If you’re finding life a little tough(er) during the COVID-19 pandemic, here are 15 quick tips on how to keep calm and carry on FIFO-ing. (Following significant interest from families on social media, we’ve also created a poster for mine sites using relevant tips. To download a copy, please click here.)
- BE very clear about why you’re a FIFO family: what you want to get out of it; what the biggest challenges are at any given time; and how (as a team) you’re working to overcome them.
- ALWAYS take an interest in how your other half lives.
- REMEMBER that life is not a competition. You’re both exhausted. You’re both worried. You’re both frustrated. You’re both bloody awesome.
- TACKLE all issues as a united couple (“How will WE fix this?” is much more constructive than “How will YOU fix this?”)
- DON’T dwell on being apart, or let sad feelings become negative thoughts.
- IF you’re the partner at home and feeling overwhelmed, enlist family members and friends to video chat with the kids for half an hour to give you a break. This might include reading a book, doing a show & tell of their latest artworks, or performing a little dance routine they’ve spent all morning rehearsing. (And no one will ever know if the kids are spending a bit more time in front of the TV.) We know this isn’t relevant for partners at home who also work 9-5. We salute you all too!
- TALK often on the phone but don’t force conversation. (And remember that some people close down a bit when they’re more anxious than normal, just like others prefer to talk more. There’s no right or wrong.)
- DISCUSS any emerging parenting issues with your partner before she/he gets on the phone with the kids (i.e. don’t throw her/him into the deep end).
- DON’T discuss your worries/concerns in front of the kids (but don’t bottle it all up either – just make sure they’re out of earshot).
- BE smart about money. (SMART goals are Specific, Measured, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.)
- MAKE big events special, even when you’re apart.
- DAD/MUM have never ‘gone away’. Dad/Mum is ‘at work’.
- AVOID those who make you feel crap about the FIFO lifestyle. You know what works for your family and you don’t need to justify it.
- TAKE the time to create family rules (reinforce/amend over video chat whenever necessary) and involve the kids so they feel like they’ve got some control. Make sure those family rules stand whether you’re together or apart.
- REMEMBER, connectedness is king at anxious times like these. Send regular photos with quick, simple messages/emojis of love (or no words at all – they’ll still know you’re thinking of them). Set up group messaging with other close family members, too, to add to the sense of connectedness.
Above all, don’t be afraid to speak to your GP, your company’s employee assistance program, a counsellor or a wise, trusted friend if the going gets really tough, and tap into available resources and support groups.