When your husband does FIFO, are you a single mum?

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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 feel like a single mum," she said to me.

I looked at her, with baby on hip and another playing at her feet. She didn’t ask about me, so I just listened to her.

"He is never home. Ever! He wants another baby but I don’t know if I could do another on my own again. I’m doing everything on my own. We just finished building our home and so I have to clean the rental we are in and clean the new one."

"Hmmm," is all I said. As an experienced FIFO wife whose husband is away for a month at a time, I wanted to offer her some advice. But often that is met with a look that suggests I keep my opinions to myself and my blog - so I kept my mouth shut.

"I am a single mum," she said, looking at me waiting for my response.

Again I offered none.

But if I did say something - it would be this...

FIFO and marriage is a team effort. There is no singledom when you marry ... none. None for the wife or the husband. No matter who leaves for work - you don’t become single.

When you have children there is nothing single in making them or raising them. When you make the choice to go FIFO, it’s a decision that you make together. As a team. When your partner heads off to work he is doing his part of the work bargain - he doesn’t stop being a parent or become a single man and you a single mother. It’s just that they have gone to work to do the part of the deal that you agreed on. If you didn’t agree to it, then you're in the wrong place with the wrong person.

It’s easy to say they think of themselves as single people while at work, but I doubt that many men or women stop thinking about their partners or children merely because they clock on for a shift (either just down the road of half the continent away). If they do in a fashion, I’m often told it’s a coping mechanism to get through a swing. If they really do behave in a single manner, your marriage is in big trouble and that’s before the factors of FIFO apply.

When I parent, I do it as a team regardless of whether Daddy is at home or at work. There is no "I will". There is only "We will". When we talk about family it's "Daddy and us". When decisions are made, none are made without Daddy. He is part of the team. He just works further away from us.

I worded these things in my head ... that there is nothing about my marriage or the FIFO lifestyle that’s makes me a single mother. Nothing.

Then came an awkward pause, so I asked "Where does your husband work?"

I was expecting her to say 28:7 out of Weipa or 21:10 in the Pilbara. Hard rosters for all involved.

She didn’t. She said "He works at Bunnings over on Main Street."

"Right!" There was nothing more to say, really.

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