Even FIFO supermums do it tough sometimes
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.
The "Supermum" title fits me most of the time. But there are times when I could have been referred to as a whippy flea.
I create an impression when I walk into a room and most of that is in my physical size (not the slimmest of builds and stand at 5' 10"). People think I come across as strong. But most of the time I am like caramel chocolate: tough on the outside and gooey in the middle. I will admit I have created a front after all these years in this lifestyle.
When the girls were little there were routines for their sake, and I am still a firm believer in children needing firm guidelines and routines. This carried on until they left home - daughter #1 went to university and daughter#2 went to boarding school and then I wore the title of 'empty nester'. It is a title that I personally don't like. It makes it sound like they are never coming back, which would be depressing in itself.
Anyway, when they left I had no five nights a week of sport ... and the invites had long dried up. I was no longer a mum with children at home, no longer a part of a couple. I was lost ... floating around. I worked all the time, both in paid employment and in the running of a household (gardening and lawns etc). I worked in the same job for six years and it was a job I loved. But when I relocated I had time to sit back and smell the roses. Then I realised I had become a b**ch. Maybe this was part of the reason the invites had stopped.
Some girls have girls' weekends away, or treat themselves to pampering. I'm not that sort of person. Many would be horrified to find out I have only ever had two manicures and one massage in my lifetime. My 'me' time has been riding my bike or going for a walk and now it's spending time in the garden, growing vegetables and flowers.
My man has been my constant in all of these changes. He's got me through all the ups and downs and pulls me into line when I need it. We have a close relationship and are similar in personalties. We try to make contact every day, either through a short phone call or perhaps somedays an hour. We used to be able to Skype, that's not possible where he is now. We can usually tell quite quickly whether it's a call for necessity, or whether it's a chatty one. Sure, there are days when things have not gone to plan and tempers are short - those phone calls are short! No point in adding more fuel to the fire.
There have been the occasional meltdowns over the years. Nothing of concern. I take a step sideways and reassess the situation. I am stubborn and can tackle most tasks put before me. My motto for fixing things is bash it and if it doesn't work then get the bigger hammer! (I'm not really that rough, but it does get me through a lot of things.)
Not long ago we relocated from a small Aussie town with no traffic lights - I was whisked off to Singapore and then to my new home on a small island in Indonesia. I was unwell in Singapore and felt like I'd been hit with a boulder. People and traffic everywhere and I was unwell in a high rise building - not a great combination. After a short stay there we headed off to our new home. Wow! Take everything Singapore and the western world have to offer, and then there's my new home. I was living in a multi-storey building and for some reason my brain would not let me use the lift. Instead, I'd trek the flights of stairs day after day. Hell - I figured a bit of exercise wasn't going to kill me!
I couldn't get into a lift unless the man of the house was with me, which was totally out of step with the kind of woman I'd always been. Over the years I'd been in control and able to manage everything - I'd give anything a go. This had all changed.
So life in my new country was interesting. I faced the dilemmas of a new environment each day ... and bam, there was that lift again when I got home.
The man in my life could see I was not adjusting to my new life. He suggested I fly back to Australia. No sooner were the words out of his mouth and I had the flight booked for the next day!
When I got back I addressed the situation that had arisen with the lift. I spoke to a doctor and he suggested I seek professional advice in the form of a psychologist. What, me see a councillor? There was no way this way happening. I'm strong and can cope with everything. But I gave in and must admit it was the best thing I have ever done. She did open a can of worms with some of the issues in my life ... things I never realised. The lift was just the icing on the cake. I learnt some very valuable things about myself and life. One of the most valuable coping techniques she taught me was the use of meditation. I have mentioned this before and it's also been recommend on MiningFM ... Dr Russ Harris and Mindfulness Skills. This is a wonderful device to cope with those uncomfortable situations.
After all these changes and events in my life, I've come to realise am I not invincible. I am not Superwoman. Despite the strong appearance I've put over for all these years, I do have faults and fears. I now take more time for myself and am not so concerned with everyone else and how they are coping with our lifestyle. I need to spend more time on ME. I am not too proud to seek the advice of a professional. My flaws are what make me an individual ... unique and quirky in my own way!
More from Auntie Sandy:
- Prepare FIFO kids for change and you'll all have amazing adventures
- Yes, mining life can take a toll on friendships
- How to communicate with tetchy teenagers and a husband working offshore
- Give your kids the blessing of hard work and routines
- Special times are what (and when) you make them
- Keeping your cool when travelling with little people in tow
- Goals, routines and other clever clues for FIFO families
- The memorable meltdown moments of a FIFO mum
- The joys of travelling across Australia to a new mining town
- The pros and cons of boarding schools for FIFO kids
- How to relocate AND save your sanity
- How to be happy with and without your partner
- Meet Auntie Sandy, the FIFO survivor
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!