How To Plan Ahead When You’re Married To A Pilot
There is very little in the aviation lifestyle that we have control over or ability to forward plan. However there are some things you can do to reduce the chaos, take back control and bring some order to your life.
AROUND THE HOUSE
When your pilot is home, try and stay ahead of the housework. It can be tempting to want to rest and relax with him when he's home but if you can use that time to try and get more done, it will make life easier when he's away - especially if you have kids.
I'm not suggesting that you should be all work and no play, but if you can keep on top of things when your pilot is home, then at least you won't be trying to play catch up and parent solo when he leaves. Try and do the jobs that can quickly build up, meal preparation and laundry are the two main ones that come to mind.
Although the washing will still build up and meals will still need to be cooked, you will have a stash of clean clothes and meals in the freezer to get you started or to fall back on when everything is going pear shaped, as it inevitably does when you're home alone!
It also means that even though you might feel like you're flat out doing housework, at least while your pilot is home, there is (hopefully) another person around who can help keep the kids distracted and prevent them from destroying another area of the house while you're not watching. It's also much easier to pop to the shops if you've forgotten something or ask your pilot take care of another chore so you're essentially getting twice the work done than if you were home alone.
Even if he might need a little prompting! And let's face it, who doesn't like to sit down in a clean house the first night he's away and binge watch your favourite TV shows that he can't stand!?
FOOD AND MEAL PREP
I am not a great one for meal planning. Not that I don't like it, when I do get around to doing it, I love having all the ingredients I need in the house and can start prepping much earlier in the day because I have a plan. However, I suck at it! Also, you can bet that I'll plan meals and then our plans will change - either because of his work or friends will call us up with short notice and who wants to say no to dinner with friends?
So I have a few sneaky tricks up my sleeve. I'll usually plan 2-3 possible meals for the week so I can have the main ingredients at home (bonus if they're not perishable) and then just see how the week plays out as to what gets cooked when.
I have recently starting using a meal delivery service called You Plate It. This has been fantastic! All the food is delivered on Sunday and is fresh, local produce. The meals are delicious and even the kids love them. I don't have to think about what I'm going to cook and it saves me from shopping with 2 kids when my pilot is away. You Plate It operates out of Perth, Western Australia, however there are a number of other similar services around. Email us if you'd like our $20 off link.
When I do cook, I will try and do a double batch so I can freeze some for easy meals when I need them. Try and remember to label these containers or bags because everything will look and smell the same once it's frozen!
When my pilot is away I try and have the bulk of the evening meal prepared earlier in the day. Dinner time is crazy time in our house. There's homework, after school activities, reading, baths and of course, quality time to spend with the kids as well.
Depending on what the meal is, I will either try and have some or all of it ready to go so at dinner time I just need to add the finishing touches or reheat it. If you're not home during the day then consider doing meal prep, the night before or using something like a slow cooker. I also have a list of quick and easy meals up my sleeve that I can throw together at a moment's notice without needing a trip to the shops.
I can't believe it took me 18 months to figure out that I can prepare a weeks worth (or even a whole term) of lunches at the same time and just put it together on the day it's required! This has a number of benefits - you only have to drag everything out of the fridge and cupboards once, one lot of dishes, and if you're missing anything important, you should be able to head to the shops at a convenient time instead of in a crazy rush on the way to school.
What you decide to put in your lunches is really up to you, I tend to buy lots of thing in bulk and then portion them out into Tupperware containers. This saves money and also allows you to have control over how much of each thing your child eats.
Keep in mind that the more small containers you use, the more dishes you'll have to do, so decide what works better for your family. You can always use disposable packaging if you prefer. Lots of sandwich fillings will freeze well...and some will not!! (Lettuce, for example).
If you have some fillings you want to use that you know don't freeze well, use them for day 1 or 2 and pop the rest in the freezer.
BIRTHDAY PARTIES AND EVENTS - Planning and Attending
If you decide you want your pilot to be present at the event, then it can be very difficult to plan things too far ahead unless they try to take leave.
For very important events, this may be the best solution. Since that's not possible for everything you're going to want to plan, the next best option is to plan as much as you can without locking in dates until the roster is out.
Decide what type of party you'd like to have and what you will need for it to be a success. Consider things like, venue, entertainment, food, gifts for guests etc. Some of these things you can order in advance without needing a date.
