February 18, 2014
“Fly In Fly Out” and “Drive In Drive Out” has become a popular way of working in Australia, particularly in the mining industry.
With a high income and financial freedom being the biggest advantage of these jobs, there are also challenges on the personal and the relationship front to such a lifestyle.
Let’s face it, with long periods away from your spouse and children, FIFO and DIDO can be difficult on your relationships.
While many say there are advantages of increased quality time with each other when you are all home together,(and often during the week, so you can avoid the crowds at the weekend), often other problems can be great, and do require an extra commitment to your relationship and your communication.
Common problems of FIFO and DIDO lifestyle:
For both of you and your relationship:
- Keeping the connection going between you both, despite very little communication while on the job
- Adjusting to being together again, after having such a different lifestyle while apart
- Managing your time when you are home together, and trying to “make up for” and squeeze so many things in
- Resisting urges to connect to other members of the opposite sex for companionship that can lead to more over time
For the FIFO/DIDO worker:
- Missing your family and also important family events while at work
- Managing your loneliness and depression while in the job
- Managing the common “black day” just as you leave to return to work
- Managing the pressure you may feel from family members to be there and interact when you come home tired
- Re-establishing your role and place at home when you are only there periodically
- Having to face “the list” of jobs to do when you arrive back home.
For the spouse:
- Having to function as a solo parent for long periods without help, and the exhaustion that comes with that
- Having to adapt to complete changes of routines, and sharing the power when your partner is home
- Managing anxiety and jealousy while your partner is away for long periods
For the children:
- Having to cope without seeing Dad for long periods
In particular, the first few months of a FIFO/DIDO lifestyle can be particularly difficult, as you both adjust to the new radically different arrangement.
How much communication is possible between you by phone and email does make a large difference.
Some suggestions to make FIFO and DIDO lifestyle easier
If you have just started a FIFO/DIDO lifestyle, I suggest that you do the following:
1. Discuss your commitment to the FIFO/DIDO decision and state and even write down your specific joint goals. Ensure that both of you can see the value in this decision and you both agree on the benefits and goals you will be gaining.
Consider whether it might work best for your family to undertake this type of work for a set period of time (eg two years) in order to achieve a specific financial goal ie deposit for a house, pay out the mortgage. It doesn’t suit everyone to continue this type of arrangement indefinitely
2. Discuss how you will keep the connection and communication going between you. This can be by phone, email, sending photos, agreeing to watch the same videos, or read the same books, writing notes and leaving them for each other.
Acknowledge the difficulties it presents for both. The at-home person may have to cope alone but the away person may be feeling distressed by their inability to comfort and support in times of crisis.
3. Each time you are together, talk about what is working and what is not working for each of you, so that you can resolve any problems early, and they don’t build over time.
FIFO and DIDO lifestyle - Let us Help you
Continue to evaluate whether this is still the best arrangement for the two of you and your kids if you have them. A lot will depend on the length of the swing.
Most importantly.....don’t get seduced by the money. Yes, it is a financially rewarding lifestyle but is it one that really suits you? Don’t be afraid to say no if you feel you, your kids or your relationship is going to suffer, as no amount of money is worth being unhappy.
For more specific help in resolving any problems you might have with adjusting to a FIFO or DIDO lifestyle, our Relationship Psychologists Australia wide can help with In-person or phone or Skype sessions.
We find Skype sessions are particularly popular with FIFO workers and their spouses, as you can access them from anywhere in Australia.
Julie Hart and Maryann Wallace