Surviving with a growing brood when your husband works away

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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.

"I don't know how you managed with three babies and a husband who worked offshore," she said.

I looked at her and then at her gorgeous baby in my arms and replied: "It was just routine. Strong routine." 

Truth is there were times, especially when B2 and B3 were on the way, when I wondered how I was ever going to manage. But we all get through.

I recently found myself caring for an 18-month-old for a few weeks, and funnily enough I quickly returned to my old ways to cope. So much so, in fact, that B1 (who's now 10) said "Mummy, you are so good with babies." And I suppose it's easy to be good when you're well rested! 

So I thought I'd share a couple of things that I found helpful when B2 and eventually B3 came along and my husband was at work. Here they are...

  • I slotted the routine of my new babies into B1's routine. I found this was easiest. It ensured B1 felt secure, knowing his routine was still in place, and it kept me in place also. 
  • I made B1 my little helper. I constantly told him how important this help was to me and rewarded him every now and then with a treat. B1 was in charge of having all the nappies handy for me, helping me with bottles or handing me the pegs. 
  • I let the housework go sometimes. I would do the basics but didn’t stress if I couldn’t get to mop the floors or do the washing every day. 
  • I baby wore. I would wear B2 in a carrier while I did other things. I remember having him in a baby carrier, painting the back of the house, while B1 played under the tree in his Portacot. I was a can-do type of girl. 
  • I got meals ready early and cooked extras for freezer meals.
  • I took care of myself with regular walks. To be honest they were initially around my back yard and up the street, but I got some quiet time all the same. I would have bubba in a Portacot in ear's reach.
  • I planned one outing a day. It was sometimes as simple as the library or park but I got out of the house all the same. 
  • I also learnt that letting the TV 'babysit' for a little while was okay. I didn’t need to be the entertainment officer 24/7. I used the TV to get dinners done, house work or have a bit of me time. My biggest TV watcher, B3, is doing extremely well at school so don’t stress it too much. 
  • I learnt late (but learnt all the same when B3 came along) to accept help and so I accepted the help of my neighbours. 
  • I also learnt late that I needed to cut myself some slack. No one can do it all. 
  • And finally, I learnt to enjoy my babies. Better late than never!

More columns from Oil & Gas Mum, Deb Russo:

Check out Deb's daily blog at and if you've got any questions for her, please click here.

And here's another oil and gas couple's advice on making FIFO family life work when you're working offshore