How we handle fly-out day

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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.


"How do you handle fly-out day?"

I get asked that question a lot.

Followed by, "When do you tell the kids and what do you tell the kids?"

"The truth generally works best," I reply. "I also don’t think making a fuss of fly-out day is a good idea. It’s just Mum or Dad going back to work. They aren’t leaving to go on a holiday or leaving because they want to. They are leaving to work, make a better life, to make some money, to pay the bills like every other Tom, Dick or Harry."

I do think, however, that there are ways to prepare the family for moving back into the work swing, and easing everyone into the new routine.

As soon as we know when my husband is flying out, we tell the kids. There is no need to explain that he is going to work, because they know. The sea is my husband’s place of work. We don’t do a countdown to fly out, we just tell the kids that Dad is going back to work next week, this Friday, tomorrow and then this morning.

Once upon a time they would travel down to the airport and we would literally drop off and drive off. Goodbyes were short and sweet to save me on tears and pulled heart strings.

I notice that as soon as he gets in the car, he is in work mode and as soon as I kiss him goodbye, I am too. Our switches are flipped and we are at "work". We don’t dwell on the goodbye, but what needs to be done.

Now that the kids are in school, they say goodbye in the morning and off they go to school.

Before we drive to the airport I often turn the lights on, have the radio going and have dinner in the slow cooker. It makes the house less lonely when we get home. My husband takes his extra noise and animation with him when he goes, and so the radio helps to combat the stark reality that the weekend is over and we are back at work.

If the kids can join us on the airport drive, we stop at a park, shopping centre or McDonald’s for a short time. I've found that's another good way to help them make the transition to Dad being at work (although he never stops parenting, even from 4000km away ... and it's amazing what a stern talking to on the phone will achieve!)

When we get home, we hang out, watch TV and plan our goals for the month. (Some people called this grieving or suffering the "fly-out day blues". I call it adjusting. As I said, Dad takes his noise with him and leaves an empty space that takes a little bit of getting used to. But grieving or "the blues" just doesn’t sound right to me.)

Transitioning and adjusting can sometimes be emotionally tiring, so TV, comfort food and couch time is just what we need before starting the working month. It prepares us for another amazing month of growth. 

And we never forget that work is always about moving forward, and getting ahead.


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