Give your kids the blessing of hard work and routines

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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 27 years, 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.


We are a family of hard workers and these are values that have been instilled into our girls from an early age. That's what life is about: hard work. To me, those who have things handed to them do not appreciate them. Life doesn't owe you anything - it's all about what you have to give.

From an early age, the girls had chores around the family house. I think it started with picking up toys into the appropriate buckets and bins. I labelled the bins with pictures when the girls were toddlers, so they knew what went where. The Barbie doll on the outside of the case indicated that Barbie and all her fanfare went into there. When they got older I added a name label to these, hopefully adding to the learning process of reading. There has always been a monetary reward for the chores, appropriate to their age. From memory it was a dollar for each year of age every week. This money was spent on whatever they wanted - for one it was always lollies and treats, but that novelty soon wore off and she is now a greater little saver.

It wasn't long before the desire and peer pressure drove the girls into getting jobs. Paper and pamphlet rounds! The oldest would get up at 5.30am to deliver the morning paper along the road, a distance of 2.5km on a bike in rain, hail or snow. (Well not quite, but there were some extremes of weather!) It wasn't long before the youngest started with the pamphlets and then onto an evening paper. The girls had the paper rounds in the area covered.

We had a deal with the girls that if they wanted brand clothing they had to ask for it as gifts or vouchers, or earn the item. Sometimes when it came to buying a sweatshirt, the oldest would want a label brand. I'd pay what I thought was a suitable amount and she would pay the difference. These pieces of clothing became treasured items that could well have been disgarded otherwise. Both girls now have a very high work standard and a great work ethic. I stand back with pride now.

The chores have also set them up with renting. They know what is involved in the day-to-day running of a household (including the horrible things that live in the plumbing under the shower). There is no moaning with those tasks. On visiting one of their flats recently, I even noticed a chore list for the week on the fridge.

I was lucky enough to have both girls home for the recent uni holidays: the youngest helped to re-lay some garden irrigation; and when the electric window gave up life in the car, the oldest came to the rescue. Not bad for a couple of girls!

When it comes to the raising of children it is essential to have boundaries/routines, especially with the FIFO lifestyle. I suppose when I look back it was a bit like a military camp in our household. But with working full-time and sporting commitments for five nights a week, it needed to be like this to provide some sanity in the household. I wonder now how we did it all. Meals were prepared in advance and the slow cooker was the lifesaver in our house. Put on in the morning on the way to work. Girls would return after school and grab something to eat before heading out. Anybody who called in usually helped themselves, as who could resist the wonderful aromas drifting through the house inviting you from the front door. From an early age the girls would help with the meals, starting with the vegetables. It wasn't long until they moved onto the preparation of family dinners. I found that if you gave them the option of cooking what they wanted, and provided the ingredients, then they were happy to help out. To this day when we are together as a family we take turns cooking. So great to have daughters.

When Dad was home he helped out with the sporting and after-school activites. We never adjusted the routines when he was home - he just slotted in.

One of my best investments was a magnetic planner for the side of the fridge. Each girl had a different coloured marker. At a glance I could see who had what on that day, and when Dad was around he could keep up with the household chaos. Another little helper was a list of items required for sport. So for hockey you need the stick, mouthguard, shoes, socks, shin pads, shorts and t-shirt. I made the list, had it laminated and attached to the end of the bag. This way the girls knew what they had to take instead of me nagging and playing 21 questions. I ended up having to make one for each member of the team.

The girls went from paper rounds onto jobs in hospitality. They were able to fit this around school and other commitments. This has become a great job to fall back on during uni (although there has to be a balance between study and work). Because of FIFO we have been able to help with this. We cover living costs for the girls at uni, and ask they achieve accordingly. By doing this we hope to take the pressure off and lighten their workload. I know without this lifestyle we could not help the girls out financially like we do.

So, remembering back, the chores started with the picking up of toys, especially when Dad was due to come home from work. We also had a rule that something was not to come out of the toy box until something had been put back in the box. We moved on from here to household chores, dishes and general cleaning. Sure there were mistakes along the way and things had to be redone, but at least they made the effort. From here to cooking and onto outside jobs and general maintenance of the house. What is the saying: monkey see, monkey do. So the girls have learnt from our work ethic and will give most things a go. Let's face it, if we don't know how to do it, these days we can Google or You Tube it.

The best piece of advice is to have routines. Same time to bed and get up etc. Let the children know in advance, especially when they are younger, what they have on that day or over the next couple of days. This way they can help to prepare and make your workload a bit easier. Don't gather the dance gear each time: let them do it so next time they will know what they have to take. Keep a bag for each activity. Hopefully this way when they have finished and clothes have been washed they will be repacked ready for the next time. It didn't work for us to change the routine for when Dad was on R & R. Consistency worked for us.

Give them jobs around the house so they are better prepared for when they do leave home. There will be mistakes along the way (including streaky windows) but hopefully you won't give up but show them the way you like to have things done. We did our chores at the same time each day, or day of the week. Thursday is washing day for the towels etc. Try and reach a balance and maybe that means you have a housekeeper who comes in once a week to help with the running of the house.


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