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