Q&A: FIFO rosters and finding time for loved ones

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By psychologist Angie Willcocks

Hi Angie. I'm a 25-year-old female working a FIFO 5/2 day roster. I have worked a number of different rosters in my five years in mines, some with 21 days away from home, but I am finding my current roster to be the most difficult as I always feel time poor when I get home (especially in the area of socialising with friends, family and my partner). At the moment most of my R&R is spent with my partner. This is fine but I also have birthday parties, hen's nights invitations and I do some beauty therapy for my friends on the side. I like and want to do these things, but it's so hard to fit it all in and spend quality time with my partner, who I feel is the most important person to me. But by neglecting my friends and family I feel I am missing out on an important part of my life, and when I fly back to work I feel unfulfilled in that area. It has recently reached a peak with my partner saying that he was "expecting that" I would want to spend time with him this Friday night (fly home) instead of last-minute plans to have a beer with good friends to congratulate them on their recent engagement. I ended up saying some things I shouldn't have to my partner (eg. reminding him he gets all week to spend with his friends etc). This in turn hurts our relationship, which was running quite smoothly for a year, before I started working this roster. I have had friendships on site before but am finding it difficult on this site. I often feel very different to the people here and to be honest I'm tired of making an effort and still not fitting in, or being hit on by guys. I also don’t have much time outside of work hours anyway, as I do physical training after work. I know I could get a job back in town any day but I feel a lot of pressure to do well financially (and always have). I own and manage property and feel I must stay in mining to keep my lifestyle. Am I looking at this the wrong way? I need perspective. How to do I keep everyone (including myself) happy?

Hi there and thanks for your letter. 

This might be reading too much between the lines, but it sounds to me like you are someone that tries hard to live up to the expectations of others, and perhaps in trying to meet other’s expectations you lose track of your own priorities.

I have an exercise that I use with clients: looking at different aspects of life; how important they are to you; and how satisfied you are in each of these areas. It is something that you can easily do yourself. It may help you have a look at how you are going in the areas that are most important to you. I use it with clients who are dissatisfied with the balance of their life but unsure where to make changes. Here's a column I've written that sets out the exercise and how it can work for you: Making time work in busy relationships

With regard to your partner, it does sound like this particular roster is harder for you both to manage, as you get so much less time together.

There certainly will be times that each of you does not meet the other’s expectations or disappoints the other (this is part and parcel of any relationship) and I don’t think that is a problem as long as you two communicate about it as much as possible.

I do think it goes a really long way in any relationship to be very upfront and honest (such as letting him know that he is your main priority, but not your only one, and that you are finding it very tricky to meet everyone’s needs at the moment).

With regard to whether or not mining is still the best choice for you, that's way too big to answer in this format!

I would encourage you to talk it out as much as possible with anyone who is willing to chat. I wonder if you had these doubts about mining when you were on a roster that suited you better? If not, maybe the current roster is the problem, rather than the whole job?

Good luck!


To read other columns written by Angie Willcocks during her six years with Mining Family Matters, please click here. And remember that we offer a free email Q&A service with our psychologists, so just click here to ask a question about relationships, parenting or your career. All advice on Mining Family Matters is for general information only and should never be regarded as a substitute for professional health services or crisis services. To talk with a trained volunteer telephone counsellor at any time of the day or night, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. To contact the info line at beyondblue: national depression initiative, phone 1300 22 4636.

Angie Willcocks is a registered psychologist with a private practice in Adelaide – for details about Skype consultations please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. She’s an expert in tackling issues such as depression, anxiety, postnatal depression, child sleep routines and relationship difficulties. She has a Bachelor of Health Sciences in Psychology and a Masters of Counselling Psychology. She is also the co-author of The Sensible Sleep Solution: a guide to sleep in your baby’s first year, which can be ordered from her website www.angiewillcocks.com.