If you want a job done, give it to a busy mum

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Sandy (or 'Auntie', as many people call her) is our FIFO Survivor. Her husband works offshore in oil/gas and they've been together for more than 30 years - many of them as a fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) family. In that time they've raised two beautiful daughters (both now in their 20s) and moved more than 19 times! Sandy wanted to write for Mining Family Matters to show you can survive FIFO.

My house has been full of late. The parents are over for a couple of weeks. The man of the house is working locally. And a friend who has relocated from New Zealand to the Pilbara has been staying. (Yes, sorry to tell you, but there's another Kiwi landed on your fair shores!)

Once all this lot has gone, there's a constant flow of visitors until Christmas. I'm actually thinking about opening a B&B for orphaned Kiwis!! And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sometimes, though, I lose track of the days and what's going on in the wider world. Then I hear someone say 'school holidays', and it makes me think back to when the girls were little, my husband worked FIFO and I worked full time. My grandmother used to say, "If you want a job done, give it to a busy mother." How true.

We had great systems in place when I worked and the girls were at school. No au pairs back then. I relied on friends and employed an older secondary student to help out. She was very driven and motivated with homework, which gave my girls a really positive outlook on learning.

When the girls were younger, I'd collect little items all throughout the school term: books, board games, craft items, videos. Nothing of much value, but all wrapped in old paper, newspaper or their school artwork. During the holidays they were allowed to pick something from the box. It was like a lucky dip. Occasionally there was a sweet treat, or a past toy that had lost its appeal. Suddenly it would be seen in a new light. The girls loved it. Other ways to keep them busy included:

  • Photocopying colouring pages and puzzles from the Internet
  • Working in their 'art centre' - a flash name for a couple of coloured boxes with all their art and craft bits in it. (Just meant it was easy to clean up and everything was in one place.)
  • Scouring an amazing book with ideas for outside craft activities: pinecone owls, seeds in decorated tins etc. Living by the beach always ensured a supply of shells and sand, which we then coloured.
  • Scavenger hunts and pirate trails with maps and clues - took a little time to organize, but the looks on their faces was priceless.
  • Dress ups from the rainy-day box. I found the best places to find bargains were Spotlight and even the party aisle in the supermarket. Big W is another goodie.

For evening dinners while I was working, the slow cooker was used a lot. I just got up a little earlier and put the evening meal on. Was wonderful to return home to the smell of a meal cooking. Filled the home with warmth. Biscuits and muesli bars were baked at night to fill them during the day. Often I would make biscuits for the girls to decorate the next day. As they got older, the girls were able to do some baking themselves - with supervision from their high school babysitter.


More from Auntie Sandy:

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!