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Kirsty writes regularly here

Feel Better and Have More Energy – It Begins With a Good Nights Sleep.

I am a FIFO wife, which means that my husband works away – fly in, fly out. His current roster is six weeks away and two weeks home. What has this got to do with a blog on sleeping you may ask?

Yesterday he flew back to the site where he works, and I slept right through and woke up this morning feeling refreshed. After I bumped into a friend at school drop off and she commented on how ‘sparkly’ I was looking today I knew that a good nights sleep would be the topic of my blog today.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love having my husband home. Yet over the eight years we have been separated by work, I have noticed the difference a good nights sleep versus a broken nights sleep can make on how I function during the day.

During the two weeks he is home there are nights where I do not get a restful and peaceful nights sleep. This is mainly because I am not used to extra body warmth, snoring, sleeping noises, and I have my mothers’ ears on at night (you know, that part of your brain that never quite shuts off when you are a Mum and jumps to attention at any uncommon sounds). After one of these nights I often wake up cranky, depleted, flat, exhausted, and my brain seems to take longer to get with the program of the day.

Stressful times, change, jet lag, babies, menopause, illness, or the like, will also have you waking up during the night more frequently and have you staring at the clock at midnight or 2am wishing for sleep.

At this point I would advise to turn the clock away from you in the bedroom because staring at the clock when you can’t sleep actually increases the stress hormone known as cortisol in your body, making it more difficult to fall asleep.

Professor David Hillman, Chair of the Sleep Health Foundation, says that approx. 25% of Australians complain of difficulty with sleep. He also says that around half of those, (1 in 10 people), have a disorder of sleep that may need medical attention. The remainder suffers from poor sleep habits, including failure to make enough time for sleep in their busy lives.

Without taking time out to rest, recover and have adequate sleep judgment, mood, and the ability to learn and retain information are weakened. Your health, mentally and physically is impacted. People who have poor sleeping habits are less productive, anxious, less safe when driving and suffer more mood swings – compared to those that have good sleeping habits live longer and have stronger immune systems; and possibly those that live with them live longer and are less stressed too!

There are good reasons why lack of quality sleep affects you so adversely. Sleep allows your mind and body to recover from the day’s events, stresses and wear and tear. When we sleep the body goes through six processes that include:

  1. Toxic waste management
  2. Healing/Repair/Immune
  3. Growth
  4. Anti stress and emotional consolidation
  5. Memory consolidation
  6. Learning

There are many things you can do to get a better nights sleep. Begin by making proper rest, recovery time and sleep a priority for you and your family.

My husband and I know that we only have a short time together and we don’t want it interrupted by the result of being tired or run down. We want to make the most of our time together, and apart, so we have developed good habits for quality rest and sleep. We are mindful to avoid stimulants like caffeine and alcohol for at least an hour before bed and finish eating at least two hours before sleep time. We make sure, overall, what we eat in the evening is easily digested and isn’t high in sugar as to support a calmer ‘rest-ready’ body. We keep a consistent sleep routine where possible and create a home and bedroom environment (including a comfortable bed) that promotes relaxation.

There is no right amount of sleep hours or a perfect wind down routine – the trick is to work out what is right for you that has you feeling refreshed, mentally sharp and productive each day.

What can you change to feel better, have more energy and enjoy a good nights sleep?

Sweet dreams all, Kirsty :)


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Is Your Cup Full? Boosting Mental Health for FIFO Families

Excerpt from Separated by Work – Kirsty O’Callaghan – Chapter 5

…Some people still think that it’s shameful if they have a mental illness, are experiencing a loss of control emotionally or irrational and dark thinking. There are those that assume it shows personal weakness or a failing. If it’s children who have a mental illness, some conclude it reflects the failings of the parents. Stigma and discrimination are the two biggest obstacles to a productive solution-based conversation about mental health in a FIFO environment and at home.

I have had more people thank me than judge me because I have been so open about my stuff. I have had more people begin to cope again and even love life again, because I and others like me, have shared our stuff and not hidden it behind the idea of right and wrong.

Mental health and suicide are becoming more recognised and discussed within FIFO communities and on-site camps. There is still some intolerance and small mindedness, there always will be those people who cannot get out of their own way, but acceptance is growing.

One of the programs from an Australian site included as part of their orientation something called the 4C’s. The third C was Caring and the fourth C was Courageous.

