Welcome to the FIFO partners club!

Whether you’re new to the fly-in fly-out game, a seasoned pro or maybe you’re married to a shift-worker and it feels like they’re a FIFO worker… I hope this post helps you navigate life with someone that doesn’t work the usual Monday – Friday, 9-5 scenario.

Our FIFO situation

For a bit of background, my husband Kane has worked FIFO for over 10 years and is currently working 4:4 (weeks, not days) in oil and gas off the coast of Western Australia.

We live in Perth with our 3 kids and serial escapee dog. I’m a registered nurse but have been working more recently in my own business in content creation and marketing as well as running networking events for other local women in business. Life is very full, often chaotic and I would say we manage to find good work-life balance and thrive instead of survive most of the time!

We can do hard things

You’ll probably be told ‘I don’t know how you do it’ many times during your FIFO experience. I remind myself that I can do hard things. Nothing is ever perfect or totally smooth sailing in life – and even though FIFO has its challenges, I trust that future me can handle them.

Truthfully some days I don’t know how I ‘do it’ either.  BUT I wanted to share with you the things that I do know, the things that help me ride this FIFO rollercoaster with as much ease and flow as possible.

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6 tips for surviving and thriving as a FIFO partner

 1. Effective communication

Good communication is key.  I think this is the key no just for a successful long distance relationship but relationships in general, really…

It’s helpful to be able to talk things out with your significant other in an effective and rational way. Trying to get your partner to listen (or vice versa) when you’re feeling angry or elevated, isn’t going to work. If you find you’re constantly arguing or not able to rationally solve situations, it’s a good idea to see a couples counsellor.

Poor communication is one of the biggest contributors to a relationship breakdown and it will go a long way in helping things if you get help before it’s at the point of no return. Most mining companies offer couples counselling in their Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) too.

Depending on the type of work and shift pattern your partner is on can also affect the way you communicate. Night shift can make it tricky to speak regularly and internet coverage can be poor at remote sites. Make a plan that works for both of you for phone calls and if you have kids try to schedule a time for a video call here and there.

Lean into compassion

It can feel monotonous on both sides in FIFO. Those working away are usually clocking up long hours, meanwhile you’re exhausted from the relentlessness of home life. Sometimes there’s not much to say.

It can feel like you’re just grinding through the days and that’s okay.

Show yourself and your partner compassion, keep things light – nothing good comes from heavy conversations when you’re both tired. Even consider talking every other day if that suits.

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The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work

We were recommend this book by our couples counsellor. Based on decades-long research, it identifies the features of successful relationships (and what leads them to fail) and has great strategies for conflict resolution and reconnection. Highly recommend!

Read more: Practical ways to make FIFO life easier for partners

Apps, tips and tools to make your life easier as a FIFO partner

2. Prioritise your physical health and well being

Being at home by yourself when your partner is away can be a messy juggle. Especially if you throw kids into the mix. I really noticed after having our third child that I felt incredibly stretched both logistically and emotionally. In these times, it’s our own needs that fall down the list of priorities and it becomes a vicious cycle. The less we prioritise our physical health, the less energy we have and the less motivated we are to do the things that are going to make us feel better.

I totally understand how hard it can feel to prioritise yourself when you have so much on your plate. With Kane’s 4 week swings, 3 kids (including a toddler), working part time, running a business and managing all the things that come with those responsibilities – it can be A LOT.

Exercise

Regular exercise is powerful for a lot of people to help boost energy levels, improve mood and maintain social connections. I know exercise is one of those things that can be the hardest for mums stay consistent with.

I found an outdoor, kid-friendly exercise class for women. The workouts are varied and keep me engaged. Being outdoors also does wonders for my mood – even when it’s raining (we train undercover if needed) and I love that I can bring the kids and it fills their social cup running around with the others. I’ve also made strong connections with the members and it there’s a sense of community – which is another mood-boosting element.

I’ve been going since my eldest was 11 weeks old – and she’s about to turn 10!  There are lots of options out there for mums who want to exercise – you just gotta dip your toe in the water and give them a try to see what’s right for you.

Sleep patterns

There’s a reason sleep deprivation has been used as a form of torture. Sleep is so important to our physical health and is something that can take a hit as a FIFO partner.

