Okay so I’m not an expert. I’m not a councillor or a psychologist. I’m a fifo wife I do it on my own for four weeks at time on my own. I am a stay at home mum. I write from my experience what works for me and what I have learnt. I hope this can help you or perhaps you can help me.
If you have a question or perhaps helpful hints email me:
A quick disclaimer…after countless emails that FIFO wives compare themselves to Military families let me say that there is nothing the same. I have been a defence wife I know the waiting when they have gone on deployment especially to one declared as a war zone I have been there many many times and this is nothing the same. The fear and terror keeps you awake at night is desperate. There is no comparison you cant compare. I’m writing about FIFO because I can. Because unlike a navy wife who must keep secrets I can tell. If you are a military wife..I hope you are well and if I can offer you support in any way I will. Thank you and welcome.
Is it hard being a fifo wife?
I get asked this constantly. Is it hard being a FIFO wife? I also get oh you poor thing being on your own all that time coping with the kids. However my take on it is this we love it. Most of the time. There are the odd occasions when I have the odd melt down but you know my opinion and that’s a rare event.
And ultimatly we arent the first to do this. Women of defence, truck drivers, did it before us as did their kids. And they would have done it without email, without skype, without face book and msn.
The fifo swing we do is 4weeks on and 4 weeks off. The end result is this: my husband is home for a full solid month and in that time he is the best dad and husband in the world. He attends swimming lessons, basketball practise; he is never too tired to play dinosaurs or tickles in the backyard. I watch my neighbours husbands leave at 5am and get home tired at 6pm. Working six days a week and too tired to play and enjoy the kids on a Sunday, their only day off. My husband is there 100% in the moment for that entire month both for them and me.
Being a fifo wife for me means I can be a stay home mum to my three beautiful boys. Without this job I would never have been able to do this and I may have not had as many children without it; sad but true. Most days I love being a stay at home mum I will occasionally tell you otherwise but who doesn’t it’s a tough job with a tough cliental. I’m also grateful that my husband is supportive of me like you wouldn’t believe and for that I am so thankful. He has helped me make my dream of a little shop a reality and without this job I’m not sure that could’ve happened.
Then there is the money and I would be lying if I said that wasn’t the other driving force of doing this lifestyle. It’s crazy money. We have been sensible but we always have been. We have invested and we try to live off the least amount we can as we want to be prepared for when the boys say “dad I want you home all the time” at the moment they know that without daddy working away there is no holidays, house, toys and tiger time. We have been doing this their whole lives. Yet the moment one of them or me says its time I want to be ready to be able to have what I have now because I love the family bonds that we have. We are a close family and I believe it’s due to the job and its money that we have that. We don’t have the financial stresses that most do, so we enjoy each other more.
So what about missing the big things like birthdays and Christmas? We don’t miss them we make a date and we move them forward and celebrate them exactly as they should be and I think they are in fact more enjoyable because there doesn’t seem to be the stress associated with the day especially Christmas it leaves the in-laws to having a good Christmas with their family without the guilt of being with us. We also only celebrate them once. We learnt that lesson with B1 birthday we celebrated it twice and it was a nightmare. I will admit that occasionally we get upset by husband missing school races, carnivals and he has missed some milestones but we try to catch up with video and making a big deal of the whole performance by having it relived to him in detail. We believe it’s the everyday that counts.
The main downside is I get lonely so I try to keep super busy. He is my best friend and I miss him at night mostly that’s when I’m most lonely so I have started filling my time with things like this blog and catching up on bookwork. I miss his physical support as I don’t have any family here of my own and don’t know anyone else really in my situation. However with regular phone calls, and Skype that void is getting smaller. I have the boys in a good routine, good diet (essential) and good that I have created to live this way and when husband is home he just slots right in. So there is little stress.
However having said that I don’t want to live this way for ever I have been doing it 12 years 6 years on my own which was great ( I achieved all my career goals because I had lots of me time) and 6 years so far with babies. I have a date on my wall 16.01.2016 where I want to review where we are and how we are travelling. I have a dream of travelling the world with my boys. I want to be the one that shows them it.
