Why This FIFO Lifestyle Can Just F… Off

Look, I’m not saying for a moment that having a husband with a fly in fly out (FIFO) job is all bad. There are many advantages, most grouped under two heading:

Cold, hard Cash

Warms cuddles etc

BUT… I’m not paying any attention to the good parts just now cos I just need a rant and a rave and to foam at the mouth a little.

Because I’m totally over it. Completely.

Our Intn’l Man of Mystery has been mysteriously disappearing to foreign parts for five out of the past six years. He did two years in Yemen, then 2011 he worked in Sydney Monday – Friday job. Then in 2012 he started travelling again, to work out of an office in Sulaymaniyah in Kurdistan.

His FIFO routine is 28 days on, 28 days off. He travels on his days off so it’s usually something like 31 days away and 25 days at home.

What are your issues with this routine?  I hear you warble.

Well, I’m glad you asked… here they are!

These kids need their dad at home. They’re lucky to have an intact family and they’d benefit a lot from having Dad around full-time.

The teenagers especially need their Dad around, even if they’d deny it furiously. Teenage boys turn away from their mums, we’re not their role models. They need a man to accompany them across that perilous bridge to manhood. They think I am hopeless and lame.

I need an alpha male in the house for all the reasons above.

There’s only so much sibling rivalry and bickering one woman can stand and after this FIFO life for five of the past six years I have reached my limit!!

I’m dying of loneliness for adult company.

The shift between Dad home full time not working and Dad 100% gone is too much, every change causes tsunami-sized emotional upheavals and I don’t just mean with the kids.

I hate spending public holidays alone with no family here in Sydney.

Mum’s taxi needs another driver – it’s a full-time job and I can’t have a glass of wine on the many evenings that pickups are needed.

It’s costing us a a fortune in babysitters and psychologists.

My mental health is suffering – badly! Can you tell??

So… negotiations with the Intn’l Man of Mystery are ongoing. I’m not immune to his reluctance to work back in Sydney – twice as hard for half the money.

Look he might have a wee point there… but… what to do?

Any top tips on how to approach this delicate stage of life.

Don’t you think that dealing with teenagers requires at least two parents, maybe more?!!

Does your husband’s job threaten your mental health too?

Should I trade him in for a new boyfriend?

Yours going completely bonkers

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Posted on: October 9, 2014

26 Comments

  • Reply October 9, 2014

    CJ McGrory

    Well Seana this post made me choke on my cornflakes with laughter! Although I do appreciate the seriousness of the issues. It is wise that you are continually assessing the costs and benefits to the family of the FIFO lifestyle. And maybe now the scales are leaning like the tower of Pisa…As a counsellor I believe mental health IS gold, although as the wife of a recently retrenched husband the cold hard cash is tempting.The other hot topic can exist no matter the circumstances :-0x

    • Reply October 9, 2014

      Seana Smith

      It’s well worth a laugh, CJ. Sorry to hear of your hubby’s work ending. Hope he can keep busy and cheery until he finds something else. Xxx

  • Reply October 9, 2014

    Mairi Stones

    What about at least a year off! A sabbatical, time at home without working. Sell something, re-morgage, downsize, there is always a way. Money can never buy you time and this time with your children can never ever be had again, this is it. Mmmm, might sound a little harsh; it’s a short period in your lives but a crucial time in your children’s lives. What do you value most? Do and go for that. I don’t think people regret spending time with their children, creating a good home and family life, but they can definitely regret not doing it. If your mental health is flagging then you can not be truly there for them either, that’s two semi absent parents. Looks like a little sacrifice is required here. Good luck with the decision. Worth a wee prayer for guidance since our human minds are limited, and good luck, a big decision. XX

    • Reply October 9, 2014

      Seana Smith

      Thanks Mairi and funny you should mention that idea as it has come up. I could work a bit more (not too much!) and he could be Mr Mum. And quite agree, we never get this time back.

  • Reply October 9, 2014

    Morag Smith

    I only have 2 children and my husband very considerately works close by – he leaves at 8.00am and is home by 5.00pm AND I NEED THAT. I need to know that he is going to come in at 5.00pm to offer relief from the demands of a 4 and 6 year old. I don’t know what I would do if he wanted to go and work away? Say NO probably. I like the idea of a year off but beware I’ve done just that and have been ruined for returning to full-time work ever since!! And I so agree that teenage (and younger) boys need a male role model – they are growing into men and need a man to show them the way. Something we Mum’s just can’t do coz we don’t have the inside knowledge. And finally if I am not ok physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually then I cannot be wife/mother/lover/friend etc to the rest of my family. xxxx

    • Reply October 10, 2014

      Seana Smith

      Yes, that’s so true Mo. I’m good these days as knowing when I am sliding into a pit, and want to write soon about the recent brush with nasty anxiety… it’s resolved now through treatment, good to get on top of that early.

      I can’t imagine ever working in an office full-time again and I really don’t know how P manages to work 28 days straight… horror. I’m sure he’d benefit from a change as much as I will.

