Q&A with Jane Dodding: Help! I've got two tots, a FIFO partner and feel like I'm drowning

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By psychologist Jane Dodding

Q: My partner works FIFO and we have a baby and a toddler. I have never really had his support, but my household routine goes out the window when he's home. All I want is a break, just a one-hour bath would be perfect as I am trying to study in my evenings as well, but he won't cope looking after them if I leave for even half an hour. Add in breastfeeding and not being able to pump makes it more difficult I guess. I'm trying really hard but when he leaves my little girl stops sleeping. She got up 13 times before I brought her to bed last night. If she does this when he's home, it's all my fault. Things are easier when he's not here and I feel so guilty about it. I almost dread him coming home. All we do, it feels, is fight. Then he leaves with more work around the house to catch up on, and then my little girl is a mess the next few days. Where do I even begin to fix this? 

A: It certainly sounds like your life is very busy at the moment so it’s no wonder you are feeling frazzled and finding yourselves fighting more than usual. You have mentioned a few issues but I’m assuming the main
one is your relationship and specifically the transition time when your husband leaves and comes back from work and how you are supporting each other and operating as family unit.

I’d suggest making some time to strengthen your relationship as this will have a major influence on how your family functions. You might want to:

  • Both think about the issues separately and identify what is/was working well and what isn’t. Get creative and generate possible solutions – what could you do differently and what you would like your partner to do? It can be helpful to write your thoughts down then come together at an agreed time (try to make time to dedicate to this without interruption) to share your thoughts and ideas with the view to work together towards how you would both like family life. After you have put
    changes into place, review them to see how well they are working and adjust if you need to. One area that could be worth exploring is how your family operates adjusting to your husband’s coming and going for work. Generally there seems to be two main ways families manage this – family routines change and are different when the worker is home and then away, OR family routines remain the same and the worker blends into the family routine.
  • Make time for yourselves to reduce stress and make time for your relationship to connect and have fun as a couple. I know this is easier said than done when you have two small children and are busy studying, working etc. but it’s worth considering how important this is and how it can be achieved.
  • Look to get external support when your partner is away and when he is home.
  • Seek relationship counselling to support you to get back on track.

I hope this is helpful and your family life is more fun, loving and harmonious soon.

To read other columns written by our psychologists, 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.

Jane Dodding is a psychologist and director with MindsPlus, a group of psychologists and other mental health workers who came together in 2007 to provide support to people living and working in rural and remote regions of Australia. For further information about MindsPlus, contact 1300 312 202 or visit www.mindsplus.com.au