Winnebago wonders: blessings of a FIFO wife

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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.


I'm sitting in Queensland's Beaudesert Caravan Park in our six-berth rented Winnebago. It's not our usual place of residence, of course. We're on a road trip - one of those crazy last-minute decisions that wouldn't be possible if we weren't a FIFO family. 

It's times like these - the adventures, the arguments and the memories - that make FIFO worthwhile and why we continue to love this lifestyle. For us, the good simply outweighs the bad. Don't believe me? Then let me rattle off a little list that compiles in my head every single time someone questions our decision to do FIFO.

  • We holiday every second month. Our "weekends" (i.e. our month with Dad at home) take us into a holiday mode. It takes a few days to unwind, but who doesn’t after a long "week" at work.
  • FIFO allows me to be a stay-at-home mum. We can afford for me to stay at home and be with my children. Some days (usually when I'm wiping Weetbix off the wall for the fifth day in a row) I question my decision. But who doesn’t - being a stay-at-home mum is a tough gig sometimes.
  • It has allowed me to write and establish a little online vintage store. That's something I never would have been able to do without FIFO.
  • My husband is a hands-on father because he has the time to do it. Reading books, sports training, swimming, playing after school, riding bikes ... he is available to do these things every day he's home from the oil rig.
  • We are a close family, because we only have each other to rely on. It's what I love most about FIFO, yet it's often the toughest thing to make others understand.
  • My children understand the importance of team work. At the tender ages of seven, six and four, my boys know how to wash and hang a load of laundry and make a plate of French toast.Their eventual partners will thank me one day!
  • We own our home. There is nothing more rewarding than that.
  • My whole family understands that time is precious, people are precious ... and never to take anyone for granted.
  • FIFO has taught us the value of marriage. We have been at rock bottom, so we know and understand what's important.
  • FIFO has taught me the value of being kind to myself.
  • We talk openly and honestly (as a couple and as a family) about everything. There is a big difference between talking and really communicating, especially when you're trying to fix a misunderstanding and you're 4000km apart with a seven-minute phone call just once a day.
  • My husband travels really well. He knows how to pack, live without and live with six others in a small space like it's second nature.
  • My husband and I have lives of our own and then we have our lives together. It's made our marriage better.
  • We can make spontaneous decisions like this road trip to the snow, because we have large blocks of time off together.
  • Every time I pick up my husband from work, it's like our first meeting all over again. I love that nervous feeling. Love it. (What I don't love is the nervous peeing thing I always have going on - it's a 90-minute trip to the airport, and there is not that many toilets along the way!)

So as I finish off this column in the snowfields of Victoria - while my husband and children are out having the time of their lives - tell me this: am I wrong to love the FIFO life?


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