Cutting the chaos out of Christmas

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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.

"Do we need the money?" my husband asked. "Or do you want me home for the real Christmas Day?" 

I stood outside the sliding doors of the emergency room – a regular haunt with three boys – and said: "You know how I feel about Christmas. If you're here, you're here. If you're working, it doesn't matter. We'll just move Christmas again." 

"I know," he said. "I just thought I'd double check before accepting the work." 

So, how DO I feel about Christmas?

I feel that it's a celebration of love (be it of the Lord, or of cherished family and friends).  

I feel that we put way too much emphasis on it. And way too much pressure on ourselves to make it perfect. 

In an ideal world, we'd celebrate love every day, right? Yet here we all are, focused on December 25. Stressing over the perfect gifts with Instagram-worthy wrapping. What to cook. How to make memorable moments. How to cram in a visit to Uncle Tom, Dick and Harry (the relies you've avoided all year). 

It's a recipe for a nervous breakdown. And don’t get me started on decorating the house. The pressure to create a winter wonderland in an Australian summer is beyond ridiculous.

Celebrating Christmas on a date other than December 25 can actually be a relief. When the date's not perfect, it somehow removes all the stress to make everything else perfect, too.

With three boys and a FIFO hubby, I'm all about reducing stress. So whether you're celebrating the big day on December 12 or 25 this year, here are my favourite ways to take the chaos out of Christmas.

  • Set a budget for each gift. Talk to other family members about who you are buying for. Our family is large, so we only buy gifts for the under 18s. Be realistic about what you can afford and what your kids will appreciate. When my first son was born, my mother went all out buying toys, rattles and train tracks. He ignored it all and sucked on the cardboard box.
  • Play with the kids. That’s what they'll remember – not what you spent hours preparing in the kitchen. And make time to sit and talk with the family too.
  • Be realistic about what you can cram into Christmas Day. If you can't see Aunt Mildred on 'the day', pop in and make her feel special before Christmas.  
  • Wrap everything in the same paper. Brown paper is in fashion and it's Instagram worthy.
  • If Christmas lunch is at your place, delegate. Ask Uncle Tom to bring the pudding, Uncle Dick to bring punch and Uncle Harry to bring a salad.
  • Plan ahead to avoid arguments, especially if your extended family tends to get a little fiery when crammed into one room on a 40-degree day. When things get heated, suggest a stroll or a TV show or a game outside in the shade. Be kind to each other and forgive. 

My biggest tip, however, is don’t have expectations of how things should be. Just go with the flow. It's Christmas, remember? Enjoy! 

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