As children grow, FIFO life comes full circle

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Deb Russo is a FIFO wife of the offshore kind. Her husband works on oil rigs and vessels. Typically, he does a four-week-on and four-week-off roster. They've lived their entire 14-year relationship like this. Initially Deb's husband was in the Navy, then he shifted to work in the mines and did the 28/7 roster (Deb's least favourite!) With this offshore roster, though, she wouldn’t change a thing.


"This feels weird," the husband said.

"Does it?" I asked, as we drove to the airport for another five-week swing.

The kids hadn't wanted to come to the airport drop-off this time. They're old enough to stay home now, and were content to say goodbye at the house instead of driving 90 minutes down the hill to the airport. A far cry from the last 12 years.

I looked behind me into the back seat. It was empty of children and instead filled with our elderly dogs – the original babies, the ones who had been with us from the start. 

"This is just like it used to be when you were in defence and I would drop you off at the base," I said. "Just us and the dogs."

The kids had come along after he started working offshore.  

Drop-off without the kids was a slower and more intimate affair. The cuddles lingered longer (along with the airport security man, who I am sure wanted in on the action).

And to be honest, it did feel a little weird, driving home with my husband’s 17-year-old Kelpie-cross Lucy in the front with me.

I smiled. "We have come full circle," I said to her, half expecting an answer.

Lucy and I have been through many an adventure and learnt many a lesson together: exhaustion, depression, unemployment, pregnancy, childbirth, relationship breakdowns, relationship rebuilds, workplace harassment, my return to work and all with the trickiness that FIFO life can bring.

We'd been there and done that together. We'd made it through the ups and downs.

It had been hard. And yet the simplest, most effective way of getting through all of it was talking.

Talking is like magic. It solves everything.

The drive home was a quiet one.

But walking in the door this time wasn’t quite as lonely as when the kids were little and we'd all come home from drop-off together. I hadn’t had to worry about leaving the radio or lights on to make the house less quiet; less lonely.

I hadn’t had to stop at a park on the way home to ensure a transition was made for the boys from two parents to one.

I hadn’t had to worry about any of that.

Walking in, the sound hit me like a wall of heat. The iPad was blaring and two boys were annoying each other.

"How was it Mum?" B1 asked, as I heaped the coffee into my cup and readied myself for five weeks of parenting teenagers with my backup man a few thousand kilometres away.

"You know," I said. "One big circle."


More columns from Oil & Gas Mum Deb Russo:

Check out Deb's daily blog at www.thefifowife.com.au and if you've got any questions for her, please click here.

And here's another oil and gas couple's advice on making FIFO family life work when you're working offshore