G550 International Captain shares her experience with motherhood and flying during a pandemic
Hello to my fellow aviators, mothers, and care givers!
As I sit here writing this letter, I am watching my now 9-month old son, Bowen, play with his “Sofie the Giraffe” and drool all over my once-pristine couch. Ah, the joys of teething! Don’t get me wrong, I love my baby boy and motherhood has been one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences of my life. However, being a new mother in the age of Covid has been less than desirable for many reasons.
First, let me give you a bit of background. I do not come from an aviation family. Many of my friends have a parent, or both parents, and grandparents, that “got them into” flying. Not me. I grew up very close to a small airport in New Jersey and decided to take an intro lesson one day after high school. I caught the bug for sure, and to my parents’ dismay I continued to pursue the very-expensive hobby of learning how to fly airplanes. I soloed at 16, and got my PPL just before heading off to college.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to fly professionally just yet. A friend of mine warned me, “There’s a big difference between being a pilot and flying.” I’ve come to learn that statement is very true. During my four years, I learned a lot about the industry by taking an internship at a corporate flight department. With my CFI and Multi-engine rating in hand, I graduated from The Ohio State University, having majored in Aviation and Economics. I then joined a small regional airline based in Denver, Colorado, packed my bags, and started my career as a professional pilot.
After several years flying a Beech 1900 in Denver, I moved around a lot to several different corporate flight departments. I finally landed in California, where I currently am an International Captain flying a Gulfstream 550. I can honestly say I love my job. I love flying, I love the destinations, I love the corporate pilot lifestyle.
When I became pregnant, I was excited but nervous about the impact it would have on my career. However, being in corporate aviation allowed me the opportunity to continue working all the way to about 3 weeks prior to my due date, but in a non-flying role. I mostly did scheduling, dispatch, and administrative functions to support the department during my third trimester. Although I was excited to spend a few months at home with my new baby, I was also excited to get back in the air! I anticipated coming back to work in May 2020, giving me about 5 months to spend at home with Bowen.
Then, Covid-19 happened…
I found myself becoming a stay-at-home mom when, honestly, that was never in my plan! Although I have been lucky enough to maintain my employment (so far) throughout this pandemic, the flying just…stopped. I went from being a successful, ambitious, busy, and proficient pilot, flying all over the world, to a mother, and seemingly nothing else. I lost my sense of self, not just professionally, but personally. I did not realize how much my profession impacted my sense of worth or value. Let’s not forget, this is all happening in the tornado of hormones that is post-partum and breastfeeding!
So what have I learned from this process? How can I help other women going through a similar situation? How do we get through this?
Whether you just had a baby, or are pregnant, or care for young children and suddenly find yourself not flying, maybe unsure when or if you’ll fly again, I say to you:
You are not alone.
I have had to re-evaluate myself, my goals, and my vision for the future. Sometimes I still grieve my previous life, when I was flying to Spain one week, maybe Australia the next, in just an absolutely gorgeous piece of machinery without having to worry about who might mess up my kid’s nap schedule or feed him the wrong things. Sometimes I wish for a long overnight, so I can sleep in, take a hot shower, and order room service.
I, for one, choose to believe that we will get through this crazy time in aviation, and in our history. We will fly again. As for my son, he will grow up seeing his mom work in a job that she loves. He will get to spend quality time with his Dad, who is the most supportive man I have ever met. Still, I must keep reminding myself, that the house will not be clean when I get home, and Bo might be off his nap schedule, but all those things can be remedied.
I’m not sure if my story or my personal struggles will relate or help anyone, but I hope it does. Aviation is a passion, one that does not disappear all because we have children. We can have both, and I hope you all fight like hell to have both.
Christina (Friend of Hera Aviation Group)