Katy Lee

Growing up, like most children, I envisaged the way I saw my life playing out: I’d be an Airline Pilot, married in my early 20s, children in my late 20s, a Captain by 30. The ‘perfect’ life. What everyone wants, right?

Except that isn’t right. I never realised how young I’d still feel in my late 20s, how I didn’t feel like I had my life together. Wondered why all of the adults I looked up to when I was a child seemed so much more ‘together’ and grown up. Of course, now I’ve realised that we’re all really making it up! 

Nothing played out the way I envisaged it; well, except for becoming an Airline Pilot. I’ve done that one and have precisely no regrets. And none of it happened because my perspectives changed. Once I found a career I adored, and continue to adore, the idea of taking a couple of years out to have a child simply didn’t feature on my priorities list, not to mention that I wasn’t in a place within my personal life to consider it anyhow. It’s not uncommon in aviation for female pilots (and we only make up 5% of the UK pilot workforce) to find themselves in no position to have children, owing to the industry standard of paying only statutory minimum maternity pay. When many female pilots who do want a family find themselves as the breadwinner, it’s simply not financially possible to take that income drop. 

Being a single, child-free pilot means I have all the time in the world to travel (or at least I did before Covid…) and make a multitude of memories. I’ve got time to play rugby, rock climb and hold down multiple voluntary roles on top of a full-time career, all of which are hugely rewarding as well as being a challenge. Having completed my MSc in Human Factors in Aviation last year, the opportunities opening up in that sphere are incredibly exciting. More commitments!

Being an Officer with the Air Cadets and a trustee of PilotsTogether (pilotstogether.org), a successful charity set up last year to support pilots struggling in the current climate, are both fulfilling and worthwhile uses of the time that I have to myself. The charity has been an absolute baptism of fire, but I’m thrilled by what we’ve managed to achieve in a short time and the genuine, tangible difference we’ve made to pilots’ lives has been incredibly rewarding. I can’t wait to see what else we manage to achieve. 

Life may not work out the way you imagine it will when you’re young but priorities change, focus shifts and what you want from your life can change too. Despite everything, I’d not have it any other way. 

Follow me on Twitter: @katherinealee

About the author

Lifting the lid on not-mum lives and having a peek inside

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