The ‘One Day At Home Effect’- What Flight Attendants Do on Their One Day Off
“So, what’s your schedule like?”
The question every flight attendant dreads, but is inevitable when meeting new people. Today we’re tackling an aspect of flight attendant schedules not often talked about—the ‘One Day at Home Effect’. This is what time off looks like when a flight attendant has only one day at home.
It is probably not surprising that flight attendants are away from home a lot. Being away is a big part of the gig. But sometimes our “away” periods can stretch longer than just a work trip. Some of us commute to work from other states. We fly in, stack a bunch of trips, and fly home two weeks later. Some of us go from a work trip to a vacation without ever stopping home first. Or we visit family on our days off between trips. Or we are in long distance relationship and find ourselves flying to see our partner on days off. Flight attendants tend to be people who are on the go a lot. And despite the flexible schedule and having plenty of time off each month, that does not always equate to time at home.
I knew this of course, but it really hit me the other day. Last Tuesday, to be precise. Despite having several days off (certainly more than the average Joe), I found myself with only one full day at home in a two-week span. And what do you do when you only have one day at home in the middle of weeks away?
Everything. Or, at least you try.
This is such a common theme for flight attendants. Long stretches on the road, followed by 1-2 days at home. Somehow in those short days, you’ve got to get everything done.
Think about it; all the little maintenance things at home—a burnt out lightbulb, washing the windows, getting the gutters cleaned. Then there are the in-person appointments—the doctors, the dentists, the laser hair removal, the accountant. There are the errands—the groceries, the Target runs, the returns, the bank. There is the gym you pay for but are hardly ever home to use. There are kids, pets, family, and friends who need and deserve attention. And then, of course, there’s the sleep you’d like to catch up on, in your own bed.
Normal people and families (Read: Non-aviation, people with ‘normal’ schedules) can chip away at these tasks little by little throughout the week. But when you’re a flight attendant, and especially a single one living alone, it can feel like every task and every chore is now or never.
To creative work, house work, rest, or socialize... THAT is the question.
To demonstrate this to you all, I’m going to document last Tuesday’s One Day at Home. It was the quintessential flight attendant day off, full of twists and turns, time-sucks and pressure, highs and lows, work and play. I’m going in chronological order, so you can feel how it felt moving through this short but busy day, from wake-up to bedtime.
I know this day will resonate with many of my aviation brothers and sisters out there. For you regular folks, I’d love to hear what you think. Are you feeling the same pressure, just every day? Are your work days so busy throughout the week that every weekend feels like my Tuesday? Let us know at the end, in the comments.
Without further ado, here goes. Buckle up, time is flying by.
The One Day At Home Effect,
How Flight Attendants Spend Their One Day Off
to your phone ringing. It’s the energy professional here to do the audit of your home’s energy efficiency that you scheduled months ago and have since completely forgotten about.
Get dressed as quickly as possible to let this stranger into your home before you’ve had coffee or time to pee.
Check your phone on the way down the stairs and find frantic text messages from your tenant and downstairs neighbor, timestamped at 3 and 5am.
“There’s a literal bat in my room.”
“Wildlife services said they were sending someone but that was hours ago and they never showed.”
The day is getting off to a nice start.
While the service provider is assessing the energy efficiency of your 100-year old house—which has no insulation whatsoever, by the way—you go downstairs to assess the bat situation.
You get the scoop on the bat that apparently climbed in through a crack in a window and caused terror to the tenant, flying in panicked circles around the bedroom.
“Is it still here? I can call a pest control company to come out,” you offer.
But he says he thinks the winged creepy creature may have flown back out. You think it’s unlikely, but tell him to get in touch right away if he sees any sign of it.
Back to the energy audit, going surprisingly well. You’ll be getting new insulation in the whole house, from basement to attic, and you’ll even have some assistance from the state to help pay for it. Score!
The gentleman doing the assessment, who was kind enough to not act annoyed that you missed his first call and made him wait outside for 10 minutes, installs a new thermostat, gives some instruction, and leaves the premises.
It is 9 am.
Should we work on the basement project we’re in the middle of? Try to get the last two walls painted before leaving again for work tomorrow? Tackle the monstrosity that is the front yard? Hit the gym and get your money’s worth on this *ONE* day in two weeks you’ll be able to use it? Take on the back yard—so overgrown with weeds it looks like the set of Jurassic Park? Must we do laundry—as we seem to do on every single day off? The grocery store? Surely there’s no food in this place. Should I pay some bills or make a budget?
