Having worked in the Mining and Resources sector for the past 7 years and spending extended periods of time in remote parts of Australia, living in camps and being away from loved ones, I know all too well the stressors and strains that this cocktail can create.
There are so many wonderful opportunities that come from a family choosing to live a FIFO lifestyle – extended time at home on breaks; more holidays each year and a chance to ‘get ahead’ financially. These advantages also come with risk, if not managed consciously, openly and immediately.
Challenges of the FIFO lifestyle
I have been fortunate to work alongside many couples in FIFO situations and the main challenges consistently shared include:
- Disruption of routine with the children, to the point where the home-based parent begins to resent the partner coming home
- Loss of connection (emotionally, mentally, sexually, proximity)
- Frustration from the home-based person who feel they never get a break from full-time parenting and that there social life often suffers as they have the children when partner is on shift and the need to maximise time with the partner when home
- Frustration from the FIFO person that they feel they can’t relax in their home when they come off of shift and that they don’t have the freedom to catch up socially with their friends as often feel pressured to spend all the time at home
- Breakdown in communication due to shift times and long times between coming home
- A feeling of growing apart and perception that it takes several days to settle back into being a couple when the partner first comes home and then only have a short time before the focus shifts to them going back to site
- The agreed timeframe to work in a FIFO role gets extended indefinitely once the family is used to the higher income – leads to having no end in sight for having a bonded family unit
- Perception from the stay-at-home partner that while away on site their partner has plenty of free time with no responsibilities and resentment that they have all of the family responsibilities to shoulder alone
However, you can maintain a loving, connected and bonded relationship while living a FIFO lifestyle.
Suggestions for keeping the love alive
- Set clear boundaries with each other before the start of each trip away. Both share your needs, concerns and expectations that are aligned with you feeling loved and connected
- Make a plan for how often you will contact each while away – commit to a minimum and honour it
- Plan your ‘at-home’ time so that each of you has the time you need to feel nourished together AND also have time to engage in the independent activities and social events that you each desire. Agree in advance – no surprises
- Have child-free date nights each time you are home from site (plan in advance if you need babysitters) and make creating quality intimate time a priority
- Be aware when your buttons are being pushed and when you are being triggered by the time away from each other. Once you are aware your frustration, sadness or whatever emotion has kicked in, talk calming and truthfully to your partner about it
- Actively ‘check-in’ with each other about how you are feeling. Do not assume that silence means all is well. It is too easy to get ‘a niggle’ and let it fester into a full-blown argument.
- Avoid over-committing financially with investments – it is very useful to know you can exit the FIFO lifestyle if your relationship becomes compromised
- Communicate from the heart with integrity and honesty
To learn more about how to create balance and maintain love in your family life while having a FIFO work-life, you can book an In-house or phone or skype session with Christine.
Author: Christine McKee, B Psych (Hons 1), Accredited Trainer of NLP, AMAPS.