For the things that do require a set date, you can liaise with the providers in the lead up to the event to see what their availability is usually like that time of year. Let them know what you're planning and what your restrictions are and you might find they're more than happy to try and help accommodate your needs. Once the roster is out, choose a suitable date and start booking things in.
If you're done all the non time sensitive prep beforehand then hopefully you shouldn't be too frantic trying to finalise the remaining details. On the subject of parties and gifts, also consider having your own gift stash at home.
Think about the types of events you're invited to most often and try and cater for them. If you have children you can probably assume you'll be attending a few parties for children of a similar age. Shop when the sales are on and stock up on suitable gifts then store them away.
Choosing some smaller items means you can put together different combinations to personalise the presents more for each person. If you end up up with gifts that have been hanging around in your stash for a while and you don't see yourself using them in the foreseeable future, consider donating them to goodwill or a Christmas gifting program.
Having a selection of cards, wrapping paper and gift bags also means you can wrap the gift in advance and have it sitting ready for the day of the party. I always find we end up in such a rush trying to get out the door to parties so having the gift wrapped and the card written out is a huge time saver.
If you have a few parties coming up, consider wrapping all the gifts at the same time. Just like the lunches, you only need to pull everything out once and so you can save yourself time and stress. When it comes to events hosted by others, it can often be difficult to RSVP when the invitation arrives, as you may not have the roster yet. You can use our free gift planner printable to help you keep track of upcoming events.
I make a note in my diary of the RSVP date and also on the day the next roster is due to remind me to respond to the invitation. If the roster is due out after the RSVP date, I let the host know about my attendance and that we will advise them as soon as we can about my partner.
FRIENDS AND FAMILY
Friends and family often struggle to understand the idiosyncrasies that come with the aviation lifestyle.
Difficulties planning things in advance (yep, after 10 years with my pilot, my mum still just messaged me in August to ask what we were doing for Christmas), not being able to commit to attending events until very close to the day (if at all depending on the roster), sometimes needing (or cancelling) childcare at very short notice.
These are all things that we start to accept as normal, but to the outside world it can still be a challenge for them. You can help reduce this stress by explaining some of the details to them. Tell them how far in advance you will have the roster to help plan a certain event or even let them know to just book it and accept that the pilot in your life may not be able to attend.
Make sure friends and family know how your leave bidding works. It's no good them announcing a big event like a wedding which you will need to travel for, when your bidding window has just closed.
While is obviously not always possible for them to work their life around you, knowledge is power, so if those closest to you have the information available to them, hopefully it can help them to better understand why you may or may not be able to attend an event.
Again, like the lunches, I can't believe it's taken me so long to realise I could schedule bank transfers. Or I think I knew it, but didn't really think about how I could apply it.
We like to pay our bills on the day they're due as we have an account offset against our mortgage. The longer the money is in our account, the less interest we pay on our house repayments. However by leaving payments to the last day, I was often forgetting or running late. You can always make a note of these due dates in a diary, however using the scheduling feature has been a dream for me.
Once a bill comes in, I pop it in my admin pile and when I have time I sit down and schedule all the payments for the day they're due. This has taken a load of my mind trying to remember and also saved us some late fees.
For school notes try and fill them out and return them to school ASAP. Anything left lying around just causes clutter and is liable to be forgotten when you're trying to wrangle the kids out the door on your own for the fifth day in a row.
USE A PLANNER
I have a paper diary, an Erin Condren Life Planner in case you were wondering (use this link if you would like $10 off your own Erin Condren products), and use that to record all my appointments etc. However, my pilot is not in the habit of looking in my diary and I'm not sure he'd be able to understand half of what I scribble in there anyway. After a few doubled up appointments and misunderstandings about events, we came up with a solution.
While I find calendars are too small for me to be able to fit all the relevant information into a day, I discovered weekly planners. I have created some especially for you that you can access here. I'd suggest trying a few of them out first to see what layout works best for your family.
We have 2 weeks up in the kitchen and everything goes on there. Flying roster times, kids appointments, news and library days, work appointments, after school activities. This means that either of us can see at a glance who is available and what needs to be done for the day. This only takes a few minutes to set up each week and has made a huge difference in our house.
If you're more of a digital person, check out our post on the best Family Organising Apps.
I know you probably laughed when you first read my suggestion to plan ahead, but hopefully now you have a few ideas that will help you stay ahead of the game to make life as the partner of a pilot a little more streamlined and feel like you have some control over your days.
Let us know if you have any great tips for planning ahead!