When flight attendants have only one day at home, this is the kind of hamster wheel we have to run on before actually doing anything. The frustrating fact (that most of us try to ignore or hack our way out of) is that everything cannot be done in one day. It’s impossible. What is the best use of my time? Is a question that sleepy flight attendants all over the world find themselves asking on their first and only day off.
I don’t know about the rest of my coworkers, but for me this process in itself—the deciding—can eat into a huge chunk of my precious time. Last Tuesday, though, it was easy. My front yard, which is actually just two thin strips of earth on either side of my paved driveway, looked like absolute trash. It had been looking like trash ever since the snow melted and the wind blew some of the mulch away, revealing the liner underneath Then the pine needles fell in soft burnt-brown beds on top of the black mulch. And then Spring sprung and the weeds grew like, well, weeds.
Truth be told, I had been putting off this little project for weeks, if not more. I could have done it on previous days off or a month ago, but I pushed it down the priority list because I hate doing yard work. Knowing I would be gone another full week, that if I didn’t act today, these killer weeds might go on growing, and the front of my house would continue looking like a hot mess until potentially mid-June made my decision clear. I had to make my one day a yard day. Great.
Before I could overthink any more of the day away, I got into my car and headed for the mecca: Lowe’s Home Improvement. New mulch was purchased, as well as two new Salvia plants, a fan, and an extension cord. Next was the grocery store. I thought about “just running out later for groceries”, when I went to the gym. But that seemed like a recipe for disappointment. I admitted to myself it was unlikely I’d be able to pull this project off in time to get cleaned up and head back out for a gym class. So, to the grocery store we went, for a very quick shopping run.
The mecca: Lowe's Garden Center
Groceries stocked, mulch bought, and iced coffee in hand, I set out to tackle my task.
Truth be told, the yard work wasn’t so bad. I weeded, I planted, I mulched, all the while listening to a podcast or a Marco Polo with a friend. (Have you guys not downloaded the Marco Polo App yet? Go do it now! Your chores will be less shitty and your friendships will grow stronger.)
I got into a groove, ignored the fact that the weeds I was pulling would just grow back in a couple of weeks. I enjoyed the sun on my skin and the progress being made. And at the end, the front “yard” looked really freaking nice.
It is 5:30 pm.
The biggest task for the day has been completed, and although many other projects remain—the back yard, the basement paint job, the laundry, the bills—you feel satisfied with a job well done. The day is not over yet, though.
In a flight attendant’s one day off, we also must try to nurture our social lives.
Hop in the shower and scrub those dirt-filled fingernails. We’re going on a date.
This “social life” stuff is something I have been trying to make more of an effort for lately. I’m good about keeping in touch with the friends I have, but they all live far away. Virtual contact is a great substitute when in-person isn’t possible, but I want some local friends. Some IRL fun.
I realized a while back that, while I’ve lived in tiny Rhode Island for a year and a half now, I haven’t given it a fair shake. I haven’t gone out of my way to meet people—friends or potential partners. Haven’t found as many cool spots as I thought I would have by now. I haven’t found community. But I wasn’t looking for it. Not really.
I went into the purchase of my first house with investment on my mind, not settling down, not “home.” And even though I still feel like this probably won’t be my forever place, why should that stop me from making the most of it now, while I’m here?
I’ve decided to try. I’m trying to meet people.
And on this one day at home in between 14 days on the road, the person I met was a date, and it was at a *F I R E* noodle restaurant I’ll have to recommend someday.
Delicious food, good conversation, a nice walk on a gorgeous evening.
Work productivity and social productivity in the same day. You. Are. Winning.
It’s 9:30 pm.
Lucky for you, your trip tomorrow starts in the afternoon, leaving you time in the morning to pack all your belongings for seven more days on the road. Tonight, you can just relax, bask in the glory of a day well spent, and get a good night’s sleep for once in your life. You scrolly-scroll and chit-chat until it’s not an early bedtime anymore, but still leave plenty of room for the 8-hour minimum rest you’re seeking. (You listened to this episode of the Ted Radio Hour podcast about sleep and are really into getting it now.)
Finally, you shut your stupid phone off, turn down the lights, and drift away to dreamland.
Except instead of falling asleep, you are awakened by your tenant’s text.
“I found the bat. I think he’s alive.”
It is midnight.
Light on, covers off. You get your stupid clothes back on and try to think of the appropriate tools to handle a bat emergency. You haven’t trained for this in flight attendant school. A broom? A box? A paper bag?
