By Angie Willcocks, Mining Family Matters psychologist
Most of us begin a new job in the same way we start a relationship: lots of optimism and enthusiasm that everything will be great.
When a new job comes with a significant lifestyle upheaval, as it most certainly does with fly-in, fly-out (FIFO), it’s best to temper that enthusiasm with a good hard look at some of the challenges that might arise.
Most people who've decided to try the FIFO lifestyle are vaguely aware of potential issues ("It might be hard on the kids" or "It'll be tough for a while, until we get used to it"). Often, though, they're not clear on what specific difficulties they are likely to face, or how to minimise them.
Whether you’re making the decision as a single person, or as part of a couple or family, it is vitally important to be clear on your reasons for choosing FIFO. Ask yourself questions like:
- What has led to this decision?
- What do I/we hope to get out of it?
- What are the benefits?
- What goals am I/are we hoping to achieve by doing this (and how will I/we know when they’re reached)?
- What’s most important in my life and how do I want to live my life? Does this lifestyle fit in with that?
It's also important to ask yourself some questions about specific problems that might arise for you, your partner and/or your kids. Remember, every individual and family is unique and all have their share of issues and problems. Think about:
- Support systems: what’s available and what are you willing to make use of?
- What are the particular needs of your children?
- Do you have poorly managed health, mental health or drug and alcohol issues in your immediate or wider family?
- What are your partner's work commitments and goals?
- Do you and your partner have a history of loss, difficult separations or broken trust?
None of these issues necessarily mean that FIFO won't work. But any one of them could make things harder or more complicated if not considered and actively managed.
It's also important to accept that FIFO isn't for every family. Regularly discuss how you're all coping as a family unit, and reassess if things don't get easier.
Mining Family Matters aims to break down the barriers of isolation and the stresses of living away from family and friends. Although this website provides general advice from a psychologist, the content should never be regarded as a substitute for professional health services or crisis services. Always speak to your doctor or specialist provider for advice on a specific medical condition. If you are depressed and require urgent assistance, call 9-1-1 or visit the Canadian Mental Health Association website at www.cmha.ca.
Psychologist Angie Willcocks is an expert at helping families deal with the pressures of life in mining, oil and gas. To ask Angie a question, click here. It’s free! And to read other Angie articles, please click here.