What life's really like for the partner at home (newsflash: it's no picnic!)
By MiningFM co-founder Alicia Ranford
It's not a competition. We're BOTH exhausted!
It's fair to say that until I visited a mine site, it was hard to truly understand what an average day was like for my husband. Once I'd made the trip - and in the space of just 24 hours - I understood about the isolation, the long days, where he slept, ate and socialised and what the journey to and from the mine was like. The experience made me a more considerate and understanding partner. After seeing an operating mine and camp with my own eyes, I was finally able to make sense of the mood swings before he headed back to work, and his inability to make regular, lengthy calls while he was away.
One little problem remained ... how to make him understand what life was like for me while he was away at work!
We have two beautiful kids and I work part time. Life is hectic. Breakfasts, lunches, take kids to school, work, pay the bills, pick kids up from school, after-school commitments (I should be eligible for a taxi license). Then there's the washing, ironing, cleaning, shopping, helping the kids with their homework ... and don't forget to feed the animals (bugger), tidy up the house and fall into bed. Don’t get me wrong - I love it. But let’s be honest: sometimes it can be a lot like ground hog day, and it's a side of life the worker away doesn’t really see. Because...
...When he's home on FIFO R&R, there's the special meals, fun times catching up with family and friends, avoiding the more boring household chores and generally making life as fun as possible. It’s totally understandable. When you don’t get to hang out as a family every day, you want the 'together' times to be as fun as possible.
Unfortunately this often leads to misunderstandings, because the worker away can (and often does, according to our readers) forget that R&R isn’t reality.
I'm sure many of you who stay at home while your partner works away have heard comments like: "I have to keep working away 'cos my wife spends so much money" or "I am the one who works in the middle of nowhere. You get to stay home and hang out with your family and friends." Sure, these words are often said in jest or in the heat of the moment, but when you're both exhausted it can difficult to see the funny side.
My advice for both parties is to remember that it isn’t a competition.
You are both exhausted and ultimately working towards the same goal. My husband and I are aiming to get the mortgage down, save for the future, finish landscaping the garden, give the kids the best start in life and help them excel at school. We both want the same things and both have a role to play in achieving them. It is not about who works harder, because let’s face it - both roles are hard and exhausting. For us, it’s about achieving our goals and still loving each other when we finally reach them – fingers crossed!
- Take the time to explain what life is like while you are apart. Don’t play 'tit for tat', just explain what you find difficult. You never know - together you might come up with some strategies to ease the pressures for each other.
- We all like a little praise now and then. Acknowledge that your other half is working hard and that you love and appreciate them for it. Whether you are staying at home to raise the kids or heading out to the middle of nowhere to work, you are both making sacrifices for the common good of your family.
- Reward yourselves. If you manage to pay some extra cash off the mortgage or have spent the last two months working hard to finish off a home project, treat yourselves to a night out. Call a babysitter and head to the new restaurant that’s just opened up around the corner.
And lastly, our psychologist Angie says if you are struggling with the daily grind of FIFO, and unable to "find the love", focus on the things that are going well in your own life, and the things that you do like and appreciate about each other. When we're annoyed with our partner, it's very easy to think that everything they do is wrong or annoying, but this is rarely the case. Come back to thinking about the positive bits. This is not to ignore the bad stuff, because they need to be dealt with. But the bad bits will always be easier to manage together if there is some acknowledgement of the good!