Four weeks apart from your loved ones? It's just part of the job on an oil rig

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Blow out, bell nipples and prostitutes!

You could be forgiven for thinking you've stumbled across a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey. But no, this terminology is common when chatting with my offshore husband.

A "blow out", for those who'd like to know, is an uncontrolled release of pressure from the well. A "bell nipple" is an enlarged pipe at the top of a casing string. And my favourite, a "prostitute", is a nickname for a tool hand.

I've made it my business to have a little knowledge into what is essentially my husband’s second life. (After all, why wouldn’t I make his second life a little bit of my business?!) 
My husband’s 'other life' sees him away for four weeks at a time, working 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Ask him how he copes he says he has two mind sets: work and home. He keeps them separate. Mixing the two is pointless. He is at work just like he would be if he had a job in town. It’s just that this work requires him to be on a rig, floating in the middle of the ocean. Five minutes after stepping off the chopper (which is incidentally the only part of his job I worry about) he is focussed on being at work.

At work he has a routine to make the weeks travel fast. He attends the gym every day, eats well, walks the helipad and watches movies. It's all about being 'head down, bum up'. Working in an offshore or mining environment was once described to me as a cross between Big Brother and Survivor. Possibly true - you’re in each other’s space 24 hours a day for 28 days straight. It’s going to happen, so how you handle it is up to you. My husband's motto is that he's there to work, it’s why they pay him the big bucks. When he phones we sometimes talk work, but very rarely. He calls to check in and have a break from work - to get his little bit of home to see him through to the next day.

Getting his little bit of home is something I have made my mission. To keep him in the loop about what’s going on, I email videos, newsletters and post privately to tumbler everyday. As a result we have an image and a note about the boys for every day of their lives. Not being able to call him is one of the downsides, but it's just meant that good communication is essential. And I have to say we almost have it perfected! It’s that ability to communicate that makes me feel like I have all the support in the world ... because I'd be lying if I said I didn’t miss the physical support after a rough day.

He has a routine when he gets home, too. Arriving home from a swing he will always lay low, hanging out with just us for a few days until he is ready to get into being home (he does the same thing just before a swing starts). He has a firm rule of no commitments three days before work starts. He has his own interests and that’s important, but he will always stop three days before work starts and regroup with us. I value that time because some months he is home can be busy. At the end of the swing home I always ask him "Are looking forward to going back to work?" The answer is usually yes. We love this lifestyle and nothing in life that is worthwhile is going to be easy. 
We didn't stumble into this industry unawares. We went in search of it and embraced it, you have too! We worked our way through various mine camps, working good and bad rosters, until after two years we secured an offshore job. Having worked most roster variations, this is ultimately my favourite. The shorter rosters are good but working FIFO, having that balance has to be right for you. The month he is at work can be tough depending on what is going on, but ultimately we get four weeks off together at the end. He gets his time, and we get our couple time and quality time with the boys ... for us it is perfect.

As a result we are on constant honeymoon. And because of FIFO I will never need a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey.

More columns from Oil & Gas Mum, Deb Russo:

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