As children grow, FIFO life comes full circle
Deb Russo is a FIFO wife of the offshore kind. Her husband works on oil rigs and vessels. Typically, he does a four-week-on and four-week-off roster. They've lived their entire 14-year relationship like this. Initially Deb's husband was in the Navy, then he shifted to work in the mines and did the 28/7 roster (Deb's least favourite!) With this offshore roster, though, she wouldn’t change a thing.
"This feels weird," the husband said.
"Does it?" I asked, as we drove to the airport for another five-week swing.
The kids hadn't wanted to come to the airport drop-off this time. They're old enough to stay home now, and were content to say goodbye at the house instead of driving 90 minutes down the hill to the airport. A far cry from the last 12 years.
I looked behind me into the back seat. It was empty of children and instead filled with our elderly dogs – the original babies, the ones who had been with us from the start.
"This is just like it used to be when you were in defence and I would drop you off at the base," I said. "Just us and the dogs."
The kids had come along after he started working offshore.
Drop-off without the kids was a slower and more intimate affair. The cuddles lingered longer (along with the airport security man, who I am sure wanted in on the action).
And to be honest, it did feel a little weird, driving home with my husband’s 17-year-old Kelpie-cross Lucy in the front with me.
I smiled. "We have come full circle," I said to her, half expecting an answer.
Lucy and I have been through many an adventure and learnt many a lesson together: exhaustion, depression, unemployment, pregnancy, childbirth, relationship breakdowns, relationship rebuilds, workplace harassment, my return to work and all with the trickiness that FIFO life can bring.
We'd been there and done that together. We'd made it through the ups and downs.
It had been hard. And yet the simplest, most effective way of getting through all of it was talking.
Talking is like magic. It solves everything.
The drive home was a quiet one.
But walking in the door this time wasn’t quite as lonely as when the kids were little and we'd all come home from drop-off together. I hadn’t had to worry about leaving the radio or lights on to make the house less quiet; less lonely.
I hadn’t had to stop at a park on the way home to ensure a transition was made for the boys from two parents to one.
I hadn’t had to worry about any of that.
Walking in, the sound hit me like a wall of heat. The iPad was blaring and two boys were annoying each other.
"How was it Mum?" B1 asked, as I heaped the coffee into my cup and readied myself for five weeks of parenting teenagers with my backup man a few thousand kilometres away.
"You know," I said. "One big circle."
More columns from Oil & Gas Mum Deb Russo:
- Cutting the chaos out of Christmas
- The independent woman's tool kit
- Speak up before exhaustion breaks you
- Is FIFO to blame for my child's anxiety? Thankfully, the answer is 'no'
- How to stay sane and survive the Christmas holidays on a budget
- How we handle fly-out day
- When tiredness takes over and you start to second-guess your life...
- Future-proofing your family against the "blood bath" in Australia's oil and gas industry
- To protect those you love, prepare for the worst
- Christmas and the meaning of "stuff"
- Surviving with a growing brood when your husband works away
- Top tips from a frugal FIFO family
- Don't be afraid of tough conversations - your relationship will be better for it
- Put your marriage first. One day, your kids will thank you for it
- Clever mum's guide to juggling work and kids when your husband works FIFO
- Christmas? Been there and done that!
- My top tips for next time you're wearing that nurse's hat
- Don't play the waiting game. Get busy with your own life instead
- Easy tips for taking the stress out of drop-off day
- Real friends care about me. Not what my husband does for a living
- Learning the hard way to ask for help
- To be the best possible mum, you need to look out for number one
- The airport drop-off - learning the art of leaving
- Why I left the kids at home and went to Paris with my husband
- When your husband does FIFO, are you a single mum?
- Use 'welcome distractions' to survive long FIFO swings that seem to drag forever
- Those little words every FIFO mum dreads: "I don't want Daddy to go back to work."
- Heard of life hacks? They're great for FIFO families
- Winnebago wonders: blessings of a FIFO wife
- Beating the loneliness of FIFO life in winter
- Diary of a FIFO mum (4.30am starts included!)
- My husband spends 2016 hours of quality time with us every year. Beat that!
- Deb's advice for FIFO newbies
- Put some va into your relationships's va va voom
- Organisation: the key to sanity in FIFO households
- How to ease the pain of being apart for special events
- Four weeks apart from your loved ones? It's just part of the job on an oil rig!
- An oil & gas mum's advice on raising your own little superheroes
- Introducing my fantastic FIFO family