Whether you travel for work, have family dotted all over the world or you’ve been a serious globe-trotter since the days of your intrepid ‘Gap Year’, however glamorous flying to far-flung destinations might be, there’s nothing quite like coming home.
We caught up with Captain of a major airline and mother to (nearly 3 year old) Kiki, Iris de Kan, about life in the sky as well as scoring her dream farmhouse in the Sussex countryside.
After five minutes of chatting to this bubbly and honest mama, we quickly find out that no matter how exciting a career can be, more often that not it means parenting can be a juggle. Iris chats to us about balancing family life and work, sharing parenting with soon-to-be-husband Eds, and how ‘winging it’ with a toddler is sometimes the only (and best) way!
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR FAMILY…
Eds and I met on Tinder some years ago and now we live on a farm in West Sussex with our 2,5 year old daughter Kiki. I am Dutch and have lived in the UK for 5 years now, Eds is very English. Since I didn’t want to completely give up my career after having Kiki, Eds decided to work from home to make it all work for us as a family. I feel very privileged being able to do what I love while Kiki can stay at home with her father.
WHAT IS THE STORY BEHIND YOUR LITTLE ONE’S NAME?
Kiki is the name of my sister who lives in The Netherlands. We both love her and her name dearly, so when we had to pick a name it was not a very long process. Kiki had her name already when she was still in my belly. Her second name is Willow; easy to bend, but hard to break. Her third Philippa, after Eds’ sister.
WE’D LOVE TO KNOW MORE ABOUT YOUR CAREER AS A PILOT, AND NOW CAPTAIN. HOW DID IT ALL START?
I knew I wanted to be a pilot from the age of 6 and went to flying school straight out of high school. A year of hard core studying in The Netherlands, followed by a year of flying small planes in Portugal. I was very lucky to get a job in Spain straight after I graduated and moved to Sitges near Barcelona, where I lived for two years. I left to work for a Greek company based in Athens, where I stayed for 5 years. I have been with my current (and hopefully final) company in the UK for 5 years now and just became a captain here. A process that was closely followed by the ITV cameras for a documentary on my airline.
FROM THE NETHERLANDS TO PORTUGAL, 2 YEARS IN SPAIN BEFORE 5 IN GREECE AND NOW HAPPILY RENOVATING A GORGEOUS FARMHOUSE IN THE UK, WHAT DO YOU LOVE AND HATE ABOUT RELOCATING WITH YOUR JOB?
I have been so lucky. Many pilots have been, or are, without a job for years and I have thankfully never been without one. That did mean I had to look for work all over Europe and that I had to leave my family behind from quite a young age. It is not always easy living far away from home, but it shapes your character, makes you more independent. All the experiences abroad made me who I am today. When I was younger and didn’t have a family of my own yet, it was easier to pack everything up and move. Now, it would be a lot more complicated and not something I would want for Kiki. Since my company has many bases in Europe, we can choose to live wherever we want now and we decided to stay here in the UK. I want our daughter to grow up in a nice, secure and stable environment. Just like I did growing up.
FAVOURITE THING ABOUT MOTHERHOOD?
Seeing her grow up. Teaching her things, learning from her. She is an incredible bundle of energy. Everything is big with her. Drama, joy, love. Big and intense, but oh so wonderful.
…AND HARDEST THING?
Trying to guide her energy and understanding her. Parenthood is very confrontational and brings out the best and worst in me. She tests me every day and it is my job to be patient, be the adult. With my job come many manuals. Everything I need to know is written down and there are endless checklists. With Kiki, I just need to wing it and have faith in myself. Something that doesn’t always come natural. I try my very best and hope I am doing the right thing. That must be enough, or so I hope.
HOW DO YOU TAKE YOUR COFFEE?
Large cappuccino, skinny milk, extra shot. People at the counter always look a bit concerned when I order it haha
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP TIPS (AND NUMBER ONE ITEM) FOR SURVIVING A LONG HAUL FLIGHT (SOLO)?
Solo it’s easy! If overnight, wash your face, put lots of moisturiser on and drink only still water (and wine of course) Can’t go without one of those neck pillows, very unsexy pressure socks and some natural sleeping pills. For the rest I bring a book, some magazines and my ipad. To be fair, I haven’t been on a solo long haul since I got pregnant with Kiki!
AND WITH KIDDOS?
I did one. It was a disaster. Kiki was about 1,5 and we flew to Abu Dhabi. Under two they don’t have their own seat with many airlines, so we had Kiki on our laps, taking turns. Kiki cried almost the whole way back, I remember I was crying too after some time and Eds and I ended up almost murdering each other. Now she is a bit bigger I would bring books, stickers, a Jetkids bedbox and My Fabulous Story Teller from Lunii (the modern day answer to the good old sony walkman) That little box keeps her occupied for quite some time so a definite must have. Oh and nose spray. Always bring nose spray for your kids!
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU – BUSINESS OR PERSONAL – HEADING INTO SUMMER?
We just got engaged so we have to start thinking about planning a wedding! It won’t be next year but the year after though, since we have enough going on at the moment and are in no big rush; he isn’t going anywhere and neither am I. I have to work full time this summer so that will be a bit of a shock to the system and the family, but I am sure somehow we will manage. If I think too much about all that needs to be done I will drive myself insane, so I take the day as it comes and go from there…
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