So is it hard being a fifo wife yes and no. It’s as hard or as easy as you make it. Like life really.
Being a fifo mum and managing the kids
Many of my non fifio friends which come to think of it is all of them can’t believe what good kids I have given that I do this parenting gig on my own for four weeks at time on my own with no ‘father figure’ to resort to. And without blowing wind up my backside I have good kids. They are good, happy, respectful and don’t really push the boundaries but I believe it’s a combination of many things. Discipline, good diet, good routine, good communication and well they are naturally good boys. Many of my friends think I’m a hard task master that I’m too tough on them but when we compare kids (if you can do that ethically) well I think mine speak for themselves.
So how do I manage when the ‘father figure ‘ is away? Well first of all husband and I are on the same page when it comes to discipline that is essential and I do believe in oh gosh wait for it…smacking we will get this issue out if the way first up..there is a time and a place for it. I don’t care what anyone says. I use it as a last resort and as a threat. It’s a consequence and a boundary. I will also just clarify. I only smack my children on the hand or on the back of the thigh and if I’m honest I have only ever smacked them on the nappy (the sound is worse than the smack) and I haven’t had to smack once out of nappies (this is usually around two and half years old if you have your babies out of nappies before two well done to you) because 1. they don’t need one and 2. they are old enough that that is starting to understand communication and consequences i.e. you behave that way you miss out on takeaway on Thursday night. Smacking should be your last resort you should try talking, time out whatever your discipline stagey is before a smack. I can almost tell you every smack I have given my children there have been that few because I have other methods in place. I will smack if after three attempts of plain reasoning it becomes a consequence. I will smack there hand with a firm no if they continue to want to play with the electrical switches. Or and I have done this only once that my boys have worked themselves in to such a state that a smack is all that will bring them back to reality. I believe in only one smack if it’s required. Anymore than that and you don’t have control of the situation and you need to drop tools and just walk away for a minute. You’re the parent. Simple.
My other biggest pieces of strategies (and yes I do call them strategies nothing works out without prior planning) are routine, diet and good communication. I have a strict routine and whilst you need to be flexible with children I will vary little from my set routine even if we are on holidays and when daddy is home. Part of their routine is jobs they start having chores from around three years of age. By chores I mean putting away laundry, picking up toys and doing dishes. It’s essential that they help me to keep this house running. We have a really good diet with a kids allowed to have takeaway once a week. We don’t eat fried food or a lot of red meat. I try to grow as much food as we can and we eat organic when we can. We don’t eat out much; we have take away once a week; to give me a break, and will always eat as a family at dinner, always.
Then there is communication its essential for the boys to know that they can talk to me. Being on my own I can get pretty busy so there are two times in my day when I sit a chat to my boys without fail. The first is after school we will sit down and have an after school snack the boys will tell me about their day and second is bedtime. I lay with them each for as long as they need me after bedtime story. My boys are in bed by 7 and asleep by 8pm. It’s at this time I ask if they have anything they are worried about. We also allow them from a young age to make decisions of their own within boundaries. Sometimes they suffer a consequence and well they learn from that other times they are rewarded.
So what do we do when the ‘father figure’ returns from a swing? Well he fits in with us our routine and he will always check with me first. He doesn’t try and step in and be the head of the family there is two of us in that regard and this works for us. This is what works for my family. After all as I tell my boys it’s my job to raise super heroes.
Do you miss him?
People ask me all the time do you miss him? Oh gosh yes and NO. Now I know that this is going to sound horrible. I love my husband. He is perfect. He is funny, supportive, I LOVE everything about him, he seriously my best friend but some days I don’t miss him. I don’t mourn him and if I’m honest I don’t miss him until the going gets tough, sounds harsh but that’s me.
