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Suzanne Power: Those flying visits are no fun for the family

The combination of both recession and a globalised economy has led to a lot of families relying on Ryanair to see each other.

The Ryanair parent leaves his or her children at a boarding gate to go to a different country. The Ryanair parent deals with the realities of being separated from everything they love simply so they can provide for those they live separately from.

You'll spot them at airports. We used to be that family so I know exactly what they're going through. For 2006/7, we lived separately as he took a job in Oxford to try to help us improve our circumstances. I was left with four-year-old twins to bring up. We had two major bereavements in that same year. A dark horrible time brightened only by the fair heads of our boys. Their ability to adjust was so much better than mine was at the time.

On a Friday evening the Ryanair parent gets off a flight and comes through security to meet a family which doesn't rush instinctively to greet them. Separation for economic reasons has emotional results. The children don't react with volcanic displays of affection. They run forward still but the hugs and kisses are matter of fact. The parent whose job it is to rear the children is often not demonstrative at all. I know I wasn't after a while -- too worn down by cares to care and too tense to let go and be affectionate.

Picking someone up at an airport regularly makes these places lose their novelty. My Ryanair babies stopped asking could they put money in the machine to pay for the carpark. "The queue gets too big when we do it. We're too slow," one of them told me.

While the Friday trips to the airport were still exciting, the Sunday afternoon trips back were hellish. The children were unusually quiet and sometimes complained about having to go.

"Can Daddy not go on his own?"

"No, we don't have anyone to drop him or anyone to mind you." I replied with the same monotone I used for an entire year.

By the fourth or fifth month the parents on pick up could be picked out at the airport. I got to know one of them and we swapped stories. Her husband sometimes didn't make it back at weekends if business was bad. One weekend he couldn't make it and she didn't get the message.

I watched her march the children from the arrivals area after she phoned to see if he was coming through passport control. He wasn't coming at all. The two teenagers were silent and the three younger ones cried.

I swore then that my children's father, a man I didn't know if I was going to be able to say I loved, was coming back to live with us. We were on the breadline as a result, but it was better than being apart.

I never want to go through Sunday nights like the ones we had then. It took all my courage to speak to a Ryanair family three weeks ago at an airport one Sunday. The dad was heading for a London construction site, the mother for a nervous breakdown. I walked up to them and told them that we had been in the same situation five years ago and we did get through it.

He walked through with the friends I was dropping off. They invited him to their flat for some food during the lonely week. I held her baby while she fished for change and her toddler fed it into the carpark ticket machine. I felt I was meeting myself not long ago and comforting the woman I once was.

When I got back home I hugged the breath out of my children.


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