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By Jocie Ferron

Life took some getting used to when my husband first worked FIFO. It was pretty exhausting sometimes, and I often felt overwhelmed being responsible for the kids 24/7.

I got a bit resentful from time to time, too, even though I completely understood how tiring and stressful it must have been for my husband being so far away from all of us. At times I was envious of the different restaurants he got to try, the time he had to himself (even if it was just sitting in an airport), and the bathroom breaks he could take without the inevitability of a child finding him and having some inane question that needed to be answered right then and there!

Luckily, a friend was going through similar challenges at exactly the same time, with her husband working a 7/7 rotation. We got chatting one night and came up with our ways of surviving FIFO. Here they are:

  • Skype (or Facetime): We are not sure what we'd have done without it. When you can see your partner, and the kids can see their Dad, he definitely doesn’t feel so far away.
  • Understand that you both have different situations and stresses to deal with: I might have been sleep deprived from kids being up half the night vomiting, but my husband had just spent 12 hours working to meet a big deadline. It’s easy to get into thinking that your life is harder than your partner's. In reality it’s not, it is just different.
  • Give each other some downtime. The first day back was generally reserved for my husband: letting him sleep in after a late flight; or just giving him some time so he could chill out, read, relax and return to family life. My husband also understood that I am a person who needs my ‘me’ time, so often before he left on rotation I would spend time out of the house, having a coffee, or shopping by myself.
  • Communicate. So simple yet sometimes so hard. Share your feelings, it helps to understand what the other person is thinking and feeling. As I still say often to my husband, "I am not a mind reader!"
  • Get out of the house: This one was emphasized by my friend. She made it her mission to at least go for a walk every day while her husband was away, just to get out of the house, get some fresh air and perspective.
  • Do all the chores while he is home: My friend found this a great way to prepare for the time her husband was away. The day before he left, they did the grocery shopping, cleaned the house together and made sure all the errands were completed.

Australian nurse Jocie Ferron was volunteering in Mongolia when she met her French-Canadian husband, who was working in the mining industry. After a few years living in Australia they decided to settle in Canada with their two young children. They enjoyed a few years in a north Quebec mining town (where Jocie had daily adventures navigating life in French) and they've now settled in New Brunswick.