When I was just me. Before I had my beautiful babies. He worked FIFO and before that he was in the navy. We have always done this. I didn’t miss him too much then either if at all. I did however know he was the one and that this was how our life would be. I was young and ambitious. When he was away I concentrated on what was important to me, I knew eventually I would play second fiddle somewhere in this relationship along the way. It’s how it is for women ultimately like it or not we eventually have to put ourselves last for a period of time. So I study and worked and I gave that 100% of my time. I achieved everything I wanted because he wasn’t there to distract me only encourage me beyond belief. I fulfilled everything I wanted career wise so when the time came to have babies I was satisfied. While he was away I got to hang out with my friends and when he came home I was his all his. He caught up with his friends and family but ultimately he wanted to be with me.
We did and didn’t have two separate lives its inevitable but that can happen in civilian life too people are different at work I know that I am but because we spoke everyday on the phone and wrote letters; email wasn’t big then, the divide wasn’t so big. We where honest and committed, we still are. That’s all you have to be, that and communication that’s if you want it to work. Besides I think it’s healthy to have a life of your own. Being a little selfish can be a good thing.
I know that we work; even though I don’t miss him because I get those butterflies still the night before he gets home and when he walks in the room unexpected I still get that bolt of lightning if perhaps your not excited to see each other then well this relationship may or he may not be for you. FIFO or not.
So how is it now? Pretty much the same it’s just that my job is different. I’m a mum and I have taken on that as seriously as I took my job. I run my household as a business and I consider my husband not only as my best friend, lover but also as my business partner. Strange but that’s how it works for us.
If I’m honest we don’t have much in common he has so much energy it drives me nuts, he loves movies, loves a bit of drama, he loves to jibber jabber, I’m the complete opposite so we have very little with the exception of our morals and the fact that I LOVE him like a crazy woman. So when he would and even now when he goes back to work its sometimes a sigh of relief and I can be sure some months it’s like that for him.
Do the kids miss him?
Kids and FIFO are probably the second hardest part of this FIFO lifestyle. Separation anxiety. If your kids are born into I think it’s a breeze they, like my kids know no different, its routine for them. Yet there was a short period when all my kids hit two years old they started to ask where daddy was when he wasn’t home and my four year old has just gone through a stage of telling me he misses daddy. He isn’t crying desperately for him just says in passing as we going to bed. So me being me sat down and researched a little preparation for what may be and this is what I came up with and the solution for what works for us.
Everything I read talked about stable routines, being honest with the kids, lots of kisses and cuddles and being patient. They (experts we shall call them) say not to spoil them or break the rules. This to me is just commonsense but as my husband continually tells me commonsense won’t stand up in a court of law. They also suggest that you; the stay at home parent, need routine, lots of visiting friends and taking care of yourself, all of which I agree with. They also suggest that depression, anxiety and mild depression is normal for a short period until the adjustment and routine has been made what they consider a short period I don’t know but if you’re worried I would have my kids and husband seeing someone fast.
The best thing you can do is never saying daddy is going away always daddy is going to work. For us we talk about what daddy and us will do when he gets home, make them and I excited for when daddy is home and this usually quashes the whole I miss daddy routine until the next night. Each kid I think will handle it different. My six year old knows and accepts he asked a few times when he was two years old but nothing since he gets on with his days and looks forward to the date when daddy does get home, my four year old say’s he misses daddy most nights and my two year old is just starting to ask where daddy is. So as I have discovered it is routine; the FIFO life seem to be all about routine and patience. Not bad virtues to have in one’s life I suppose.
Yet having said that drop off is a killer for me and husband. We question ourselves every time we do the drop off that we are doing the right thing by them and us. We have tried to avoid the whole drop of scenario by having someone else take him but if the kids don’t take daddy to the airport for work they are confused as to where he has gone, so we make it a priority to all go together, it’s part of the routine we have created. The drop off is probably the most heart breaking part as we generally drop daddy at the drop off point and carry on. Recently though my four year old will hang out the window telling daddy how much he loves him until daddy has disappeared from view. It’s horrible but in a split second he is all good laughing and chuckling at mummy who is balling like a school girl as we make the long drive home
Dealing with other peoples judgement:
As a single gal without family it was okay but as soon as we had a family people become so intent on giving their opinion. Sometimes it was so hurtful it brought me to tears and it made me question our decisions for our family. We are assumed to be greedy, money hungry people when the reality of that is just not true. Our lives are beyond simple. Money or to have more of it is just not our aim in life. We do this job because of the lifestyle. Plain and simple.