  • It stated in the part for caring—“I am accountable for my actions and actively care for the safety of myself and others—Care about the welfare of my neighbours in the camp—the FIFO lifestyle comes at a cost to all of us and our families. Please keep an eye on your workmates and if someone is acting out of character, or saying things like I don’t see the point anymore, or there is no hope, please reach out to them and discreetly ask them if they’re okay, and if they’re not, help them get in contact with professional resources.”
  • Courage included the actions of—“I will speak up, provide positive feedback to my peers, and prevent incidents by utilising stop work authority and coaching. This also includes the courage to reach out to a work mate and ask them if they’re ok.”

If you find yourself in the gut wrenching or numb place of despair and your cup is empty, approach your mates, your family and even have a chat to a professional. Everyone at some time is running on empty and it takes courage to ask for help, to make the changes you need to make it to the next day. Keep your cup full and keep filling the cups of those you care about.

From my years of experience personally and professionally, I have found that if you are not okay, nothing else will be, no matter what skill you adopt or distraction you create. The relationship you have with yourself will determine how you think and feel, how you deal with challenges, as well as the relationship you have with everyone else in your life. Your level of self-esteem and the value you put on yourself will determine your performance and productivity. This is the first area to renew and polish up to fill your cup.


Just check in right now. Firstly, take a long slow deep breath. Feel the breath go in through your nose, travel down your throat, fill your lungs, and expand in your belly. Let it sit there for just a moment then exhale, blowing all the air out and as you do feeling a sense of release and calm. Do this a couple more times. Slow and controlled, and with an awareness of how you are already much more relaxed.

Now that you are more calm and centred, ask a few self check-in questions—

  • How are you feeling?
  • How much do you like yourself?
  • How much do you understand yourself?
  • What are you good at? What do you love doing?
  • What are your favourite things?
  • Do you reward yourself?
  • What do you dislike?
  • Are you a friend to you, or are you your own enemy?
  • Close your eyes and imagine you can see your cup, is it full, empty or half way?
  • Are you aware of your thoughts and the way you think most of the time? What about now?

Take a few minutes to make some notes on your thoughts and findings.

Your mind and thinking can be your friend or your own worst enemy. I read an article recently where William James, an American philosopher and psychologist, said, “The greatest weapon we have against stress is to choose one thought over another.” This sounds easy, yet let me make it clear right up front. It takes time, patience, and persistence to do this effectively.

Your mind has had free reign for so long it has developed its own way of viewing the world. When you start taking notice, you are going to find thoughts that create feelings that create beliefs that are either outdated or downright stupid. Some thoughts and beliefs that used to fit in your life when you were working 9—5 and coming home every evening, are not going to fit during a FIFO roster…

Kirsty :)

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Making Mothers Day Special – Even When Separated By Work

Life doesn't comewith a manual,it comes with a Mother-3How Fly-In-Fly-Out workers can make Mother’s Day special for their Mum or partners from afar.

Kirsty shares her tips on how your Mum or partner can still feel spoilt, valued and special even if you are away for Mothers Day.

When she was interviewing people to share their stories in her book, she came across a particularly thoughtful FIFO worker –

“My closest friend, Gail, works with a lady whose partner works two weeks away and one week home. During one of his swings away, her daughter became ill and was hospitalised for a few days. One morning after a very stressful week, she was talking to her partner on Skype and he asked if there was anything he could do, anything at all. She jokingly said you could cook dinner tonight. They both laughed. That night after she got home from work, there was a knock at the door at 6 p.m. She walked to the door wondering who would be there at that time of the evening. She opened the door, and to her surprise, there stood the Domino’s pizza delivery boy with dinner – organised by her partner. When I heard this story, it bought a tear to my eye. It shows how we can all think outside of the box, listen to our partner’s needs and not be limited by FIFO.”

Excerpt From: “SEPARATED BY WORK.”

Take a moment to think about what your partner or Mum really likes. What is happening when you notice that they are feeling the most loved and appreciated? Is it flowers, is it things done for them, is it thoughtful gifts, is it giving freely of your time and attention, or is it just taking time to affirm how grateful you are for all they do? When you work that out you will be recognised and talked about as the best partner, son or daughter, because you took the time to acknowledge them in a way that was most meaningful to them.

Top tips on giving from afar –

  • Make it meaningful to your partner.
  • Remember that this is all about them.
  • Be original and thoughtful.
  • Be prepared – don’t leave it till the last minute.
  • Do a couple of different things, for example – call or Skype in the morning whilst you are holding a plate of eggs on toast and a flower as if you were serving her breakfast, have a gift arriving pre-organised with a friend, and get dinner delivered, or have a special container pre-frozen in the freezer that you cooked that wasn’t to be touched until Mother’s day evening.

“Love is not limited by distance or miles – Love is enhanced by connection and smiles.” – Kirsty O’Callaghan



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FIFO Life – Insight from the kids

FIFO Life Insight from the kids

This is one of my favourite chapters from my book – Separated by Work. I wanted to share it with you all.