You head downstairs, and indeed do find the bat. A little guy, who’d fit in the palm of your hand if you didn’t mind the risk of getting rabies. He was fuzzy and brown, though I only saw him for brief moments when I ever-so-gently pulled back the curtain in which he was nestled.
There is much debate over what to do. And this debate is just you debating yourself because you’re too scared to attempt a BAT removal. Eventually though, you settle on a plan, you psych yourself up, and it happens. You gingerly lift the curtain rod off its brackets. Making the smoothest, gentlest motions you can muster so as not to wake the creature, you step down from the bench you’re standing on, and walk slowly to the window you’ve opened on the opposite wall. You’ll slowly lower the curtain rod until you can push it through the window frame, and when all of it is outside, you’ll slam the window shut.
The bat flies away, you are a hero, and you make your way back up to your own apartment, thinking over and over “I cannot believe the things I have had to do.”
People, I really can not believe the things I have had to do.
It is 1am.
You Marco your bestie to tell her what happened. Do one more goodnight pee, lest you wake up in the middle of the night to go, and finally, happily, it’s bedtime.
Marco Polo is a video messaging app that keeps you connected with friends and makes the busiest or boring-est days off feel nicer.
The next morning you hit the gym, pack your suitcase, meal prep, and water your plants. Then you head off to work and another week of being away from home.
It’s hard not to think about the projects left unfinished that will be piling up for your next return, but you pat yourself on the back for doing the best you could do. A successful one day at home.
Flight attendants—does this sum up how you feel about your 1-2 days off? Do you intentionally build long stretches of time off into your schedule to combat this? And if so, does it ever really feel like enough time?
My bestie Rachel and I remark to one another regularly, “I just need one more day at home.” It feels like this when we have one day off or when we have seven days off. Somehow, we think just one more 24-hour stretch could be the key to making it all work. Whether that’s reality is, of course, debatable.
It gets complicated. Looking at your schedule and seeing a big block of time off, and still not being able to finish everything on your to-do list. Part of the struggle is having to use those days for travel to and from work, for friends’ gatherings, for helping family out, for weddings and showers and girls’ trips and summer barbecues or weekends on the lake. The time slips through your fingertips before the month has even begun.
This is what makes it so hard for flight attendants to want to commit to things in advance. To give up those very precious days at home to be somewhere else, even when that somewhere is a lot of fun. It might be one of the things that makes relationships difficult, though I’m no expert in this area.
Even having this much fun on your time away doesn't combat the One Day at Home Effect.
Time is one of the things that we never have enough of. And because of this, we can place a lot of pressure on ourselves to “make the most of it.” Whether that looks like pushing yourself to complete every single task on your list, ignoring the list completely to soak in as much fun as possible in the short time off with family and friends, or convincing yourself that you’re superhuman and can do it all—suffering guilt, shame, or disappointment when it turns out to be impossible.
I’m sure this is true for regular folks just as much as aviation professionals. But I have found this pressure of the “one day at home” for people on the go to be a common, universal theme. I would love to hear from all of you—flight attendants and 9-5ers—about your time troubles, and more so, what you do to get through them.
If nothing else, I want this post to highlight the very real struggle we’re all going through.
Give grace to the person in your life who is struggling to get it all done, despite having what looks like a very open schedule. And flight attendants, try to be a little nicer to yourselves on your one day off. Make the most of it, sure, but know the truth. It can’t all be done in a day.
Perhaps the most important thing for all of us to remember is this: Life does not start after your list is completed. It is happening now, in every mundane moment. Schedule fun and rest like you schedule productivity. And try to make the most of it all by enjoying the ride.
Here’s hoping you all have a million amazing days off this summer. And if you only have a few, here’s hoping you squeeze as much joy out of them as possible—even when doing yard work.
Thanks for stopping by, I’ll catch you guys soon.
Hey you, yes you! Thanks for stopping by.
I’m Toni, and I run the show here at A Wheel in the Sky. Here we talk all things flight attendant life and travel, with a healthy dose of introspection and too-personal anecdotes sprinkled in. I hope you enjoyed this post about The One Day at Home Effect, or what one day off looks like for flight attendants. If you’d like to check out more flight attendant content, I’ve included some links below that are good starter posts. I’ll also link some time management/personal development posts that are in the wheelhouse (see what I did there?) of this one. Please consider subscribing to stay up to date with all the latest travel and flight attendant content. I post every other Thursday, like clockwork.
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