Before I use to ignore them those people who like to judge and make comment behind your back. Some would be brave and approach me and tell me…bless them..but the criticism became so much and so often that I couldn’t keep quite any longer. I’m not sure why people feel the need to give their opinion or advice when its not asked for. It would be different if I was asking, seeking it. I know some are trying to be helpful but many I think are well jealous and want to create ‘fuss’. People don’t seem to appreciate that their words there negativity and there constant questioning can affect someone in such a negative way. It can make a bad day worse. It can make you truly question the decisions you have made for your family. Now I have set reply and its almost as rehearsed as the public disclosure that Suncorp recites to you when ever your taking out there useless insurance. Apparently its the best way to deal with unwanted judgement apart from being staunch and happy with your decision its having an answer to those that insist on sharing the judgment joy.
Now; Im older and wiser I can no longer stay quiet or ignore them especially to those who give me the poor you routine in a condescending manner or my favourite I could never do that to my husband he would just miss so much time with the kids. And whilst Im never rude because there is no excuse for rudeness I always ask them politely about their husbands where he works and his hours. The response is that he works as a mechanic, teacher, electrician, builder oh he loves it they say and he comes home every night. I follow that up with a I see. At this point I remain quiet they think thet are on a winning point and they usually follow up my I see with ‘yes yes now what about first steps and first words you can never get those back’ and I will usually respond with the truth yes that’s true my husband missed my last babies first crawl and he may have missed the second babies first words and its this point I become rather blunt and to the point in the nicest possible way. Yes you are right but I missed my first babies first steps because well I was in the toilet and my second baby I missed his first words because he spoke them at day care. That’s life.
Its at this point I will then hold their gaze and ask them about out their husbands job and hours again and the amount of time that he is legitimately home and spending with the kids. An hour before bed and 12 hours on a Sunday..hmmm that’s 18 hours a week times that by 52 also taking into account 4 weeks annual leave that’s 1200 hours in the year and even then is that quality time because he must be tired from doing all those hours at work. Yes he works hard they will proudly tell me and rightly so. They then typically ask how long FIFO husband is away for this time. I love how they always always put emphasise on the word THIS. So I say its the same as always and I will generally tell off handedly them that my husband works six months of the year (which equates to 2016 hours of quality time. QAULITY. TIME) for an outrageous salary and by work I mean work non of this standing around council crap and when was the last time their husband was able to attend swimming lessons, class reading, and wasn’t too tired to play in the trampoline. All awhile being able to afford to set his family up and consider retiring at 40 years old instead of 65 years old so he can be an even more involved father?
Sometimes they will shift on to me oh still that must be so hard for you like its all my husbands decision…um no. This was a joint decision. This is our life and I love it. LOVE. IT. I wouldn’t do this if it didn’t work for us. I’m not some oppressed wife who has no say in her marriage. Its like we are in a honeymoon every second month. If we are on a roll and their closed mind that perhaps the traditional way of life is not the only way I will always add that we don’t do this for the money despite what people think we do this for the lifestyle. We have the most fantastic life we dont fight and we are on holidays every second month. Its at this point they realise they need to stop and be quiet because there is no changing my mind. And that perhaps my way is the right way and its me who has the planted the seed of doubt.
It sometimes amazes me that I have gone from questioning my decision to almost being smug because the reality is if you can makes this lifestyle work for you and its life its all about how you tackle it you will end up with an amazingly close family and when it comes down to it who wouldn’t be jealous of that.