When tiredness takes over and you start to second-guess your life...

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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.

We had left early for the airport because we wanted to meet him at the gate.

As we parked up, unloaded ourselves from the car and walked across to the terminal, we all discussed how surprised he would be to see us there.

Ordinarily, we pick him up in the taxi zone. We stop, he loads up and off we go on our 90-minute journey home. We gave up going into the building a long time ago, after so many delayed flights. Plus we visit the airport so often, it feels like we should have shares in the airport authority, so avoiding the terminal is also a small act of defiance.

So, kids unloaded, walking towards the terminal and my eldest boy looks up and screams "Dad". I hung my head and muttered, "frick, I cannot even get a surprise pick-up right".

His flight had arrived 40 minutes early. "Since when do flights run 40 minutes early?" I asked.

The boys ran. He stopped, put his hands straight by his side (as he does) and bent from the hip to cuddle them. Then without effort, he picked them up and threw them over his shoulder. I stood in front of him, two kids between us, and he bent down to give me a quick kiss on the lips. 

At this point, two things ran through my mind:

1) Is that it?
2) Why am I not excited? Why am I just glad to see him?

Then I started worrying. I've always said that when the excitement of pick-up stops, it will be time to quit.

As he walked ahead of me with kids in full-blown superhero running motion, I lagged behind. I worried that I felt so tired, and far from him. I worried that it would take all R&R to get back to "us", and I was too tired for that. I worried that I had nothing to say, that he had nothing to say and that the kids were doing all the talking for us. I worried that it was like that for the entire trip home and the day that followed.

Looking back, I realise the distance I felt that day was due to tiredness. The worry was tiredness. The feeling of "just gladness" was tiredness. The emptiness was tiredness and nothing else. To make it more was silly. We'd just come off a five-week swing, with me working full time. I found that towards the end of week three, I was so tired that I felt  removed from everything! By week four I was running purely on routine. At the start of week five, I heard my children ask my husband: "You sound tired Dad, are you okay?" I felt so pleased that they knew him well enough to pick up the difference in him.

I have to say I am not a fan of five-week swings but work is work, and presently we have just one more swing left before we are in the midst of the abyss that comes with the uncertainty of no job.

So how is it now, a week or so later?

Great. Better than great.

There were a few days of good sleep, rest and gentle hand holds. We had two concerted and constructed childless dates filled with conversation about the lives we have created separately and for each other. All while being patient and understanding of the important roles we both play. Letting tiredness take control would have been easy, but then the distance would have grown. Fear would have followed along with excuses and blame.

We have worked far too hard as a couple to allow tiredness to take complete control. And what we have is far too amazing to let that happen. 

And so I suppose looking back, the failed pick-up wasn't a complete disaster after all.

More columns from Oil & Gas Mum Deb Russo:

Check out Deb's daily blog at www.thefifowife.com.au 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