Making new friends when your partner works away and there's a baby in tow

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Sarah Long arrived in Australia from the UK in early 2010 and met her Mr Miner soon after. They're based in Sydney and he does drive-in, drive-out (DIDO) to country NSW. Sarah came out to Oz as part of a six-month backpacking trip around the world, and never went home!


Last week I made a new friend! I feel like a bit of a nerd telling everyone about it, but it was pretty exciting to be honest.

There we were in the lift, after enjoying the mother and baby’s special screening at the cinema, when the other Mum commented on the fact that Mini Miner was sleeping, whilst her little one was wide awake. And that was that, instant bonding over the complex world of baby sleep habits!

I feel like, at this age, making friends is not something you do as often, or as easily as when you’re younger. Perhaps because you already have a strong group of friends, or perhaps because you’re not so open to meeting new people. But having had a baby and moved to a completely new area in the last few months, I need to extend my support circle.

It is SO important to have a truly supportive network when you live the FIFO/DIDO lifestyle! I have always emphasised the importance of taking the time to join in, make connections and cultivate friendships, so that I can have my own life while Mr Miner is away.

Nearly six years ago, I wrote a column for Mining Family Matters about meeting people and making new friends (Making your own life in a mining town). I was a carefree backpacker in those days, and in a completely different situation, but I decided this week to take a look back and see if it was time to heed my own advice.

Some of the suggestions are laughable now, with a three-month-old baby in tow. There's 'Get a hobby' (and unless showering alone is a hobby, I don’t think I’ll be taking up anything new anytime soon!) Similarly, 'Get a job', 'Go back to school' and 'Throw a party', aren’t likely to be happening in the near future.

But it turns out some of my shiny, enthusiastic twenty-something suggestions weren’t so naïve.

The one tip that helped me then and has helped me once again is to ask friends and colleagues for connections before you move. It’s always amazing how someone knows someone, whose cousin is Facebook friends with someone, who is in your exact same situation and lives just down the street. Obviously the more remote you go, the less likely this is to work, but put the feelers out there and try some networking and you could be pleasantly surprised how easy it is.

Similarly using your partner’s connections has worked on more than one occasion. Especially if they have worked/lived there for a short time before you move. Their workmates have partners, likely some of whom have been in a similar situation to you.

A key point to also make here is that I am a huge, nerdy joiner. If it’s out there, then I’ve joined it. Book clubs, baby groups, FIFO partner’s groups, gyms, cooking classes, expat clubs, churches, stamp collecting clubs… only joking, are there even clubs for that?!

And if like me you are a huge, nerdy joiner then the internet is your best friend. Between Gumtree, Meetup and community sites, before we even moved I had a mothers' group, fitness class, baby-wearing group, baby music group, baby swimming lessons, all investigated and signed up for.

In all honesty, making new friends with a baby has been much easier. Baby group is a ready-made world of people thrown into a very different situation. But the downside of being a huge nerdy joiner, is that you can feel like just that. The human equivalent of a huge one-year-old Labrador – still as friendly and enthusiastic as a puppy, but not so cute and a bit slobbery!

The thing I struggle with most is feeling like I’m intruding or relying on others too much, particularly if they have an already well-established group of friends.

That was the best thing about meeting my new lift buddy: we are both in the same situation, originally from elsewhere, both moved here due to our partner’s connection to the place and relocated to have space for our babies. But also that she was confident enough to start the conversation and put herself out there.

Confidence really is the most important part of all this. That might be easy for me to say as an extrovert, but so many people are in the same situation, just waiting for someone else to give that first smile or say the first "hello".

When it comes to making friends, I like to think it’s a bit like mining: it takes a bit of work, but there are some real gems out there to be found!


Our Miner's Girl also has her own website: check out her blog here at http://minersgirl.com/

And here's lots more from Sarah on Mining Family Matters:

If you've got a question for Sarah or would like to tell your own tale about mining life, we'd love to hear from you. Click here!