Cocktails at breakfast, waterfights and a house full of people - Sandy's perfect Christmas

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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.

Well, Christmas is nearly upon us. My former house of one (just little ole me) will soon be full to overflowing - and I wouldn't have it any other way.

In the past year our eldest daughter (22 years) has returned to live with me. Recently I heard a friend say: "I could never have a child of mine return home." But the thing is, my daughter was gone for six years during boarding school and university. She too has now relocated to this wonderful country of Australia. I couldn't have her come here as a student and manage to study and make enough income to support herself and still maintain a successful learning level. The logical choice was to have her live with me. It has been an amazing time getting to know her again. She has a partner who does FIFO and he resides with us on his R&R. That is when he is not winging his way around the world!

The next change to come is that the man of the house has had a little switch in his job and will be based at home for a few months. As if that was not enough, our youngest daughter (21) has been lucky enough to obtain a work placement for her study here. She informs me that she will be here for 18 weeks. My goodness! I cannot remember the last time we all lived under the same roof.

But wait, there's more! My parents are coming for Christmas. Then one of the daughter's friends is coming to stay for a couple of weeks. Great, now I'm starting to think I really do need to buy that extra fridge. Just when I'm getting used to all this, somebody else asks if they can come to stay. I'd better buy a visitors' book and start to take bookings!

The neighbours always have a little laugh when they ask when my husband will be home, so they can organise a BBQ, as I invariably have to consult the calendar on my phone. I don't check when he'll be home until the week before he's due. I find it too depressing counting down the days before then.

With the girls' return it has got me thinking about our situation. We might move around a lot but there is always a base for them here. They return and go, return and go. I find it great that they are comfortable to do this.

So how do I manage all the comings and goings and still maintain a level of sanity - especially at this time of year?

A few ground rules:

  • If you earn an income, you pay board. It really is a token gesture and chances are that somewhere along the way I will probably return this amount to you. But it is important to realise that family cannot freeload off us.
  • You must take your turn at cooking duties. It is always funny as the man of the house chooses to do this on a Friday night. So nine times out of 10 it is a takeaway meal. My dad will opt for the BBQ option. If you want to cook a gourmet meal, you'll need to forewarn whoever's buying the groceries. You can't cook with what we haven't got.
  • If you are out, it is polite to inform the household if you'll be home for the evening meal. No point in cooking unnecessary amounts of food. But apart from that I don't interfere in the lives of my young adults.
  • I will do most of the household duties, but expect a cleaning cloth to be thrown at you somewhere along the way. You do your own washing unless you are working strange hours and have run out of underwear.

This Christmas will be the first without our oldest daughter here to share it with us. Sure, the man of the house has been absent from time to time, but never a daughter. Suppose I will adapt. For some reason the lure of a holiday abroad has taken her away from us. But three days before Christmas everyone will be here. We will need a massive cake with a lot of writing. We are celebrating a 50th wedding anniversary, a 21st birthday, a 24th wedding anniversary, a 70th birthday and of course Christmas. (I have decided it will be a cake with a whole lot of numbers rather than writing on it!) We will exchange Secret Santa gifts, which I am sure will be a laugh. And being all adults, there will be the odd X-rated one, too.

The typical Christmas day in our house starts with a cocktail breakfast. Yes, you did read that correctly: not champagne but cocktails! We celebrate with friends who have family commitments later in the day. Cocktails and a cooked breakfast. Actually it is a great way to start. By mid-morning I have forgotten about the stress of cooking a Christmas dinner. After lunch there is always the cricket and a water fight. Yes water fight, for some strange reason we always happen to have one. (I remember one of the nephews once got a red t-shirt for Christmas. He was proud of his new gift and promptly put it on. He was a like a cat who had got the last of the milk. Then the water fight. Next he is screaming. I'm not sure what he thought had happened to him but he was dripping red like something from a bad horror movie.) Christmas day always concludes with a movie and relaxing as we all drift off to bed.

I hope the year has been good for you and you have enjoyed my writings about this FIFO life. I remind you that my girls are proof that you can make it work. They are amazing young ladies who are making a difference in my life and in this world. The lifestyle can't be that bad if the oldest has a partner who is doing FIFO work!

I hope that you too can celebrate with family and friends, if not on 25 December, then somewhere and sometime soon. It could be a combined day like ours. Enjoy those around you and take time out.

Meri Kirihimete (Merry Christmas!)

More from Auntie Sandy:

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