Turn on the news, look on social media and something is bound to come up on the FIFO boom. The big draw card is the money but what has to give to get it? Is what you’re giving up worth the sacrifice? For us, at the moment, it has been.
I have been a FIFO wife for seven years now and think I have a pretty good handle on the lifestyle. Its not with out its hiccups but there are some really good aspects as well. I’ll try and give you a rounded picture of things.
Yes it’s a good thing. Are we living a glamorous life of luxury? Hell no! But we are comfortable and that makes things peaceful. There are no fights over spending and if we want to go away we can. If the kids need new school shoes, I buy them. When we get sick we can afford to go to the GP and buy the medicine.
There is a catch though, have you heard this before?
The more you have, the more you spend.
No saying is more true for FIFO. You start out with grand plans and they are good in theory but much harder in practice. I have a conniption every time I see the amount of money my husband has paid in tax.
He gets paid monthly so I need to budget for the month and that took some getting used to especially since some are longer than others. Then we found there are no subsidies, no concessions, zip, none nada. The good old tax deductions are few and far between now. People talk about the cost of living rising and that’s no more apparent than when you jump into the lower end of the high tax bracket.
If as a FIFO partner you like staying home, great, if you want to work it may not be worth your while. In the high tax bracket it’s full price for everything. I’ll explain this through our situation.
I am a mother and I like to work for paid employment, it contributes to my own opinion of self-worth. I have always been independent and I hate being idol. Jobs that contribute to the household budget are difficult to find. My available hours and ability to travel is impacted because I don’t have anyone available to care for my children for free before and after school while I work. This means it’s either work longer to pay for care or work shorter closer to home for the same amount of pocket-money. I chose the latter which means until the kids are self-sufficient there is to be no advances in career and no sufficient contributions to my super for my retirement. There is not a lot of permanent work that fits into this category so the majority of my work is temporary contract or casual.
The other downside is that money changes people’s attitudes towards you. The ‘kept woman’ remarks get tiresome and I have found that guilt trips for having hard-earned money are common place. It all amounts to ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome.’ With tar of the general brush I can honestly say that there are a lot of people who don’t like others to succeed.
Missing out or more quality time?
Yes, there is the missing out aspect but for us, I feel it works out in the end. My husbands’ work schedule is an even turnaround (time on=time off) and if this is available I say take this as opposed to the huge money with the ‘away more than at home’ roster i.e. three weeks on, one week off. Like with most jobs if the work/life balance isn’t effective there is a greater risk of mental health issues. Most of the suicides and marriage breakdowns I know of as a result of FIFO are because of the small amount of down time.
My husband may work a month in half the time but when he gets home he is home. Work is left behind. There is no stuck in peak hour traffic, arrive home shitty. When he gets home he’s happy to be here and he is present. He may miss out on some things but he is here for others. My husband sees what life is like when he is not here and he appreciates the load that I carry when he is not home. I feel like he has a greater understanding of me and I of him. The thing that I love the most is that he can hang out with the kids in the afternoon before every one gets too cranky. The time we spend together is quality. We talk everyday and I feel our relationship is stronger because of this.
To make it all work
What I have learned is it takes time to find your rhythm and it does take certain types of relationships and personality types.
Relationships need to be completely honest, you cannot hold back neither of you are in prison. It will feel like you are at times and if you are having a sucky day don’t pretend, they are your life partner. Can they come home and fix it or can you go and fix it? No, but you can both listen. That’s what partners do.
Here are some key points:
- Learn to communicate effectively.
- If one person is venting don’t try to fix everything all the time. This can come across as condescending. Instead put yourself in their shoes and try understanding their view point.
- Trust your partner. Realistically they have another life. They are essentially living in isolation and they will form friendships with other people outside your joint circle to cope.
- Don’t hide things. Social media can be as vicious as it is kind.
- Make the kids talk as well.
- Never hang up in anger. The same principle as ‘never go to bed angry.’
- Remember phone sex isn’t for everybody, so don’t take it personally.
As far as personality goes as a FIFO wife I think you need to be:
- Sometimes selfless
For me to cope I have interests other than the kids. I like to study, read, write, make things, build things, paint things,( I can hear my husband groaning ) and work so that I have some other adult conversation.
We have family trips.
We make time for just the two of us when we can.
We also each go on a ‘man trip’ for my husband and a ‘woman’s weekend’ for me annually.
At the end of the day it’s about finding the balance. Sometimes it smooth running othertimes its not, that’s life though isn’t it? FIFO doesn’t work for everyone but it can for some. At the moment it works for us.