(Not) Home for the Holidays

A nurse, an airline pilot, and a firefighter talk about their experiences being away from home for the holidays.

Article by Shannon Hofer-Pottala

Photography by Denise Bachman, Donna Voye, and Shelley Kay

Originally published in Eagan City Lifestyle


Occupation: Nurse of 30 years

What's the most rewarding part of being a nurse?

I'm an OB nurse. Birth is such an incredible miracle to be a part of. Every birth is a miracle, every time. It's so rewarding to see life coming into the world.

Have you ever had to miss an important holiday or event due to work?

Yes. I worked nights for many years so I could have the daytime with my kids. As I got older, I needed more flexibility, so daytime became a priority to work for me so I could be home in the evenings with my kids. It's definitely hard to miss family times, but I know I was there to help people and my family would be there for me.

What is your favorite holiday tradition?

I have 4 daughters. We have our own little Christmas breakfast, just me and my girls. That's something I always look forward to, having them all under the same roof again and all to myself.


Occupation: Airline pilot of 21 years

Have you ever had to miss an important holiday or event due to work?

I have. When I was first starting my career, I was going to be gone for Christmas because I had an overnight in Washington, D.C., so my wife flew out on Christmas day to meet me. It was great. Then I flew out the day after to Boston and back while she stayed in D.C. and we got to spend that night together as well. That was cool even though we weren't at home.

Another time, I was supposed to be home on the morning of Christmas. We found out we were going to be delayed by 3 or 4 hours; I missed my connecting flight and we got home at 11pm. I was home for the last hour of Christmas, but at least I made it.

What is your favorite part about the holiday season?

Time with family, even if you can't spend time together on the actual holiday. When you get home from traveling and you're with your family and friends, it's the best. The rewarding part about flying during the holidays is that you're bringing people to see their family and friends, too. Whether you're traveling to see your loved ones or traveling home, that's what it's all about. It's nice to play a part in bringing people together.


Occupation: Firefighter of 15 years

What is something you wish more people knew about being a firefighter?

Most of the time you go on a call, and someone's impacted by something that's happened. A lot of times, people don't realize that we are also impacted. Mental health and the right coping mechanisms are extremely important and prevalent in fire service right now. 

Have you ever had to miss an important holiday or event due to work?

Yes. It's tough. I have an understanding spouse—they're the unsung heroes in all of it. They have to be a single parent 33.3% of the year because that's how much we work. I take advantage of those days I am with my family. We make memories. I've tried to reflect recently on how fast my kids are growing up and how fast life is happening and seize the day. 

What is your favorite winter activity?

I love going snowmobiling and ice fishing. My wife and I also try to make a trip to Lutsen every year to go snowboarding. 

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