As the high pitched wail went up yet again from her toddler son Leon’s room, Sandy turned over wearily in bed. The other side was empty. Her husband Tim had flown out for work the day before on his three week on, one week off fly in, fly out (FIFO) job on the mines in Western Australia. As usual, Leon was making his displeasure with the upheaval clear.
What Sandy and Tim hadn’t anticipated when Tim accepted the job on the mines was the adverse effect on their youngest son’s behaviour. Almost overnight he descended into an irritable toddler by day and a tyrant at night. His sleeping patterns, previously excellent, became disrupted. Sandy, who was struggling to cope with her husband’s absence herself, became frustrated and resentful about the strain her husband’s lengthy absences were placing on their family. In addition, their two school age children also became stressed and anxious about the dramatic change in domestic arrangements.
But Sandy isn’t the only mum dealing with difficulties such as these. As areas around Australia boom there are increasing numbers of families affected by fly in/fly out arrangements. Similarly, families where either one or both parents are employed by the defence forces are faced with similar issues.
For Sandy and Tim , the financial benefits of the FIFO job needed to be carefully balanced against their needs as a family. They were forced to take a close look at their family dynamics and work together to minimise the disruption to their children’s lives whilst ensuring they both felt supported to continue the FIFO arrangement. Putting in place a defined range of coping strategies has helped the whole family to adjust to Tim’s working arrangements.
Strategies for coping:
For Sandy and Tim, working together ensured that each felt supported by their partner. It also helped their children. The new routines meant their school-aged children felt calmer and better able to face the school day. Leon developed a bedtime routine of kissing daddy’s photo book each night and his sleeping patterns improved considerably. Sandy made sure she took some much needed time out and vented her frustrations at kickboxing lessons at her local gym. For Tim, the all too brief trips home became something he could look forward to and enjoy with his family. Whilst the fly in fly out arrangement wasn’t ideal, the whole family adjusted well to their new arrangement by making small, yet manageable changes.
Offer a range of family and support courses, including courses that explore the challenges surrounding families where Dad works away.
t: 1300 364 277
Quality professional counselling, support, mediation and training services.
Provides quality counselling and relationship education programs and a telephone counselling service. t: 1800 812 511 (Telephone Counselling Service)
beyondblue: the national depression initiative
Provides information and support to people living with depression
Post Natal Depression Support Association
Provides support, understanding and information to women, partners and families affected by pregnancy and childbirth related stress and depression.
Provides practical support for women who suffer from post natal depression.
See our parenting article for single parents for more advice.