Meet Auntie Sandy, the FIFO survivor

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Hi! First I just want to introduce myself. I'm Sandy (although lots of people call me 'Auntie') and my husband works offshore in oil/gas on a 6 in 1 roster. We've been together for 27 years and are the proud parents of two daughters, aged 19 and 21. The girls are now at university overseas, which means my family effectively lives in three different countries!

I decided to write for MiningFM to prove that the fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) lifestyle can work. We are survivors. This lifestyle is not easy and does require extra effort – but it does work.

We started FIFO 21 years ago, although we haven't been doing it all this time. My husband has run his own business and worked locally, about five years ago he truly went FIFO (and sometimes drive-in, drive-out). Until two years ago I remained in the family home to give the girls some balance. Now that they're studying overseas, I have lived in three different states and am about to make move number seven.

The first time my husband was away, daughter #1 was born. Her late arrival and his offshore work put the best-laid plans up the creek! He was away for six weeks at this stage. How did I cope? The same way I do now: with a lot of planning and determination.

The extended family was excited by his impending return and he was about to be thrown into fatherhood with no introduction to this screaming, pooing bundle of joy. Decision made. I flew to Fiji with a six-week-old baby and met him there. What a risk. Armed with 150 disposable nappies, we set off on one of many adventures. At this time most nappies were cloth, and disposable nappies were about three times the price in Fiji. But we had an amazing time ... lots of relaxation and Dad getting to know his daughter before we flew back to the onslaught of family visiting. The people of Fiji are truly wonderful with children. At dinner each night, someone would appear from the kitchen to take this blonde-haired child and pace her up and down.

So my introduction to motherhood was rather harsh by some standards. Right from the word go, routines were required and they’ve remained the whole time we’ve been living this lifestyle. Routines and boundaries are essential in a child's life. Even when my husband was home, we still stuck to routines. Sure, he wanted to spend time with the girls, so he ran them to sports or dance and took them to kindy or school. He got to be a taxi for a change.

Mother’s Day has had its ups and downs. Not sure if it’s a good thing or not, but my birthday is around the same time as a couple of friends’ and my mother-in-law’s birthday. I have been fortunate to have some very close friends who remember every year and try to do something special for me. But I tend not to put too much emphasis on celebrations. This way there are no expectations and everything that does happen is truly wonderful. I get pleasure in giving, so try to give lots and have learnt not to expect anything in return. If it happens, great!

Last year was memorable. The girls, being poor uni students and having no money, made an amazing card. It was 60cm x 40cm, covered in photos and decorated with glitter and ribbon. Inside they wrote some very moving words: "We would like to thank you for all the opportunities you have given us, like fantastic trips and holidays. Also thank you for all the support you have given us. Love you very much." (That’s just one of the things they wrote.) When I took it to work, the girls all cried.

After years of FIFO, I have come to realise that it’s the simple things that count. So when the kids try to make a cake for Mother’s Day and the kitchen looks like a war-zone, remember they are doing it for you. When the cold cup of sugary tea arrives for breakfast in bed, drink it and tell them it was great.

When the children were little and Dad was not around to buy the Mother’s Day present, my friend would take them shopping for the day to buy the presents. I gave her the money and off they went.

There are ways to deal with this lifestyle, it’s just a matter of finding what works for you. Don't sweat the little stuff.

If you've got a question for 'Auntie' Sandy or would like to make a comment about FIFO living, we'd love to hear from you. Click here!