Q&A: I'm pregnant and my husband wants to start FIFO. What should I do?
By psychologist Angie Willcocks
Q: We got married last year and are expecting our first baby. My husband has got it into his head to work overseas on the mines. I am starting to get anxious and saddened to think he is not going to be much of a support other than purely financial for this new chapter in our lives. We have built a comfortable life, but we live away from any family so I will be well and truly alone, being a new mum. I was excited to learn we were pregnant but now I feel depressed and guilty all the time.
A: Thank you for your email and congratulations on your pregnancy.
I am assuming from your email that your husband has not worked FIFO in the past, and that he has not started yet. It sounds like it is still in the idea phase at the moment. I apologise if that's not the case and I have misinterpreted your question.
In my work with new parents I have noticed that new dads are often quite obsessed with thoughts about money and how they can make it. They tend to worry and fret about whether or not they will be a good 'provider' for their family. Of course this worry stems from the belief that a good father provides well for his family. It might seem like quite an old-fashioned idea, but I hear it from new dads all the time: how to support their family has become their number one worry.
I can't help but wonder if your husband's idea to join the mines has come from his fears about how well he can provide for you and the baby. It might be that he has got it into his head that working FIFO is the way he can best support you and the baby.
Some questions that I would love to ask the two of you are:
- What sort of work does he do now and why does he want to change?
- Are you under financial pressure or will you be when the baby comes along?
- Where did he get the idea of working FIFO overseas?
- What are his thoughts about what makes a good dad?
- What are your thoughts about what makes a good dad?
Perhaps you could initiate a conversation with your husband about what makes a good dad, by talking about your own thoughts and feelings about being a mum, and the sorts of things you think make a good mum.
You mention that he has "got it into his head" (to work FIFO) and that you have been feeling sad and anxious about the decision. It sounds to me that your partner has not taken your thoughts and feelings about the decision into consideration yet. It is important that he does, and that you two have a lot more discussion about the FIFO lifestyle before he goes ahead with it. In my experience FIFO does not work out so well for couples or families where one person makes the decision, without the support of their partner.
Couples who do well seem to be those who:
- Agree from the outset that one will work FIFO;
- Weigh up the pros and cons for their family;
- Know what they want to get out it; and
- Work together to make it a success.
If, after some more discussion, you and your husband decide to go ahead and become a FIFO family, then it will be important for you to build up a support network. Again, families who do well from the lifestyle seem to be those who have good support in place. This support doesn't have to be family – it can be friends or even paid. Start by identifying what support you need and then working out how you will get it.
Beyond Blue have some great booklets called Hey Dad that you can download or order online: see www.beyondblue.org.au and click on 'Get Information'. This booklet could give you a starting point for a conversation on ideas about parenting.
You might also like to read the book And Baby Makes Three by Gottman and Gottman (your local bookshop should be able to order it, or you can get it online).
I hope this information helps.
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.