  • Reply October 9, 2014

    Johanna

    Ohh I hear you Seana and sympathize. Yes I think teen boys need their Dads around for sure but hard cash in a hard climate is also important. We’ve moved countries several times to keep our nuclear family together so I’m not a good one to ask really. Guess you gotta just keep on talking and talking.

    • Reply October 10, 2014

      Seana Smith

      Hi Jo, I think you guys did the right thing to stay together and move countries. I think our family would have done the same but our eldest’s diagnosis when he was three (ASD) meant we need to do early intervention and then we have never wanted to disturb his schooling as it’s all worked well. But he finishes at the end of next year. I think that when Teen15 finishes school in three years then the rest of us will up stumps and live somewhere else for a few years. I’d really like that a lot (I say that now!) My hubby used to work in the city here in Sydney for years and years but then started rotating again 6 years ago. It’s been OK with lots of good points (his time off is great) but it’s past its use by date by now. Come the day we head OS I will be getting advice from you.

  • Reply October 10, 2014

    Jean | Holy Smithereens

    Hi Seana, that’s quite a challenging family situation. I can, to only a small degree, relate as my husband’s job also requires him to be out sporadically but not as regularly as your husband. Plus I don’t have kids so nothing compares to your situation. I grew up with my dad being home only during the weekends as he worked out of the city. But it wasn’t really an issue to me because when he was there, he was 150% there. But I can only speak for myself because I’ve a sibling who, even now as a full grown adult still has some deep seated issues due to this. Every child is different. I did however, appreciate that parents have to sacrifice in order to make their family’s life comfortable. I hope you reach a medium ground where hopefully you get the best of both worlds. 🙂

    • Reply October 10, 2014

      Seana Smith

      I think we will, Jean, negotiations are ongoing, and he’s a good and responsible dad. The upsides to FIFOP are that he’s here for 3.5 weeks and not working at all so much more available for the kids than when he worked in the city. Life is so very, very different when he is here. It’s blooming weird. The kids ARE all different and I think things affect them totally differently.

  • Reply October 10, 2014

    Desire Empire

    Oh dear. Not to mention the fact that ISIS is beating a path to his door,which must have you half worried out of your brain.

    Being a sailing widow, I feel your pain,but sadly have no tips, exceptperhaps trade some of the psyche session for a nanny to help.

    Hope you are OK.

    Carolyn

    • Reply October 10, 2014

      Seana Smith

      I was really feeling worried about him, but so far so good int he city he is in… plus they literally never leave the place they are working in… I’d go mad with locked up syndrome, but all they do is work. Not keen to write about the ISIS aspect, but superstitious about that. He’ll be home next Wed thank god.

  • Reply October 10, 2014

    Lydia C. Lee

    Hang in there. I hear you on the single mother syndrome. I’m not sure what the answer is. My partner talked of FIFO in Canberra for a bit, and I just said we’d come with him. I can do all the kid stuff by myself, and even the crappy teen stuff and the taxi driving. But it’s the having someone to download to at the end of the day, sit with on the couch etc – even if they don’t get home til 10. So my 2 cents is that the emotional stuff is you, you not having the emotional support – and that makes all those other things harder. Not saying your husband isn’t a great support over the phone/email/txt but it’s not the same. Not for me, anyway.

    • Reply October 10, 2014

      Lydia C. Lee

      Part of it is being a team, us against them. So when the teen rolls their eyes, you know there’s still someone on your side…(and it’s the teen not you that’s unreasonable). Hard to feel part of a team if you’re the only one at the ground…

    • Reply October 10, 2014

      Seana Smith

      Nor for me, I can tell you. Definitely not the same. With the time difference it can be late when we talk and the wifi can be dodgy at both our ends… and he’s very busy at the times that suit us to chat… it’s tricky… it will change though, I think we’ve agreed on that, may take a wee while but we will change lifestyle for at least a few years. Whew… teenagers… giants who have stolen my sweet children!! On the one hand I do love seeing them grow and be more independent and flower… but there are many downsides too.

  • Ugh! It is so much hard work for you. Time for a change and the sabbatical sounds like a good way to reframe everything.

    • Reply October 10, 2014

      Seana Smith

      Hey, I could have a wee sabbatical too… from the washing and cooking… it is sounding better and better… very good to get things off my chest.

    • Reply April 25, 2019

      Liz Coughlan

      Hi Seana,
      I’ve really enjoyed reading your posts.
      I just googled FIFO husband, working Mum and teenage kids and this popped up, thank goodness!!
      It’s nice to hear someone in the same boat feels the same. My hubby has been FIFO for 4 years now and I work full-time. I feel lonely a lot of the time and I wonder why?? But as you say it’s the adult company I miss.
      I find the week that hubby is away at work, my socializing changes. I have tried to keep in touch with the couples when he is away and but I find it difficult. I am on my own one week and then back with hubby the next week. It doesn’t sound like a big change, the week on week off roster but it has completely changed our social dynamics.
      I have had to be so self sufficient that I find the conversations with Mums that have hubby’s home have changed, I feel like an outsider. I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining but we don’t have the common challenges that we use to when he was working from home.
      The hardest times are when my teenage girls are fighting with each other and I am trying to get ready for work or do housework etc I feel I need them to step up and be more independent. It’s a constant struggle.
      Then when hubby is home he wants to spend time with the girls and his buddies, doing everything as family. This is nice in theory, but I don’t get any time to myself away from the kids…..
      It’s a juggling act.
      I will keep an eye out for your posts and try to reply.
      I hear you and I think you need to know that you are doing a great job!!!
      Liz

      • Reply April 27, 2019

        Seana Smith

        Oh thank you Liz, I do feel for you, the FIFO years were very tough. I realise that that post needs to be updated as my husband is no longer working FIFO. WHAT A RELIEF!!!!!

