Thursday, April 21, 2011

389. Before and After

(Recently, my hilarious friend Happy Hour Mama posted a clever piece on her blog called “Then and Now: Not So Different,” about her life in the corporate world before she had kids. Her writing inspired me to do a similar piece about my previous job as a flight attendant.)

I was a flight attendant for a decade before I permanently zipped my empty black rollerbag suitcase closed and shoved it in the way back of the closet, next to the dusty rowing machine. I was hugely pregnant, and The Husband and I had decided for me to be a full-time stay-at-home mom.

Saturated by years of misleading media imagery, my expectations of impending motherhood were a little bit skewed from reality. I thought all my time would be spent cheerfully hugging a laughing baby, or conversely, putting him down for a nap. That’s it. That’s all I knew about my new job I chose.

Turns out, the media was not a good teacher. But United Airlines was.

Before: crew desk calls and wakes me up at 4 AM with assignment for 14-hour international flight
After: baby cries and wakes me up at 4 AM to have bottle and start 14-hour day

Before: go through a grueling training process where I evacuate a simulated burning airplane
After: go through a grueling on-the-job training process where I simulate knowing what I am doing

Before: eat junk food at the airport
After: eat junk food at the drive-thru

Before: complain to other flight attendants that I only got four hours of sleep last night
After: complain to other moms that I only got forty minutes of sleep last night

Before: read everything I could get my hands on to fill the long hours in the airport during delays
After: read everything I could get my hands on about how to get baby to sleep through the night

Before: roll my eyes at passengers with too many carry-on bags
After: carry too many baby bags into the doctor’s office, Starbucks, the park, basically everywhere

Before: clean up passenger vomit
After: clean up baby spit-up

Before: promise passenger I’ll be right back with a pillow, but then forget and do something else
After: promise husband I’ll pick up his dry cleaning, but then forget and do something else

Before: enjoy movies in my free time, especially academy-award winners
After: play movies to get some free time, especially movies starring Elmo or dolphins

Before: distribute passenger meals amidst much complaining about lack of quality or choice
After: feed toddler meals amidst much complaining about lack of quality or choice

Before: make friends with other flight attendants, who I will fly with once and most likely never see again
After: make friends with other moms at the park, who I will meet once and most likely never see again

Before: placate whiny passengers whose luggage was lost
After: placate whiny preschooler whose favorite Hot Wheels car was lost

Before: meticulously plan my month’s schedule of flying only to have it all change due to mechanical delays and snowstorms
After: meticulously plan my week’s schedule of activities only to have it all change due to ear infections and fever

Before: shop for unique items on layovers in exotic cities
After: shop for unique baby toys on excursions to the mall

Before: make announcements on the loudspeaker, announcements about turning off electronic devices or fastening seatbelts—announcements that are ignored
After: make announcements loudly, announcements about turning off the TV or fastening seatbelts—announcements that are ignored

Before: say “Thank you” sincerely while passengers hand me their trash
After: say “Thank you” enthusiastically while toddler hands me his trash

Before: fantasize about two weeks off at a beach in Tahiti
After: fantasize about two hours off while my sister plays with my child in the sandbox

Before: survive on coffee, lots of it
After: survive on coffee, lots of it

Thank you, United Airlines, you did much more than prepare me to be a good flight attendant: you trained me to be a good mom.

("Motherhood:  Overlooked Vocation")


  1. and thank you, flight attendants, for teaching my husband that he can hand me his trash and expect nothing but my utmost appreciation in return. you (and he) are training me for early childhood mommyhood.

  2. Megan,
    Not just empty soda can trash, but also used Kleenex! or bandaids! or airsick bags! I was part flight-attendant, part nurse.

  3. Yet another hilarious post, MOV. As one who is all about free in-flight movies, here's a new take on one of your "before" items:

    Before: Play movies to placate the masses and get some free time on-board.

    Thanks for the chuckles.

  4. Love it! Just goes to show you that motherhood is great training for just about any career you might want to pursue.

  5. Oaktownjen, never thought of that one! how about
    before: ran to catch a flight
    after: ran to catch a toddler

    Le'Ann, you are right, I am immensely qualified for anything (but grossly underpaid--scratch that, I am paid in muddy footprints and sticky hugs. As good a currency as you can get!)


  6. HA! Very funny. Great comparisons! You should let the airline know about the great education they gave you. :-)

  7. maybe they would hire me back? as a trainer?
    MOV :)

  8. I hope it is OK...I had to post this link on my Facebook page. Love the correlations to a life I too once lived!


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