Easy tips for taking the stress out of drop-off day

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Deb Russo is a FIFO wife of the offshore kind. Her husband works on oil rigs and vessels. Typically, he does a four-week-on and four-week-off roster. They've lived their entire 14-year relationship like this. Initially Deb's husband was in the Navy, then he shifted to work in the mines and did the 28/7 roster (Deb's least favourite!) With this offshore roster, though, she wouldn’t change a thing.

Last month was the first time in a long time that I had the boys with me for drop off.

"Drop off," for those non-mining friends out there, is taking their fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) Daddy to the airport for work.

Our three boys have been at school for drop off since the beginning of the year, and the event has now become so routine that it's literally like Daddy going to work down the road.

The boys say goodbye to Dad with a kiss and a cuddle, and off they go to school. And off he goes to work.

However, I still remember back to when they were little, and drop-off day always conjured up a sense of panic about how they'd react. Would they understand? Would they cry and scream? Would I collapse into a blithering heap on my return home, in the dark of my laundry away from the kids?  

I must admit, nearly all of that happened fairly regularly until I learnt a few tricks of the trade, and got us all coping much better with 'D' day. So here's my advice if you're new to FIFO: 

  • Turn on the TV and lights before you leave the house for drop off. It will make the place seem less lonely when you come home.
  • Don’t make a big deal about Dad going "away". He is simply going to work like every other Daddy. 
  • Don’t drag out the goodbyes. Keep them simple. We no longer even go inside the airport. We give a kiss, cuddles and say thank you for being so wonderful. And then we leave. The airport security guys generally keep us in check and moving on quickly, however the kids screaming "I love you Dad" out the window until he is out of sight never gets any less gut wrenching.
  • If the kids get upset, let them be. They are allowed; it's natural and healthy – but talk it over with them too. If the boys ever got upset during daytime drop off, I would take them to a park and explain again why Dad has gone to work. I'd distract them (or treat them) with a park visit or a stroll around the shops. If it was a night time drop off, I'd pull over the car, climb into the back seat and chat about it with a Milo or a coffee I'd pre-packed. I never drove home with the kids crying. We live 90 minutes from the airport, so that would be a killer for all involved. 
  • Treat it like Monday. Drop-off day has always felt like a Monday to us and we treat it as such. Mondays in the 'normal' world are always ho hum. The weekend is over and reality and responsibility set in. FIFO drop-off day is the same, so we allow ourselves to wallow, we get used to the quiet and settle into a new routine. We all treat ourselves gently.

So there you go. Put simply, my advice is to not make big deal of drop-off day. But pick-up day is a whole other story!!

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