        Life is SO much easier. It really did have its good points, butt he bad ones outweighed them in the end. I found having teenagers really hard when he was away. Our twins are about to turn 13 now and I know their teenage years will be much more manageable with two parents here all the time… famous last words.

        best wishes to you and your family xxx

  • Reply October 10, 2014

    Trish

    4-5 days of it – was enough for me .
    I don’t know how FIFO women do it – or Navy etc.

    May your spirit find what it needs to sustain you on this journey.

    May you discover your inner strength and face all difficulties with dignity and grace. …I copied it.

    • Reply October 10, 2014

      Seana Smith

      I am full of admiration for forces families. Very hard life as the parent is away for such a long time and often somewhere seriously dangerous, which is not our case. Take it easy and hope you have a good weekend Trish.

  • Reply October 13, 2014

    Kirsty

    Well, Seana, you know that I totally get where you’re coming from! We’ve never had a fancy name for it, Pete just works “offshore”! We’ve been fortunate in recent years that he’s been on contract so we’re not only on a more regular home/away schedule, there’s also regular money in the bank; years of never knowing when he’d be home or away, months of no work = no money, have been enormously stressful.
    What I’ve always wondered about is why there’s no support system for the wives/partners of offshore workers – I have never had anyone to talk to who GETS IT. Women telling me that their husband was away for 5 days, how HARD it was, that they “UNDERSTAND” make me crazy! They have no bloody idea… what its like being up with a sick kid in the night, terrified that you’re doing the wrong thing and having no one there to talk to, run things past…help make decisions…go to school meetings…plays, shows, early sports day starts…the list is endless. It makes me howl (with laughter and at the irony!) how much help is offered to the “poor guy” on the rare occasions that I have not been around; no one offers to make me dinner/take the kids/help out… somehow, we just get on with it, make it work…then make room for the returning hero when he comes back!!!
    Our lives are split into two parts – when he’s home/when he’s away – and the differences are immense, more so as recently, we discovered that Pete probably has Aspergers (in a highly functioning way) and I’ve unknowingly contended with that for years which makes those changes even more profound.
    There are no easy answers but one of the things that I have made sure of is that the kids understand and respect what we BOTH do for them – Dad’s work, although it entails absences, provides for the wonderful lifestyle that they have, all the holidays, sports equipment, electronic devices etc. and Mum is the backbone of the family who keeps that machine running. I made it clear to Pete at the beginning that he wasn’t to bring presents home when we came back from work because the kids needed to understand that this is our life; he goes to work to provide for us, not because he’s off on some jolly and therefore has to feel guilty, that he owes us something.
    I agree with Mhairi, that if you’re struggling and you think that the kids, especially the older two, would benefit from having their Dad around more, then maybe it would be helpful to regroup and see what other possibilities there are. And just remember…you are NOT alone!

    • Reply October 13, 2014

      Seana Smith

      Thank you Kirsty, yes, you will understand… and you have always done this. I actually think it’s a lifestyle that really suits people who are a bit Aspie as their work and home life are so black and white. One of the reasons I am struggling is that my oldest son who is more autism spectrum than Aspie really just needs his Dad. I can see totally why it is good for Paul and there are great things… but I am totally swamped with the four of them plus ASD plus one with ADHD and I really need a change cos I am about as nuts as I can tolerate at this point. We’ve always had a regular routine so that has helped but things like sick parents and funerals and such like really throw us out.

      Much appreciate your thoughts and experiece. Forza!

      • Reply October 13, 2014

        Kirsty

        I think the most important thing for you is to listen to and acknowledge your own needs…you obviously realise that you’re finding it tough and if you’ve coped for this long and are NOW at breaking point, then this is your time. Everything can be changed; as Mhairi said it may take some organising and down-sizing but better now than wait for you collapse. You have alot on your plate with kids with ASD and ADHD without dealing with it alone and the bigger boys are really at that age when they need their Dad to identify with. Will be really interested to see what you decide to do.
        Ellie and I will be in Edinburgh in December for a few days so we’re going to catch up with the girls (kids all a bit too old and don’t know eachother although might see Alex so they can look at Edinburgh uni together). Any chance you guys will be there???
        Keep us posted, sending love and positive thoughts xo

  • Reply October 19, 2014

    Megan Blandford

    So hard, and I reckon the constant change from having him home to having him gone would be really hard to deal with. Hope a solution is on the horizon. xx

    • Reply October 21, 2014

      Seana Smith

      Solution will come next year, will take a while to change workplace… much discussion taking place. He’s home now and we’re all getting used to each other again… breakfasts have much improved… weird old life.

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