not a teacher for his/her own kids. They like to learn from us, but not in the way they would do at school.
Marco: Surprisingly, the current situation has brought several opportunities to the forefront. To begin, let’s start with saying the obvious that we love our work. As pilots, we get to meet many, many people throughout the world, so life is never monotonous. Also, our profession allows our family to have a broader and enriching view of the world due to the possibilities that travel gives and the experiences we get to live.
Carmen: On the other hand, the situation of compulsory confinement of almost 7 months, although it has been complicated to manage, has allowed us to be together, as a family, a long and precious time without work interference, which otherwise would not have happened. When the confinement ended, they asked one of the children what had been the best and the worst of the confinement at home, his answer: “the worst I could not play football with my friends, and the best thing that I got to spend time with my parents each day.
It’s also a good time to rethink priorities and reinvent education
The current situation has made many people slow down, and given them the time to think about what’s most important to them. We have a sharper focus on what really matters most in life, both personally and professionally. While being away from the kids is not always easy, technology allows us to stay in touch. For example, we look for downtime in airports or hotels to communicate with our children and help them with any needs that may arise.
We must see the problem of Covid-19 as an opportunity to reinvent traditional education, focusing on the role of teachers and parents. Technology is a very important vehicle to change the system, but without forgetting the human part and social relationships, which are the most important by nature.
On the other hand, the educational system must be able to take on the teaching of the child at home, but this must not imply additional work on the parents either financially or in schedule time. Or a loss of schooling for children.
Carmen: Being a pilot is a vocational career. While aviation has changed a lot in recent years, the model of the family and of society in general has also changed. Currently, parents need the support of the extended family (dear grandparents ...) to take care of our children and this is no different in aviation. It may be a bit more complex, but it is a matter of defining different priorities throughout life, both personal and professional, in order to fit the puzzle of a professional career, with life as a couple and the desire to have children. In this last aspect, women have it a little more difficult because it implies being ""grounded"" for a season in a forced way, stopping the professional career. Although nowadays, in almost all companies’ procedures have been established, so that it supposes the least possible professional impact. Nobody should give up their vocation, because there is always a formula to do it, you just have to look at it from a different angle. There are different paths that lead to the same destination.
Regarding the current situation of being grounded, it can provide us with opportunities otherwise in our vortex of rapid life and change we would not have seen or had.
Parents are among the unsung heroes of this crisis. They have adapted their households and juggled work, children’s schooling and other household needs. To help parents in these demanding times, the World Health Organization recently rolled out content for children and their parents on their website. In addition to downloadable parenting tips, the site includes entertaining and informative videos such as “Wash Your Hands With Peppa Pig” and the books, “Read the World” as well as “My Hero is You: How kids can fight COVID-19!”
Together, we will come out of this pandemic a stronger, more resilient global community. In the meantime, check out the WHO site for parents by visiting: https://www.who.int/campaigns/connecting-the-world-to-combat-coronavirus/healthyathome/healthyathome---healthy-parenting
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