Even for a FIFO survivor, the shit does hit the fan sometimes!

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Hi! I'm Sandy (although lots of people call me 'Auntie') and my husband works offshore in oil/gas. We've been together for 30years, many of them as a fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) family. In that time we've raised two daughters (both now at uni) and moved more than 19 times! I wanted to write for Mining Family Matters to show you can survive FIFO.


Sometimes I think I am true master - a master of deception, or that people are seeing my life through rose-tinted glasses. I convey a perfect balance in this lifestyle. Not always true!

I love this lifestyle and it has been positive for us, but there are two sides to the story. Yes I do have down days. Over the years there have been struggles, but I am not sure whether these are brought about by the FIFO lifestyle or just being part of a couple and family. Yes the shit does hit the fan sometimes!

Getting communication right

I think the main issue is the lack of communication. You know - in the heat of the moment you say something which is not what you intended, or is not conveyed the way you hoped. I personally have to walk away from these situations, which is not ideal when you are trying to resolve something. I am a crier and this doesn't help in heated moments. Walk away, gather my thoughts and then try and have the conversation.

It is also hard to have some discussions in a household of people. You need that private moment. We have a saying in our house: "piano lessons". If you are having a discussion and someone walks in you say the phrase and they are expected to leave the room. Communication is not just talking, it is about hearing what each other has to say. There are the words that are said, the emotion with which they are said, and what you are trying to say. Then there's the listener who can interrupt the words, the gestures and the emotions! Communication is something that requires practise and patience. Try to notice when your partner needs to talk. Talk in the car together or at night instead of watching TV, or taking the kids for an evening walk after dinner.

Communication can be difficult while your partner is away on site, but I have found sometimes this can be beneficial. We were once doing a 6 in 1 roster, overseas based. Trying to make contact was an absolute joke, and this was stressful in itself. We'd finally get on the phone together - and then two minutes later the line would cut out. Try again and this went on. We then went to a weekly phone call. I actually liked this - made myself little notes to discuss what had gone on during the week. We then had quality time to chat and there weren't those moments of awkward silence. (MiningFM's psychologist Angie Willcocks tackles this issue in: The top three issues in mining relationships … and how to overcome them.)

Arguments about sex

Another of our big arguments would be about sex. You want the roses, the wine and chatter and he wants 'wham' and let's get another beer. My piece of advice is to find a moment and discuss a balance that works for you both. If you want a romantic time together, lead by example: lay the petals to the candle-lit room. This might get him thinking and you never know he might come with some ideas of his own. Don't let the excuses gather momentum. "I can't do it tonight the kids might hear." "I have to sew the buttons on the tutu." Make an effort and try to obtain that stolen moment alone. Sex isn't an issue unless there is none in the relationship. This then becomes the topic of conversation. You also need to realise that your partner might have a stronger sexual desire than you do. (Angie tackles this issue in: Sex and the FIFO couple: are you making excuses?)

Arguments about finances

A lot of our arguments have come from finances. At the start of the relationship the man of the house had control of the finances, but as the years have passed this has fallen to me. I now manage two properties and help him with his accounts. We are both involved. A couple of years ago I met a woman who had a credit card and her partner put money onto the card for her household expenses. They had rental properties, but she had no idea of the return on them, or her partner's monthly salary. What if something was to happen to him? She had no idea of their financial position. (Angie tackles this issue in: 'Where does all our money go?' Stop the blame games and get financially fit.)

Smoothing things over

We are at the other end of the scale from a lot of mining, oil and gas couples. We're older parents with grown children, but our problems are still the same. We try and take time out. Before Christmas we knew we would have the onslaught of visitors. We took time out and went away for the weekend. A time to reflect on the year and discuss the upcoming year. Decide on the goals and make sure they could be reached and that we're working together to reach them.

I am old fashioned in my values. I probably could be compared to a 1950's housewife, even though I am not that old. You know: dinner on the table, shirts ironed and fresh baking in the tin. I'm not at the stage of fetching his slippers and paper though - much to his disappointment!


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