Diary of a FIFO mum (4.30am starts included!)

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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.

One of my children's teachers asked if I was OK the other day. She'd seen our lights on at 5.30am and thought I must be having trouble sleeping.

Truth is, I'm up by 4.30 most mornings. Might sound a little early, but there's method in my madness. Here it is...

I don’t have anyone to give me a hand. My husband is works FIFO four weeks at a time. I have no family and I don’t want to wear out my friendships, so I wake early.

Sometimes it's a little later than 4.30, if I've slept with an epileptic starfish of a child. Either way it’s dark. I shuffle my way to the kitchen, where I turn on my connections to the outside world: the TV and the internet.

I boil the jug for my coffee and have toast with far too much butter and even more peanut butter. I don’t believe in moderation when it comes to butter.

I sit and wait for the caffeine to hit me, before I start comprehending what has happened in the world overnight from the Qantas edition news and my ever-faithful Facebook.

By 5.30am I see my neighbours' lights flicker on and know it’s safe to head out and walk my dogs. My lovely neighbours sit on a veranda overlooking my home and watch over my sleeping children so I can walk the dogs (instead of them chewing everything in site). I have four dogs so not to walk them would be costly!

The dogs and I walk for 40 minutes, before I hang out the washing from the night before.

I then start making lunches. I wish I could say I make school lunches the night before, but I usually don't. I just simply can’t be bothered - as soon as the boys have had their Milo, I yell "Kitchen closed!" and turn off all the lights.

I write my blog until the boys wake, which is usually 7am. Then we start the old breakfast-and-getting-ready-for-school routine. How smoothly this runs depends on how tired I am. On a good day, the boys will ask for a hot breakfast. On a very good day the boys will get one. They are getting more hot breakfast as they get older. This is also when my husband calls and we get seven minutes to spill the happenings of the previous day.

School runs are done by 9.15am and I head to the gym until 10.30. Keeping healthy is important to me - if I’m not healthy, none of this gets done. I treat it as a must-keep appointment.

Usually when I am at the gym my brain is consumed by what I need to do. I sit in the car before leaving and write a list in my iPhone.

For the next 4.5 hours, I'm Martha Stewart. I run my home like a business. It’s usually done with enthusiasm, but sometimes it’s accompanied by random thoughts of how different I thought my life would be. (These thoughts usually hit me as I'm cleaning pee off the toilet floor, because apparently that hole in the toilet is not big enough.) However I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love my life, being Martha and CEO of my own company called home. The pee however is a whole other column!

Sometime during these four or so hours I usually also start and finish dinner, so all I have to do later is reheat (especially if we have an appointment or activities after school).

School pick-up is 3pm and then it’s a flurry of afternoon tea, homework and activities. (Be warned: even pre-schoolers these days have homework that requires you to Google the answers!)

If we head out, we're back home by 5.15 and eat by 5.45pm. I dread the day we get home later because I like early dinners. It’s a control issue I like to think of as a quirk. My husband says it’s OCD.

The boys do their own dishes and bedtime routine while I feed our zoo and put the chickens to bed (Yes I do - it’s currently saving my rooster from being dinner.)

The boys are in bed by 7pm. I read with them, then lie individually beside each one and chat about their day.

By now it's almost 8pm so I shower (cursing or smiling at what I see in the mirror) and then turn on the laundry for the next day. I make a decaf coffee - which I only make because it’s routine and never drink as I sit on the couch and channel surf or write.

For me, bed is 9pm. Off I go, ready to wake up and start the whole shuffle routine again.

I have tried getting up later (like 6am - woo hoo!) but I end up in a war zone. My house is a mess and I’m a mess as I try to balance what is important to me.

And that's why 4.30 it is!


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