"It feels like we're on holidays when he's home"

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In 2012, South Australian-based FIFO wife Lisa wrote a great little piece for Mining Family Matters on how she and her landscaper husband got into mining. Here's the piece: How we got my husband a mining job. So we thought it was time to catch up with Lisa & Co, to hear how FIFO life is tracking...

We have been FIFO for about 18 months now, on a two-week-away and one-week-home roster. 

The main benefit to our life has been having a solid block of time together for one week out of three.  It takes about a day to settle back in, and to get sleeping patterns back to normal if he has come off night shift. But then we have six full days together for family time, catching up on renovations and relaxation. 

For our kids, this means my husband can do school pick-up and drop-off for our five-year-old (which she loves) and have some solid days with our three-year-old. 

For me, it means we can get some big things done together around our "renovator's delight" and also have some days free to just hang out together. 

Because he doesn't bring his work home, it means my husband is fully available to us when he is here. It feels like we are on holidays every time he gets back.

New household routines

To make this lifestyle work, we have definitely discovered a few routines that we have to stick to. After the first day back, we spend some alone time together to catch up on everything that has happened in the fortnight that we have been apart. We really need this time together to reconnect and have a laugh and it really sets the mood for the week. We also try to do the same on the day before he goes back to work, so as he leaves there are no unaddressed issues to stress over while he is away.

Luckily for him, my husband does not have to cook or clean while at work. So luckily for me, he takes over the morning routine and dishes when he is home. This means I get a bit more sleep in the mornings, which also improves the mood in the house!

We have had really mixed reactions from friends and family about our lifestyle choice. Most people assumed at first that it was really hard for me to be on my own for the fortnight that my husband is away, but as time has gone on they see that our life is so much easier than when we ran our own landscaping business. 

Instead of hurried weekends and the domesticity of rushed mornings and limited time at night with the kids before bedtime, we have a much more relaxed lifestyle when we are together. 

We felt that some people judged us in the beginning as merely chasing a higher-paying job, rather than spending time with our kids. But we know that, besides being able to better provide for our kids, we also have a much better quality of life. We have a routine for when daddy is at work and for when he is home. The kids can speak on the phone to their dad most nights and we have a "post box" on his nightstand in which we leave things for him that they make or draw during the fortnight. 

Recently my husband has been back in SA, working in the maintenance yard of his company before he flies back up to Qld.  This has meant we have briefly been thrown back into Monday to Friday work. If I had any doubts about whether or not this lifestyle works for us, they were put to rest when my daughter said "Let's drop Daddy back off at the airport so he can start coming to my classroom again." She was definitely missing the quality time that FIFO affords us.

The only downside...

For us the only downside has been a missed Christmas and a missed Easter.  But when we balance it all up we are definitely a happier family in a FIFO routine. 

If I was to give anyone advice on entering this lifestyle, I would say make sure you make time to get away from all distractions to communicate and reconnect every single time you are back together. 

Also, make the most of the positives, ie: having a partner away gives you an opportunity to miss them and enjoy your relationship so much more when you are together; and having some time to yourself means you can indulge in your own interests.