…Excerpt from Separated by Work  – Kirsty O’Callaghan – Chapter 18

Among FIFO families who are coping well, there are some common themes—resilience, happiness, satisfaction, and a sense of purpose about the experience. Their children, as a direct result, seem more adaptable and calm. I frequently ask my children how they are doing with Dad working away. It gives me a starting point to see if Paddy and I can be doing anything more to support them or answering any questions or concerns they may have. One question I had to answer once was when Joseph asked me why the people Dad worked for were so mean and wouldn’t let him work for one week and be home for three. It was tricky to reach a point where he was satisfied with the answer, yet I am pleased he asked.

“Your child might say, “I wish we didn’t read that book today because it really made me think about the sadness at home.”

When children have the opportunity to share their feelings, the joy and excitement, as well as the anxiety and sadness… They are developing the ability to identify the range of feelings that we all have and to learn the ways in which to respond. They are also learning that everyone might not respond like them and this will help them to get along with others.

When we limit what children can talk about and how they might respond to the world we deny them the opportunity to engage with the full range of human feelings. Everyone experiences highs and lows and sometimes we just need to know that someone is listening. How could we provide more opportunities for children to share their feelings?”– Suzette Holm

After getting permission from their FIFO parents, I invited a number of children of differing ages to share their thoughts and experiences as a member of a FIFO family. The insights are overwhelmingly impressive and allow us to take a breath and not feel that we are necessarily doing a dis-service to our children by choosing this work situation. Whether a parent works away or is home every night is not an indicator of a happier child. When reading I suggest that you do not view the child’s opinion and thoughts as good or bad—it is just how that child was feeling at the time. Children are generally quite frank.

I have used each child’s first initial and age. I have also used Mr or Miss to signify boy or girl.

Mr J—8

“My Dad works away for three weeks and is home for seven days—that is a week. I think it is good most of the time, but I miss him. I get excited when he comes home because I miss him for three weeks. I am used to it now that I am eight, I wasn’t used to it when I was three. It felt longer then, like even three months. When Dad is home, he is fun and funny. We do lots of stuff together. When he is away for three weeks I don’t like it because I can’t see him, and sometimes I get bored and miss him. I know Dad works away so we get lots of money and he can buy stuff for all of us. When he is away, it helps if I just don’t think about it or him being away. I like to talk to him on the phone, and doing my homework with Dad on Skype two times a week. When I was about four I liked Skyping Dad all the time.”

Miss M—21

“I can safely say that over the duration of Dad’s career doing FIFO my opinion and view have changed drastically. When I was old enough to understand the concept that Dad went away regularly to go to work I wasn’t too pleased with the idea. To put it in comparison to people who have not experienced growing up with your father there only half the time—it felt like my parents were divorced. We’d only see Dad every so often and when we did it would take a few days for him to adjust back to home life, he’d get the things done that he needed to get done (i.e. banking, jobs around the house, spending time with Mum etc. etc.) and then he would have time for me. I loathed my father and blamed him for a lot of things in my life because of FIFO until I was 18.

It struck me only a few years ago when, I myself, moved away from home for a period of nine months and worked in a mining town—that my Dad never did this because he loved to—he did it so that I could attend private schools, have caviar on my plate and Louis Vuitton on my back. I now appreciate how hard my father worked for me to have one of the best up-bringings you could give a child. I still struggle internally whether the sacrifice of not seeing your child grow up every day, attend birthdays and Christmas every year, is really worth the money and material things my father has given me. I sure as hell love him and appreciate him for it, because without it I wouldn’t be where I am today, but at the same time—where would I be if my father never took the FIFO job? Would it have been worth the sacrifice of money to have a better quality family life together?”

Miss D—18

“As I got older Dad working away didn’t affect me as much. I think this is because I have my own routine and it is easier to adapt. One thing that did get harder as I got older was that Dad missed some of the important stuff, like formals, graduation, birthdays, and things like that. Overall, I am ok with him working away, he has a good job and earns good money, and he has been doing it for so long it is hard to remember what it was like having him home everyday. I have a good relationship with Dad and we keep in touch by texting and phone calls. I know he is always there if I need him and Mum lets him know what is going on here. I just accept it is the way it is. I enjoy it when he is home, not so much that we do a lot together, just knowing that he is here is cool.”

