I wanted to compile some of the most frequently asked questions that I receive in regards to our FIFO life. I’ll be sure to keep adding to this page as more questions come to mind.
What does FIFO mean?
FIFO is an acronym for fly-in-fly-out.
This means workers who fly via plane to their workplace, work and live there for a period of time and then return home. Popular in Australia, it is most commonly a lifestyle associated with work in the mining sector.
Other acronyms you may see are DIDO, which is drive-in-drive out and refers to workers who drive to work and live onsite for a period of time before returning home.
There’s also BIBO – bus in bus out, which is sometimes used in place of DIDO.
What is a FIFO husband?
A FIFO husband refers to married (typically cis gendered) fly-in-fly-out worker. This means they fly out to work away on site (i.e. mine site) while their wife remains at home.
What is a FIFO wife?
A FIFO wife refers to the partner of someone who does fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) work. It can also mean a woman who works FIFO themselves.
What does a FIFO ‘swing’ mean?
A swing is the length of time a fly-in-fly-out worker is away for work or home on their R & R (rest and recuperation). This is often written as a ratio. For example if a FIFO worker is away for 4 weeks at work and then home for 2 weeks, their swing would be 4:2.
You may also hear people refer to an on swing (at work) or an off swing (home) as well as the day they leave being fly-out-day and the day they return may be fly-in-day.
What does your husband do for work?
My hubby, Kane is a commercial diver and vessel master (aka skipper). Most of his career, he has worked in mining, specifically the oil and gas sector. He’s done so many different swings over the years, with the longest being 7 weeks.
We’ve been living la vida FIFO for over 10 years now. Kane started working away 3 years before we had our first child and now we have 3 children – our youngest at the time of this blog is nearly 8 months.
Don’t your children suffer when their dad is away so much?
I obviously can’t 100% say what my children are experiencing, because I’m not them. What I notice though, is that they are incredibly resilient. Not all swings look the same. Some times that Dad leaves are harder than others, some don’t seem to bother them at all. Our eldest (and only daughter) definitely experiences deeper levels of sadness when Kane leaves, but not every time and I find there is always a period of adjustment with each swing, that resolves after some time to process the emotions.
Something else I notice is that when Kane is home, he gets to be far more involved in their life than he would be if he worked locally. Realistically, if he worked in Perth, he would be working 12 hour days (plus travel time) meaning, he would potentially only be home for bedtime, if at all. When he’s home from work now he gets to do so many hands-on activities with the kids, that usually I would be responsible for; things like parent help, going to school assemblies, taking the kids to play dates and parties, swimming lessons, cooking and more.
Doesn’t your husband miss his kids when he’s away?
Yes. This comment grinds my gears a bit as a FIFO mum. Yes of course Kane misses his children (and me!) but sometimes you gotta do hard things in life and for us, this is one of them.
In the words of Glennon Doyle: “we can do hard things“. Kane misses the kids, he misses me, we miss him. It’s hard sometimes but so are a lot of things in life and for us, this is a worthwhile thing to be doing.
How do you maintain a happy marriage in FIFO?
I feel like the same principles of what make marriage work in general, can be applied to making marriage work in FIFO life.
Communication is everything. And more to this, we have both done a lot of inner work to understand our own trauma and belief patterns that can be the cause of a lot of communication breakdown to begin with. We make a conscious effort to listen to our each other, express what needs we have and how we collaborate to make things work.
There have been a couple of periods where we’ve sought the advice and support of marriage counselling, which has definitely helped. I also see a psychologist myself and actually, it was my psychologist who first suggested that Kane may have ASD and referred us on to get him assessed.
I also find the saying ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ rings true for us. As someone who values soltitude, Kane recharges in his swings away from the family and I enjoy the opportunity to spend time focusing on my hobbies in the evenings when he’s away, like drawing and even writing this blog!
We certainly aren’t perfect but I am proud of how far we’ve come and the work we’ve done to get here.
Isn’t FIFO life lonely?
Yes, sometimes. Like any lifestyle choice, there are definite downfalls to FIFO, one of which is feelings of loneliness that can arise when Kane’s away. After over 10 years of living a FIFO life, there are many things I do to help manage isolation and loneliness when I’m home without my husband. Thankfully, I have my parents that help with not only logistics when it comes to the kids, but they provide a safe haven to visit when we need to get out of the house, have a swim in their pool or have someone cook us a meal. I have a great circle of friends around me, many of whom I know I can pick up the phone to call (and do), or drop a voice message if I need. As I mentioned earlier, I also see a psychologist regularly who helps with coping strategies and is a great sounding board on those harder days.
What are the best parts of FIFO life?
- Help with day-to-day life jobs like lunches, school drop offs and pickups, baby nap times and nappy changes, dog walking, grocery shopping and cooking.
- Sleep-ins during the week.
- Having time to hang together during the day, it’s like a little holiday every time he’s home.
- Being able to book holidays in off-peak times.
- The feeling when you miss someone.
- Improved sex life.
- Oh, and there’s the money, too.