My husband spends 2016 hours of quality time with us every year. Beat that!
Hi! I'm Deb Russo, a FIFO wife of the offshore kind. My husband works on oil rigs and vessels. Typically, we do a four-week-on and four-week-off roster. We have lived our entire 13-year relationship like this. Initially he was in the Navy, then we shifted to work in the mines and did the 28/7 roster (my least favourite!) With this offshore roster, though, I wouldn’t change a thing.
I was eavesdropping (as you do) in the library the other day, listening to another FIFO mum talking to her 'friend' about how her husband worked away.
Her friend listened as she explained that her husband worked 21:10 and that they, as a family, really liked it. She explained that it was hard sometimes, but the time together was worth it.
And all the while the friend had 'that look' - you know the one?
After identifying 'the look', the FIFO mum started grappling to make her friend understand. "We've chosen this lifestyle for quality not quantity." But the questions became a little too much and she started to falter, eventually stopping mid-sentence. What was the point? You could almost see her questioning the family's decision. A seed of doubt planted.
Like her, I have been there many times. In fact, so many times that my 'decision to be a FIFO family' Q&A spiel is more finely articulated than a Suncorp public disclosure statement.
People just don't seem to appreciate that their words, negativity and constant questions can have such a negative effect . It can make a bad day worse. It can make you question the decisions you have made for your family.
Often I ignore them, especially to those who give me the "poor you" routine in a condescending manner. But the "I could never do that to my husband - he would just miss so much time with the kids" ... that's a comment I simply can't let go.
I'm never rude - I just ask politely about their husband's work. Often they'll reply that he's a mechanic, teacher or electrician, that he loves it and, importantly, comes home every night. I answer with "lovely" and remain quiet.
Thinking they're on a winning streak, they usually follow up with "How do manage missing the 'firsts' - you can never get those back?!" To which I respond, "Yes, that's true, my husband missed our last baby's first crawl and he may have missed the second baby's first words. But then I missed my first baby's first steps because, well, I was in the toilet. And my second baby - I missed his first words because he spoke them at day care. That's life and it happens. FIFO has made my family. We are so close."
At this point I hold their gaze and ask about out their husband's work hours, and the amount of time he is home and spending with his kids.
But I know the answer already. I've worked it out in my head - on more than one occasion. It's an hour before bed and 12 hours on a Sunday. Take into account four weeks' annual leave and that's 1200 hours in the year. "And is that all quality time?" I ask, "given he must be tired from doing all those hours at work."
And typically they'll ask how long my FIFO husband is away for "this time". So I say "It’s the same as always" and tell them he's home six months of the year. Which equates to 2016 hours of quality time ... and when he's at work he earns a salary that allows me to be a stay-at-home mum.
But still they go on. Another of my favourite lines is "Oh, still, that must be so hard for you." As though FIFO was my husband's decision. No! This was a joint decision and I love it. And then I add: "We don't do this for the money, despite what people think. We do this for the lifestyle. We are on holiday every second month."
And then they realise that their insistent questions are futile, because there's no changing my mind. That perhaps our way is the right way, and it’s me who has the planted the seed of doubt in THEIR mind.
The reality is, you can make this lifestyle work for you. It's all about how you tackle it. With strong communication, routines and a positive attitude, you can end up with an amazingly close family. Who wouldn't be jealous of that?
More columns from Oil & Gas Mum, Deb Russo:
- 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