Mr A—15

“For me Dad was working away quite some bit, and at first I wasn’t really used to it because with him here he manages the household and without him here it felt like something was missing. The way I coped with it was just not thinking about it, I would have the occasional moment where I needed Dad, but it doesn’t really bother me now because I’m focused on so many things, like school and my friends and hobbies have me occupied. Probably the positive of Dad working away is that we get some peace and quiet, because he would be there always and it would be annoying, but that rarely happens. Negatives are he would manage the family, without him he would assist me with things I do with him on a daily basis, I don’t get to hangout with him much and we don’t get time to spend with each other.”

Miss M—15

“For the last few years my Dad has only been home for Saturday and leaving again Sunday for work. This has impacted our family in both positive and negative ways because he is missed very much during the week but we know he does it because he loves us. It is mostly positive because not seeing him makes our time together more meaningful so it is nicer for everyone. When I was younger having both my parents around every day was great because I didn’t know any different but also because the small things that I cared about, like getting an award at school, I always had a parent there to see it happen. That doesn’t happen so much anymore because my mum is usually busy working and being a mum to three kids, but now that I’m older I understand that she does her best to be a good mum and wife for our family.”

Miss P—11

“PROS – Some positive reasons I don’t mind my Dad being away as when he comes home I am really excited to see him. When Dad is away it can also be good because Mum and Dad don’t fight during the week so I am not stressed because my parents have been fighting. It is also good because when he is not home the household is all girls so we can do the girly things that we like to do. Dad is also a lot happier when he comes home he gets to relax and he has missed his family. Dad is also more appreciative of what he has at home such as the house and his family.

“CONS – Some negative reasons I dislike my Dad being away from home all week is that I miss him a lot. He also is really good at math so he can help me with my math homework and he can’t help me when he is away. Not only does he help me with math he also helps me with my gymnastics tricks and strength but, again he can’t help me because he is away. Another con is that when we go out as a family he often doesn’t come because he is getting ready to leave again so we don’t spend a lot of time with him. I also don’t like him being away because at school everyone talks about cool things they have done with their Dad but I don’t get to spend a lot of quality time with my Dad so I am always left out of the conversation. I also don’t like to go and have sleepovers with my friends on the weekends or go to parties because I want to spend some time with my Dad and I miss out on a lot.”

Mr D—8

“When my Dad was away I felt really sad and bored because he does all the fun things with me like quad bike riding. He is my best friend. It felt really different not to be near him. It made me feel very sad and I wished he would come home soon. The only thing good about Dad not being home was him not yelling at me when I did the wrong thing.

I felt like something was missing. It felt a bit strange because you usually have a Dad and a Mum, but for one month and a half, I only had a Mum. I kept wishing he would come home. He is home now, so everything is back the way it was. I love you Dad, with all my heart.”

Miss E—14

“When my Dad was away I felt that it was a good thing, but also a bad thing. With Dad being away, Mum was struggling to keep up with everything, and she spent most of her time at work. My sister and I were finding ourselves having to look after our younger brother a lot. But there was a bright side to having Dad away, me and my sister started to get much closer in our relationship and sometimes after school, Mum would have already picked my brother up and she would take us to Redcliffe to have an afternoon snack.

When Dad came back late on Friday nights there was always a good vibe around the house. On Saturday morning, the family would have breakfast and depending on how Dad felt, we would go out on a road trip not knowing where we were going to go, but driving to a small town to have lunch and then driving to a waterfall or rainforest to stretch our legs.

Although Dad spent most of his time away, there was still such a rush of excitement when he got home. And it was always so good to see him on those early Saturday mornings.”

I also got the point of view of a now adult who reflected on her experiences and thoughts of her Dad working away when she was a child –

Mrs H—37

“Growing up with a father who worked away for months at a time was not unusual for me, because that was my reality from a very young age. Sure, there was an awareness that our household was a bit different to most, but I never considered it to be a worse-off situation in comparison to a normal household.

On reflection, I think I have benefited greatly from having a strong role model in my mother and watching her raise two children while her husband was working away for extended periods. It’s certainly instilled in me the importance of being independent and capable, and not to become reliant on another person to do the basic tasks around the house. I hope to pass these same traits on to my children.

When Dad returned home for leave, there was always a period of adjustment in the house, particularly for Mum who had to reassign some of the household responsibilities, and for Dad who was keen to get involved in everything and contribute as much as he could while he was there. It was wonderful to have a Dad who, unlike many of my friend’s fathers, when he was home was really involved in the day-to-day; dropping us to school, taking us shopping, arranging play dates and getting involved in our sport. When he was home, time together as a family became more important. He was truly present. Some parents never go away for work, and yet they are never really present in their children’s lives.”

