Use 'welcome distractions' to survive long FIFO swings that seem to drag forever

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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.

The final weeks of school and the lead-up to Christmas might be the busiest time of year, but it's also a time when my husband's FIFO swing really drags.

We are all tired. The end of the year is approaching. The excitement of Christmas is building.

And yet the days seem to drag like they did when you were a child waiting for your birthday.

All this hasn't been helped by the fact I accidentally got seven days ahead of myself with my husband's four-week swing. I was so sure we were half-way through, so I set us into countdown mode before countdown was actually even near. My disappointment was overwhelming - the boys actually took it better than I did when they found out!

So when swings drag like this one, I pull out my secret weapon: welcome distractions!

I use welcome distractions for after school in the cool of the afternoon and on the weekend - particularly Sunday, the day that always drags the most.  (I have a love/hate relationship with weekends when my husband's away. It's a bit like how I feel about gym instructors - I know they're necessary for good health, but they suck all the same.)

I used these welcome distractions a lot when the boys were little and were too young for sport or after-school activities. Now they are getting older and have extra activities, so I don’t use them nearly as much as I should. Hope you find them useful:

  • Dine out at your favourite park. We do dinner during the weekend and breakfast on a Sunday. I pack cereal for breakfast and sausages/bread for dinner. Also, for some reason my kids always get a kick out eating Spaghetti Bolognese at their favourite park.
  • Set out on a park crawl. Visit all the parks in your area. We go to one for breakfast, one for morning tea, one for lunch and one for afternoon tea - if we make it that long.
  • Visit your local skate park. Include it in your 'park crawl'.
  • Waste an afternoon at the public pool. I used to take them towards closing time: shower them there; surprise them with a takeaway meal; and by the time they got home it was bed time.
  • Go treasure hunting: It’s actually garage sale-ing! This is a bit harder when you have real little ones, but older kids love fossicking through other's treasures and it's a cheap morning out.
  • Search for dinosaurs or fairies. This one takes imagination on your behalf. Noises are roars of the dinosaurs. Holes become footprints. Fallen trees are the result of tails being swung. Fairies require much more effort to hunt and see. You must be quiet and tip toe, narrating as you go along. I'm not sure who had more fun dinosaur hunting on the bush track on rainy afternoons - me or the boys.
  • Get to know your library. Some of the better ones have a café and craft: coffee, books and games - what more can I say.

When the kids were small I always chose places where they could run off energy without fear of a frown. Now the boys are getting older I can add cafés, galleries and museums (there aren't heaps in my local area so we save this for trips to the city - a whole other distraction in itself).

My boys still love these welcome distractions and it provides us all with something outside the usual routine. And before I know it, we're really in countdown mode and I'm picking out my "pick up" outfit.

From my family to yours, wishing you a happy and safe Christmas – whenever you celebrate. May it be safe, joyous and full of love. XD

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