Prepare FIFO kids for change and you'll all enjoy amazing life adventures

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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.


We've been in this industry a long time now and have had many, many changes in job sites and positions. Heck, I've lived in three different countries, and even three states of Australia in the last four years!

How do you explain all these changes to the younger members of the household? New job titles are sometimes an unnecessary waste of time. (How many ways can you say housewife, for example? I refer to myself as a domestic goddess and a girlfriend refers to herself a an domestic engineer. Really it's the same thing, but can be over-rated!)

So changes in job titles have not really concerned us. Our main focus has been to ensure the girls have an understanding of what their father does. This in itself can be hard to explain, what with all the technical terms and jargon! From time to time we've been fortunate to live near my husband's work, so the girls have been able to get an idea about what goes on through the fence. I've always followed this up with a few visits to the visitors' centre, so they've gained a basic understanding of where our income comes from.

Luckily, I have an understanding of what the man of the house does. Figured I needed to! It provides me with the lifestyle I enjoy. Also means I can show an interest it what he does. Sometimes if we didn't have that to talk about, there would be little or no communication in the household. (Actually he sat an exam recently and there was a bit of a joke that I could have sat parts of it. Sad but true!) So with my interest and understanding I can convey this to the family and friends. Also does me well in work social situations.

When the man of the house change sites, I try to gather as much information from all possible means to pass onto family. I have used the local information bureau, company publicity and now the internet. I go through information and pass onto family so they are kept well informed.

One of the better ideas I've had was a DVD chain. Send the DVD to a family member with the address label and postage for them to pass onto the next family member. Worked a treat! Gave everyone an excellent understanding of where we were moving to and what the new job entailed.

When the girls were younger and we had to move I always ensured they had their own space. This can be hard sometimes when you're moving into a rental home and there are restrictions on what you can put on the walls etc. I made a point of always setting up their rooms first: beds made up with their own linen and their precious pieces surrounding them. Seemed to help with the transition of moving into a new place. Now the girls are older and not living with me, the same still happens. We always ensure there is a room for them and it is set up with their little pieces to remind them where home is. Their rooms are not used for other guests when they are not there. It is their space.

Our youngest daughter has had the most change in her life and has struggled with the movements at times. She was the one at boarding school for the longest amount of time and we relocated our family home while she was still going through school. When holidays came around, she packed up her belongings and was shipped off to wherever we were based. The question she asked early on was: "Where is home?" The reply has always been: "Wherever we are based!" Simple but true. Once she realised this, things ran a lot smoother. It's been a new adventure each time we've moved! And hey, who else gets to spend Easter in Newman?

My heart did sink recently when the oldest had to pack up her flat after graduating. We flew to be with her and give her a hand. Some of the others in the flat could not understand why she could not take all her possessions with her. She had to stick to the 23kg suitcase limit as she was relocating to another country. We paid for an extra bag, but her life was still packed into 46kg. The last 22 years of her life in two bags! Her flatmates had the luxury of filling the car and driving home with their possessions, but there was no family home for her to do this. Silly, but she was graduating and leaving what had become her home for the previous five years. The decisions were hard. Little momentos that had been gathered over the years had to be sacrificed. What she did have was not worth putting into a container and shipping. Harsh but true. There were a few tears shed when she realised that all her worldly possessions could fit into a box.

I, too, once had to pack a family home of 20 years into a shed, deciding what should go and stay. After all the moves I can be heartless. (If you have not worn it in the last six months, you can probably live without it!) What is the saying? Someone's rubbish is someone else's treasure. I've donated unwanted items to the Salvos, church groups and family members. I hope the in-laws are still enjoying my lovely new leather lounge suite (lol).

I once relocated to a new country with 19kg of luggage. In my carry-on luggage I always protect three prized ornaments given to me by family members. These are my constants in my life. They are treasured and with me in all my travels. Likewise, I have a handful of photos that I always take with me and these are placed in frames in our new home. When we move on, the frames are given away and the photos reframed at their new destination.

When I move, I unpack boxes and take a week to get settled at the longest. I quickly get rid of the boxes, or I pack them in the shed, waiting for next time. Our latest move was the last for a while and it was a great feeling to be able to put those boxes into the recycling bin. I recently noticed that my new neighbour had unpacked boxes in her garage, despite being in the house for over a year. She was mortified when I told her that I would take those boxes straight to the dump without opening them. Heck, if you have lived without the contents for a year, chances are you don't need them. You have either made do or bought it new!

Don't be afraid of change - embrace it and see what adventures follow.

It was hard for us to take the first step into this lifestyle, but now I look back and wonder what might have been if we'd started earlier? Imagine what doors might have opened for us!


More from Auntie Sandy:

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