By Alicia Ranford, Mining Family Matters founder
Ignorance is bliss, but in FIFO families it can lead to silly misconceptions and a sense that you don’t really care. So if your partner is regularly away for work, take the time to find out what life is like when they’re not with you.
Some miners take video footage of their workmates, their workplace, the machinery and the amazing landscapes. They explain common terms and acronyms so it doesn’t sound like they’re speaking a foreign language when they’re home.
As one FIFO wife explains:
“My husband works on an oil rig, generally in the middle of the ocean. I vividly remember our early conversations ... he would use all these crazy acronyms and I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. I knew this was a bit of blip on our communication radar. I tried to ask questions but could not picture the answers in my head. Without a visual understanding, it was difficult for me to make the links.
Then one day, he came home with a short edited movie that one of his workmates had made about the oil rig. Well, for me it was like turning on the light switch! I could finally see all of these things that he was talking about. And you know what: I was interested, very interested. I remember saying, 'Wow!! Is that where the helicopter has to land?' and 'Is that really where you sleep?' I was absolutely enthralled."
If you don’t have a video camera, take some photographs for the kitchen fridge. Draw up a daily routine so at any time of the day the kids will know “Right now Dad/Mum is working or sleeping or eating dinner”.
Lots of little kids, like those mentioned above, think their FIFO Mum or Dad actually works for a taxi company or at the airport, because that’s where they go when they leave for work.
Of course, it’s also vitally important for the FIFO worker to be fully aware of life at home when they’re away. Working FIFO is no excuse for remaining unaware about additional stresses, family routines, how the ‘home’ partner’s own job is going, household finances and how you all work to keep the family home running. One FIFO mum we know sends an email and a photo every single day to her husband who works on an oil rig.
Put one another in the picture. It will make life easier, it will give you more to talk about and make you all feel more connected.
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.