Blogathon entry – Katherine Reid – All I need “My FIFO life”

I went back to the gym 7 weeks after my second son was born. My pelvic floor probably wasn’t as keen as I was but I wanted to get my pre-baby body back and they have a crèche, I was desperate for some “me time”. Preparing for the expedition induced anxiety I hadn’t felt before and I thought I was going to have my first ever panic attack just trying to get there; packing up the pram, preparing a snack for Master 3, packing the baby bag and loading my 2 kids into the car. I was nervous about my future. “This is really hard,” I thought “How am I going to get anything done with these 2 little kids and very little family support close by?”

12 months on, life had thrown us some serious curve balls, I was back at my part time job and- the icing on the cake- we were now a FIFO family, how was I going to do this on my own?

“Oohhh, how do you think you’ll go?” Friends asked me before my husband left for his first swing. “I’ll be fine!!” I replied, overconfidently. “I mean- let’s be honest- I do the lions share at home and with the boys so it’ll probably be easier! One less to pick up after and feed!”

“Ha ha ha ha ha”, I thought they were laughing with me, but it was probably at me.

My FIFO life has been challenging, rewarding, exhausting, heart-breaking and sometimes all of those in one day. It has pushed me so far out of my comfort zone at times I’ve wondered if I’ll find my way back. I’ve done stuff on my own I would never have contemplated doing before FIFO, like packing up 2 young children and our dog and driving half way across the state to visit family. I’ve changed a blown tail light in the car- with Master 4 pressing on the brake pedal, I’ve unblocked the toilet, wrestled our dog into the vet, and done countless trips to the supermarket, the medical centre and the bottle shop (Mum, why are you always buying wine?) all with my ever present entourage and with every little achievement my confidence grows. But there are always new challenges around the corner.

It was Friday night and I was putting on some shoes and grabbing my purse before we get in the car to drive 1.5hrs to meet my parents half way to their farm to hand over Master 4. “Dad, I really need you to take him this weekend or I might kill him.” I said and my father laughed as though I may have been joking. Before stepping out the front door Master 4 performed a poorly executed twirl and head-butted the bed post. Screaming, blood, tears and one look at his eyebrow confirmed that the only place we were driving to was the paediatric emergency department for stitches.

“Where are you?” I asked Mr. FIFO, as I phoned from the crowded emergency room, “It sounds like you’re at a party?!”

“I’m just having a couple of quiet beers in the wet mess. What can I do?”

“Nothing, I’ll be ok.” I can’t be mad at him, he physically cannot do anything, he’s hundreds of kilometres away, doing 19 consecutive 12 hour days to provide for our family but I still can’t help but think to myself,

“I shouldn’t have to do this on my own.”

Then there was the night Master 1 did a turd in the bath. Every day at bath time I think, “Oh, here we go, I am about one hour from having these kids in bed- another day ticked off the calendar, the rest of the evening should be smooth sailing.” But not this evening, the dodgy bathroom drain blocked and all the poo-infused buy antibiotics no prescription water came up through the floor and I ended up with a flood of baby-crap water in the bathroom. “It’s OK, it’s just an accident” Master 4 keeps repeating while the baby cries at full volume, the dog barks and I try to clean 2 children and the bathroom floor.

”Mmmm, yep honey.” I say when I really just want to scream,

“I shouldn’t have to be doing this on my own.”

I love my job but these days it takes an absolute marathon of preparation to get there. I leave for work in a cyclone of children, bags, lunches, chaos and as I drive to childcare I count down the minutes until I get there- desperate for some respite from two active little boys. I power through my morning at work loving the peace and quiet and enjoying a hot coffee thinking “I’ve got it all under control! No one here has any idea how chaotic my home life is!” And then I make my first visit to the ladies room and catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. There is snot on my shoulder, hopefully not my own, and I have clearly not had time to brush my hair. I look like I have been on a bender over the weekend, or dragged through a bush backwards. Either way, it’s not pretty and I don’t feel confident or professional. I feel like I cannot do this on my own.

By the third week of the swing I am emotionally exhausted, completely over the solo parenting gig. Tired of dealing with every whinge, every food and drink request , sick of retrieving balls off the roof, sick of watching “Frozen”, wiping noses and backsides and trying to answer the never ending barrage of questions from Master 4. “”How do we die? How old are we when we die? Do kids ever die? What will happen to me and my brother if you and Dad die?”

Please stop talking, I think, mentally begging for some silence. Master 1 toddles around holding a photo frame of a picture of his father holding him as a newborn.

”Dada, Dada, Dada.” I am seriously close to hiding in the pantry and drinking wine and eating cooking chocolate all day. How long until fly in day?? I just don’t want to do this on my own anymore.

Finally fly in day arrives and it’s more exciting than Christmas in our house. I pick my husband up from the airport with my usual greeting, “Hiiiiiii, so good to have you back, the house is an absolute brothel!” But he doesn’t care about the house, and he’s just glad to be back. And then out of the blue, while the kids are being kids he says, “Ï just don’t know how you do this on your own, this is madness…..

I think you are amazing.”

I turn my head away slightly, not sure if I might cry.

“Thanks”, I say, “I guess we both have really tough jobs. But, uumm, whatever it takes for our family, right?”

“That’s right”, he says.

And it’s all I need, the only opinion that matters. He understands what I’m going through and he thinks I’m amazing. I shouldn’t have to do this on my own, but I am. I am going to do my absolute best every day, for my boys, my husband, my family, for me. It won’t be perfect, it will be far from it, but it will be real. It makes me think of one of my favourite quotes, “One day you’ll know what love truly is, it’s the sour and the sweet. And I know sour which allows me to appreciate the sweet.”

I am so thankful for my FIFO life, for the sour and the sweet.

I can do this.