Last year, on a hot Australia Day weekend, Andy and I got married on a lawn overlooking a sparkling blue Sydney Harbour. Then we had a party, a big, noisy, boozy party. We loved it, then followed it up 2 days later with a lawn party at our farm. It was a wonderful, exhausting, perfect weekend. And we were married.
A few weeks before that, Andy dipped his toe into the FIFO world, and there he has been ever since. For the uninitiated, FIFO stands for Fly In Fly Out. The term originated – and is still mostly connected with – those who work in the mines in remote places, but now refers to anyone who flies to their job, then home for breaks. FIFOs work in any number of “swings” – 3/1 (3 weeks on, 1 off), 2/1 (2 weeks on, 1 off), 7/3 (7 days on 3 off) and so on.
The day after our party weekend, a partied out newlywed flew off to the Pilbara for 3 weeks and oops, we forgot to consummate. Now I know most couples who get married after having been together for a while don’t get around to too much loving’ on the night, but 3 weeks! Ah well, needless to say we got there in the end. Enough said!
Now Andy works closer – Melbourne, Brisbane – and flies out pre-dawn Monday morning and home Friday night (5/2), but still, in the 1 and a bit years that we’ve been married, he’s been away for most of it, adding “FIFO wife” to my list of credentials
I get “I don’t know how you do it” (because I have to) or “you’re amazing ” (thank you!) or “don’t you get scared” (sometimes, not often) or “why do you let him do it” (money).
So what’s it like? Good and bad, of course. ..
– The money
– Downton Abbey, MKR, The Bachelor/ette and all the other mindless and crap TV that comes with having total control of the remote.
– The money
– No one is snoring anywhere near me.
– The money
– Limited time to annoy or be annoyed by another
– Sole parenting (hats off to you single parents – at least I get some form of relief on the weekend)
– Winter; home in the dark, freezing, 3 wet dogs jumping up demanding dinner, light fire, tend to four year old; dinner, bath, stories, bed. Collapse on couch, hello wine.
– Bin night – there’s a 100m walk from our house to the road. In the dark, and rain, and freezing cold. I fucking hate bin night, especially in winter.
– Lonely, and sometimes a little scary
But probably the hardest of all is the impact on our relationship. There is no doubt it takes its toll. I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is that causes the strain.
It’s not the routine being interrupted – our daughter is 4 now and she’s easy, routines aren’t too important. It’s not handing over the remote on the weekends – I’d rather a marriage than a TV. It’s not the snoring – I’m one of the lucky ones who can sleep through it.
I think….. I think it’s the fact that we are losing that closeness that couples have. There’s a distance between us, we don’t laugh together as much as we used to. We’re not always friends. We are living separate lives, weekends are short – too short to nurture our relationship to any extent – there’s a farm to run, wood to chop, a daughter to raise, a new house to design and build.
Yes, that’s the worst part.
So, we work at it. Go on dates (not often enough admittedly), be respectful to each other, keep up the contact when we’re apart, cuddle a lot when we’re together and throw in a little “fake it till we make it”. There’s no lack of love between us – it just takes work to direct it the right way.
Is FIFO worth it? We think so for now, for maybe another 3 years. The FIFO life either works for families or it doesn’t. The money is getting our dream home built far earlier than we expected. We’ll make it work. We have to. We WANT to. One day, Andy will have a local job, we’ll have a lovely house and this will be a distant memory. And we’ll laugh together again.