I know I often stay up way too late because it feels like the only uninterrupted, ‘sacred’ time I have to myself. But then when I have a few consecutive nights of going to bed late, it has a profoundly negative effect on my emotional health. I’m crankier and unable to self-regulate – which leads to me parenting in a way that isn’t enjoyable for anyone.

Sometimes there’s jobs (like work) to do after hours and it’s unavoidable to get to bed early. But if you’re spending hours scrolling social media and it’s not recharging your batteries – try reading a book, or journalling or something else that’s actually going to be better for winding down and getting a good sleep.

Nutrition

It’s a common struggle to eat well when you have loads on your plate (pardon the pun). Investing some time in meal planning, using a meal delivery or prep service (like Hello Fresh etc.) or outsourcing to someone to help you cook are helpful ways to ease the mental load in this area.

Fuelling your body with good food will help improve energy, stop those ‘hangry’ outbursts and take the stress out of meal times when you have something prepped and ready to go.

 

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In 12+ years of FIFO our family has grown to 5

3. Connect with your community

Community is something that can be overlooked as important when it comes to our well being. Isolation and loneliness contributes significantly to mental health problems and can also negatively impact your physical health, too. Being the at-home partner can be an incredibly lonely experience which is heightened without a network of family or friends around you.

It can be intimidating and sometimes tricky to make new friends as an adult. If you’re a parent, organisations like Playgroup, Gymbaroo and Kids in Sport are ideal sociable activities that get the kids out and help you connect with lots of families at the same time. There are online platforms like Meetup that are helpful for finding likeminded people and events near you.

I also found the small business community a wonderful way to meet other mums on my wavelength and have made so many amazing friends – which I never expected when I first got into business!

If you’re considered starting a side hustle or have your own business – come along to one of my Honest Biz Brunch events if you’re looking for a place to meet new faces.

4. Don’t wait until you’re struggling to ask for help

Flying solo for long periods of time is really hard without any help. We’re lucky to have my family and in-laws living locally and able to help out, which I know a lot of families don’t have the luxury of!

But as awesome as it is having help nearby, it’s not going to be beneficial if you don’t actually utilise the support. Asking for help BEFORE you’re absolutely struggling is the first step in preventing burnout when your partner is away.

There are many different ways you can increase your support network and avoid burnout – it’s not only about having family or friends around to share the load.

We use daycare and have a regular babysitter to make sure I have dedicated kid-free days – not only for work, but so I can fit in my life admin and schedule time to recharge. I also see a therapist regularly, even when I’m feeling ‘fine’, to help debrief and create strategies to make sure I’m meeting my needs alongside my other responsibilities.

Therapy has been pivotal for me in learning my boundaries and ways to cope especially during on-swings and I can’t recommend it enough.

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5. Have a long term plan

This ties into effective communication with your partner. Decide what is going to work for you.  Is there an exit strategy you’re working towards? Are you happy to go with the flow and live the FIFO life forever?

Perhaps you compromise on a time-frame or the kind of swing you are comfortable with. If you have common goals it makes it feel like the hard work is shared and you’re a team.

Being on the same page is imperative in FIFO life because it can be bloody hard work! You’ve gotta be able to support each other in those hard times, not tear each other down.

I totally get how easy this sounds in theory but how difficult it can be in reality. I often have to remind myself of these things and my husband and I still argue plenty, too.

6. Trust that future you can handle things

The other thing I do know is that the women that think they couldn’t do it, totally could.

If you have good communication with your partner and are working together towards common goals – it makes things a helluva lot easier.

Something that continues to amaze me is how bloody resilient mums are.  I mean, really, think about the things we deal with on a daily basis yet we still live to face another day and love our kids more than we ever thought possible, that is a special kind of person and that makes me feel proud.

Focus on the positives of the FIFO lifestyle

​Many people assume that money is the only thing that makes the FIFO lifestyle worth it but there are plenty of things we love about FIFO aside from the financial benefits.

Even though Kane is away for an extended period it also means he’s home for the same set period of time, too. He’s there to make all the school lunches, be at assemblies, swimming lessons and all parts of family life that he probably wouldn’t be able to do if he were working locally.

Sure, there are special events he might miss but there are also plenty he is home for as well. As with anything in life there are pros and cons to this lifestyle but every kind of lifestyle has its tough times. I like the saying you choose your hard – and this is what we’ve chosen for now.