Cutting the apron strings and learning to find your own way

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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.

It's a long time ago now that my girls left for boarding school and I was forced to cut the apron strings. It has been hard to let go and watch them stand on their own.

You just hope that along the way they make good choices and can cope in the world. Sometimes your heart misses a beat when you realise they have made a wrong choice and they are hurting. But they need to make these mistakes to learn and mature. They have to learn to live with the consequences of their decisions. Our role as parents is to stand by them, offering support and encouragement and offering advice if asked.

My phone is turned on and by my side 24/7. But you learn early on not to panic when they do phone. Like a phone call from Jessie in Adelaide, "I've been hit by a bus!" Well, you can imagine the heart was exploding out of my chest. She was at a give-way sign and a bus swung out and clipped the side of her car. Bit of damage but no injuries. We've learnt to start phone calls with "I'm alright - but I've been hit by a bus!"

One thing we have always done is ensured the girls had reliable, up to date phones and provided them with credit so they can call if needed. Especially as poor students.

But just lately, the strings have been pulled and stretched. My youngest has been doing volunteer work in India. At the end of her volunteer stint she planned to do some touring. She'd entered the country on a student visa and it was about to run out, so she went to Nepal in the hope of securing another tourist visa on the return journey back to India. In the meantime my eldest daughter flew to India to meet her. Heart in throat waiting for news. Visa issued and I relaxed a little.

All of this reminds me that parenting is never easy.

But I am sure the FIFO lifestyle has made my girls stronger and more independent - and right now while they're in India I am sincerely grateful for this. They are having the trip of a lifetime and right now are sleeping in the desert, riding camels in North India. I know my girls have learnt to be self-reliant.

But what about me? How have I coped since the girls left home? With my husband away for weeks at a time, I've had to learn to be happy on my own - to enjoy my own company.

I never use the term "empty nester". My nest will never be empty, as they will always be my children and I hope they will always return home at some stage - either for an overnight stay or something a bit longer.

When the girls first went away I immersed myself in work and in hindsight it turned me into a person I didn't want to be. To be honest, I turned into a troll (LOL). It wasn't until I left that I realised this.

Now days, my advice would be to immerse yourself in something you love. My passion at the moment is the garden. I spend hours out there without realising.

I've also rediscovered the library and am able to read a book without feeling guilty about wasting time. And I love going to the movies - I get to choose and nobody tells me it was crap or sappy.

The most important thing is meditation. It helps you cope when things do not go according to plan.

We spend years doing everything for others - when the time comes, it's important to enjoy the ME time we all yearned for when the kids were little.

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!