Author: Jacqueline Waters
My husband is qualified as a Mining Engineer, meaning we’re a career FIFO family and we will be doing this for many years to come. He works a 9/5/5/2/4/3 roster… which, yes, is very hard to keep track of. We’re lucky he’s home 3 weekends out of 4, but short rosters also mean short R&R, which can be hard to catch our breath.
Finding out we were expecting twins
Our older son had just turned 2 when we found out we were having twins. I spent many sleepless nights wondering how on earth I’d cope. We have no family in Australia and I seriously doubted my ability to manage twins and FIFO life. As it turned out, that anxiety and stress was wasted energy. It is hard, but I cope fine – most days!
Pregnant with twins and FIFO life
Despite a mostly uncomplicated pregnancy, it was a constant worry in the back of my mind the whole pregnancy that something would happen while he was at work. There are 2 flights most days direct from his site to Perth, and he could drive if necessary, but he was always going to be hours away. Plus, when he’s underground he’s uncontactable, so he stayed surface for as much as possible during the last weeks and I had a lot of emergency site contact numbers, just in case! Thankfully, we made it to our c-section date and he flew in the night before and was home for 3 weeks afterward.
Newborn twins and FIFO life
In the early days, trying to stick to a routine when we have such a messy roster took up so much of my energy. It took me a few swings to figure out that a strict routine just wasn’t working and having some fluidity has worked much better for us. I struggled immensely with the loneliness and isolation early on. I have a wonderful group of friends who enabled me to still do activities with our toddler, but things like ducking for a quick cup of coffee were no longer worth the effort. I would sometimes go days without seeing another adult human being and talking on the phone isn’t the same as sitting on the couch with someone. It started having an impact on my mental health so I went back to work part time when the twins were 7 months old.
How our children cope with FIFO life
Our children are well adjusted to FIFO life, as they don’t know anything else. Their dad is extremely hands on when he’s home, which is key to successfully living this way. He’s very mindful of the fact that while he’s away and working hard, he gets to clock off, while I get absolutely no respite in that time. I’m still yet to figure out any form of self care while he’s away because it just feels like there is never any time. However, the quality family time we get when my husband is home more than makes up for the tough times.
Facetime is one of the best inventions for FIFO families. The kids speak to dad before bed every night and I speak to him again later in the evening. Holidays and occasions are things we have to figure out too. We currently celebrate the childrens’ birthdays when dad is home rather than the actual day but it’ll be their choice when they’re older. We’re fortunate enough he’s been home every Christmas so far, but smaller ticket holidays like Easter have been celebrated on the actual day to match the build up from school, daycare, friends etc.
How I cope with FIFO life
The lack of respite, lack of sleep and illness are the things I find hardest to deal with now. My children are terrible sleepers anyway, but also the quality of sleep when I’m the sole adult at home is appalling, which affects my ability to manage well toward the end of a long swing. I find not having anyone to offer a second opinion challenging when the kids are sick, especially at night. One of our twins ended up in hospital last year, and trying to sort out logistics to take her to ED in the middle of the night without family to call on just made a hard situation even harder. My husband was on the first flight out to take care of the other 2, but it was a long, lonely several hours waiting for him.
Because we’ve always been FIFO, it is just our normal. I do have days when I desperately want him to come home to help get through to bedtime, but as it isn’t going to happen I just keep going. I try not to complain about how hard it can be, it’s our choice to live this way and for every aspect I find hard, there is a benefit to outweigh it. We agree we can reassess this life at any time if any of us is really struggling but for the foreseeable future I’m happy to support my husband to meet his career goals, we’re a great team and both make sacrifices to keep our family running and happy.