real life

12 things every fly-in fly-out wife wants you to know.

“Your husband works offshore right? That’s why he isn’t here?” he asked. “Yep,” I said sitting straighter on the chair adjusting my skirt.

We were at a funeral so small talk was not what I was expecting. “Well, I guess you aren’t naive about it. You know what you’re up for,” he said.

I almost fell off the pew because I wanted to fist pump this literal blind man’s attitude.

I have been living a fly-in fly-out life for a wee while now, and if you take into account my FIFO father, it’s been the majority of my life. So while I don’t claim to know it all, I claim to have learnt some. For those needing my experience, I have been five years a defence wife {of a consistently deployed serviceman}, two years in mining and eleven years offshore. Three children born into a FIFO life.

If I have learnt something – it all comes down to you.

Regardless however here are a few myths dispelled for anyone who is starting our or has been stereotyped because despite what many think FIFO isn’t a dirty word. Unless you’re an Indian porn star and then it means the ‘first wife in first wife out’. A blog and kinky commenters will teach you that, but seriously FIFO is not the dirty word some think it is we are just like any other family working to get paid.

Let’s dispell some of these myths:

FIFO doesn’t just relate to mine construction anymore

FIFO is anyone who works away from the home for a period of time. My husband is offshore, my neighbour’s husband is in Africa, the woman two streets away from me, her husband is a doctor in a remote community.

(Image: Supplied)
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It’s not all about the money

Often it’s a career or roster choice. My husband is offshore he is marine personnel, the sea is his place of work and for some working, as a geologist means a lifetime of mine camps it’s a career choice. Personally, we work for the roster as well as my husband’s job, as do many that I know. Like us, they have weighed up what works for their family and FIFO is it. The quality time rules their decision making.

That our kids are unruly

Our children are often the most well-adjusted in their class. FIFO again when lived well; which is up to the individual parent, teaches resilience, strength and teamwork. I get tired of the argument about the distress I’m placing on my children when my kids are very well adjusted individuals.

We are single, married parents

While some chose to call themselves this I have never felt this way. This, FIFO life of ours was a joint decision there was nothing single about it.

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That your marriage will fail

If you want it to it will, just like it would if you lived a civiy life. If they chose not to talk and tell their loved ones their problems, then this is a communication issue, not their jobs location. If your partner cheats, it’s their inability to keep their hands to themselves. If there was an intimacy or emotional connection issue, they should speak up. There is no evidence to suggest that FIFO is the main reason for divorce. If lived right like any marriage it will thrive.

It will affect the children’s bond with their father

No, I don’t believe it will. How you chose to spend your off time is up to you. My kids have grown up with FIFO, and we have worked damn hard ensuring that my children bond with their dad is as strong as any other civilian child’s bond. Like any relationship marriage or parental you have to work at it relationships of any sort worked anyway don’t just happen. If you feel FIFO is compromising your relationship or your child is struggling with a FIFO lifestyle beyond your control you need to re-evaluate things.

That you will become an overweight alcoholic or drug user

No, you will make the choice to do that. You will either choose to sit on your backside after a shift or move it in the gym. You control what goes in and out of your mouth. You make the choice to place a pipe in your mouth or not. To think you’re an acceptation to the addiction rule is naïve.

That you will become mentally unwell

This is a tricky one because FIFO does exacerbate emotions however it’s not solely to blame for mental illness when working away. There are always other underlying issues such as pre-existing anxiety or depression as well as other outside issues that attribute to mental health. Regardless of where you are, you have to learn self-care. Having had depression and exhaustion myself I understand it but I also get that if you don’t take of yourself, you’re going to end up unwell or worse FIFO or not.

If you are struggling, every company has an employee assistance program available for everyone in the family or call Lifeline 131114. You are the only one that can take care of you, and if FIFO isn’t working for you then you need to finish up there is no shame in taking care of yourself. We also need to change the conversation for our children, especially in boys.

Andrew Daddo owns up to a parenting fail on This Glorious Mess (post continues after audio).

That we are rolling in money

Workers are paid for their skill and compensation for being ‘away’ or being placed in a dangerous situation. The Offshore industry has a fatality rate that is seven times more likely than any other industry with an average of 16 deaths occurring a year. There is a reason for the big dollars, but unfortunately what many don’t consider is we are also taxed at the highest tax and levy rates. The other factor is most often the wife is at home not working, and so really the income is just what both would be if they were working locally.

That we are doing this for toys

When my husband and I started FIFO, it was to buy a house. Essentially a toy – a roof over our head. Now we work for the roster.

That wives do nothing but shop

No, they don’t. We don’t have time. Most often spouses are still working while their husband are at work and those that stay at home well having done both that’s a job in its self. Those at home we work double time, our jobs don’t stop when our partners return home the load lightens, but it never stops.

That we are a pack of whingers

Well most of us aren’t we are just families getting on with it, but there is always one squeaky wheel needing to blame someone one for their life reactions. The truth is there is no support system for FIFO workers, unlike defence personnel who have much-needed support systems. FIFO communities because of its broadness of industry have none but what individuals have created. So when something does come up, we are seen as whingers, but most of us accept life is full of ups and downs.

We are just families making a living for the love of our families just like anyone else.

This post was originally featured on The FIFO Wife. You can view it here, and follow Debbie's life as a FIFO wife on Instagram.

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