The tricky transition from FIFO to ‘normal’ working hours

By psychologist Angie Willcocks

Some families get so used to the FIFO/DIDO lifestyle that the idea of a ‘normal’ relationship sounds pretty scary. In fact, Mining Family Matters is often contacted by mining wives who feel confused and guilty about the idea of their husband returning home to a regular working week.

Of course it’s entirely normal to have mixed feelings about any major change (including income), especially if you’ve strived to make the mining lifestyle work and you’re happy and content in your routine.

Just as we suggest before getting into FIFO, it will help to sit down together and work through your family goals, and the pros and cons of any decision to get out of FIFO/DIDO and into a ‘normal’ 9-5 routine.

The first thing to realise is that people who are happy in their current job don’t usually apply for a new role, even if it is “just to see what happens”. It’s worth getting to the bottom of why your partner actually wants to change jobs. Could anything be done to make him/her happier in their current role? Is it the lifestyle and not the job? If you’ve set yourselves a goal to earn a certain amount of money (say, for a house deposit) have you achieved this?

If you have children, it’s best not to ask their opinion. It’s not up to them and really it’s not great for them to be involved in the process. Kids can’t possibly be aware of (nor should they be) all the factors that come into making such a decision.

If you’re feeling guilty (for example, because you don’t really want the FIFO lifestyle to end) don’t dwell on it. Getting all caught up in feelings of guilt simply won’t help the situation. It merely adds another layer to a complex situation and can get in the way of taking positive steps forward. You feel what you feel – no point beating yourself up about it. Likewise, it’s counterproductive for the miner to hold on to feelings of hurt about any misgivings. Share your feelings honestly and lovingly, then move on to a plan of action.

If you opt to try regular working hours, remember there will be another period of readjustment, just like starting FIFO. When you’re working through the pros and cons and reasons, try to be specific about likely problems and work together to find solutions.

It might not feel like it initially, but couples can actually become closer through discussions about these hard decisions. Real intimacy comes from sharing the not-so-great thoughts and feelings we have – and then moving on!

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