Is there any more glamorous-sounding job than a flight attendant – who wouldn’t want to get paid to see the world? But with long, irregular hours, not to mention an ever-changing body clock, it may not be the easiest job to do with a family in tow.
Sydney mum-of-two Kirsten Guard should know – she’s a part-time long-haul flight attendant for Qantas as well as running a wine importation business, Andrew Guard Wine Imports, with husband Andrew. Kirsten, 40, is also mum to Zoe, 7, and Alexander, 3 (and makes pretty spectacular cakes – check out the double-tiered rainbow white chocolate mud cake she made for Zoe’s birthday below and you’ll see what we mean!). We talk to her about travel, early starts and a very funny sleep deprivation moment.
What does a typical week look like?
My weeks vary depending on my flying roster. I go on a four-day trip every two or three weeks. I have recently been endorsed on the A380 aircraft and will fly to Dubai, Los Angeles and Dallas; in the past year I have flown to destinations such as Shanghai, Bangkok, Narita (Tokyo), Johannesburg, Manila, and Singapore.
How do you juggle that with family life?
I’m try to be organised and when my roster comes out every two months, most weeks and days are planned. I fly between a Thursday and Sunday, when Alexander is in daycare, then the weekend so Andrew can manage.
What’s your morning routine?
I wake at 5am most weekdays, and turn on the coffee machine. At 5.15am I do household chores and then work for Andrew Guard Wine Imports from 5.30-6am. I exercise at 6am and then take over breakfast duties/kitchen clean-up and start getting the kids ready for the day ahead. The most stressful part of the day would be between 7.45am and 9am on a school day – like most households I’m sure!
The mornings are the busiest part of the day, I hit the ground running from the moment I get up. It helps to complete the household chores the night before (such as washing/unpacking the dishwasher/making lunches etc), however I normally collapse with exhaustion at night. Not to mention looking forward to a glass of wine!
What’s one thing you said you’d never do as a parent, but now do?
Electronic gadgets in restaurants! Pre-kids, I was adamant our kids would not use them at the table when we were dining in a restaurant. Ha!
What do you wish you’d been told before having kids?
That having kids was like working to Los Angeles and back again and again and again and again with minimal breaks. I thought a 17-hour flying duty was hard enough before having kids but at least there’s a day off afterwards!
What’s the best advice you were given about having kids?
Children have to fit in with our life and how we want to live it, we can’t run after their every whim – easier said than done though.
What advice would you give to parents-to-be?
Having a hangover and looking after kids is torture! On a serious note: be as loving as possible and firm with boundaries – children need both in order to flourish. Oh – and sleep when you can!
How do you stay sane?
Exercise; healthy food; I LOVE flying and that my job takes me overseas regularly. I have the opportunity to have long, uninterrupted meals in silence or with friends without worrying about a babysitter or what time I have to wake up in the morning. I can shop, get a massage or manicure/pedicure. Who would have thought I have to go to work to get a break!
How do you manage a work/life balance?
I plan everything – weekly meals, my exercise routine, children’s activity roster, flying, book-keeping and debt-collecting roster, catching up with friends and family, even dog walking! The only area I fail to plan is relaxation, however I am lucky that I try to do this on my trips away (although recently on a trip to Santiago I did a snow trek in the Andes and explored the city, so sometimes that doesn’t work out!). Andrew and I use Google Calendar so as soon as there is an event, dinner, drinks, children’s birthday party or trip overseas or interstate etcetera, we manage to juggle it by seeing what the other person is doing.
What’s your approach to discipline?
Clarity of goals. I think about how rewarding it is once I’ve successfully achieved my goal.
How do you keep your adult relationships and social life going?
I am constantly on the phone/Skype to my friends and regularly go out to local bars and restaurants with girlfriends. I am lucky to have travel benefits so I can jump on a plane easily with the kids if I feel like visiting family and friends interstate.
What is your best parenting moment so far?
Mainly the small stuff, such as seeing their faces light up when they see me in the morning and the smile on their faces when I kiss them goodnight – I know I’m doing something right!
And your worst?
Leaving our first child Coco (a mini fox terrier) at the shops and not realising until the shopkeeper phoned.
What’s the funniest thing you’ve done when sleep-deprived?
I said to a complete stranger on the telephone, “OK bye, I love you!” before hanging up!
What parenting super power would you like to have?
To never be tired.
What has surprised you most about parenthood?
How much hard work it is and how deeply rewarding it is.
How do you spend time with your family? What are your favourite things to do together?
Andrew and I love food and wine so we like to eat out for lunch with the kids on the weekends. We like to travel as a family overseas at least once a year. Our favourite family destination is Singapore. Domestic travel is as easy as catching a cab for us so I often take the children several times throughout the year to visit family and friends.
What’s the one thing in your nappy bag or home you wouldn’t be without?
Where or from whom do you get support?
When I fly, I rely on Andrew, daycare, and after-school care. Both sets of parents live an hour away and up until last year, worked full-time. The children have a sleepover about once a month if we have a big night planned such as a wedding or dinner, however mostly we have to pay for a babysitter.
We’d love to hear about your life as a mum – let us know your details by filling out the General Enquiries form on our contacts page with the subject line “Secret Lives of Mums”.