Children are naturally equipped to cope with most challenges and struggles—they just need to feel heard and their point of view accepted. When I spoke to these children and young adults, I took away that FIFO is never a one size fits all. Each family has its own unique experience—just as each child will have their own views and responses dependent on what is going on at the time for them. Which leads into the next section of the book—dealing with what you least expect…..

– Kirsty :)


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FIFO Relationship Success – 50 Shades of Away!

FIFO Relationship Success

An Excerpt from Separated by Work by Kirsty O’Callaghan

…I once read a quote, “True love doesn’t mean being inseparable; it means being separated and nothing changes.” What a load of rubbish. This quote is not as feel good as it first appears to be. For those already in FIFO, including me, it can induce feelings of relationship inadequacy because we are separated by work and everything does change. 50 shades of away has no time for unrealistic ideas of what true love and passion should or could be.

People who do enjoy realistic health and sanity in their relationships understand a relationship cannot be what makes their lives full—it complements, it adds to, but it can never complete or fill what is empty space. Many people get in a relationship and start to devote their every waking moment to their partner. Then when the pressures of life and FIFO kick in, their entire world falls apart.

For FIFO relationships to be functional and healthy, we have to have our own goals and passions, as well as joint ones. We have time away for ourselves to explore our own interests. 50 shades of away knows that nothing is sexier than a man or woman who is interesting, passionate, and capable of holding his or her own. There is no greater turn off than clingy desperation.

Still, distance can be intolerable for most of us at some point, especially in the beginning. The need to be physically close to our partners is strong and we think it is the only way to increase emotional closeness and connection. I felt like that for the first year. I remember what I missed most in the beginning was touch. That touch on my back when we walked into a room or building together, the touch on my shoulder as Paddy walked past where I was sitting, the touch on my lower back as he came into the kitchen to see what I was cooking, and the touch of his hand in mine. My levels of oxytocin dropped dramatically when our FIFO lifestyle began.

Oxytocin is known as the bonding and trust hormone, or the love hormone. The brain produces it when we touch another in a caring way. Scientific research indicates that this hormone has specific abilities to balance social behaviour, including effects on motherly care and aggression. It encourages bonding between couples, induces feelings of being part of a group, and increases trust. Oxytocin also reduces stress responses, including anxiety.

Not being able to hold our family members and be close physically can heighten feelings of isolation, loneliness, or distrust during FIFO swings. Once I realised this, I made sure I hugged friends and my kids more often and shook lots of hands while Paddy was away to get my boost of oxytocin. When he was home on R & R, we made producing this hormone a priority.

There are couples who adapt immediately into the FIFO experience and comfortably allow the distance and time apart to enhance emotional closeness and connection to their partners.

Neither is right or wrong, different people have different experiences. Culturally I think we are programmed by TV, movies, social media, magazines, books, friends, and family into the belief that the ideal romantic couple remain physically together, and any time apart should be intolerable. Those that have that belief feel impatient, unloved, and disconnected. The people who haven’t bought into society’s expectations tend to be more patient, calm, and secure.

This chapter is dedicated to keeping your relationship healthy while in FIFO. This doesn’t mean problem-free by any stretch of the imagination. Paddy and I have arguments, we annoy each other, don’t really listen to the other sometimes, sometimes lack empathy, understanding and consideration, and we go through our share of relationship issues during our experience of FIFO. But we have learned a few healthy habits so we can blow off steam and frustration in a fashion that doesn’t undermine the integrity of our relationship. We have learned to fight fair for our relationship and stay honest at the same time.

Overall, I have discovered that being separated by work does not create marital issues, issues with friends, or strained relationships with family and children. Your relationship can survive and thrive, and has as much chance as any other couple. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t unique challenges that marriages and relationships in FIFO face. What it does mean is that if there are already underlying rifts or problems in your relationships, especially with your partner, FIFO will bring these out and magnify them.

When I questioned people who were in the FIFO lifestyle about their relationships with partners, friends and family, the top nine responses included –

  1. “Some days we have nothing in common anymore. All we do is complain and compare like we are in a competition as to who has it the hardest.”
  2. “Relationships can be challenging, they need constant work to ensure cohesiveness.”
  3. “I feel there is a lack of appropriate opportunities to address relationship issues in FIFO.”
  4. “Sometimes I miss her so much, and other times I find myself getting too used to living on my own.”
  5. “I wish he would realise when he comes home it may be a holiday for him but day to day life goes on for me and I need some R & R too.”
  6. “I feel so left out, left out of the lives of my kids and the life of my wife. They all seem to be living life and sometimes I am out of step or don’t feel like I fit in.”
  7. “I have no one to talk to at night, to debrief about my day or acknowledge that my day was great or awful. This leaves me feeling unimportant and insecure sometimes.”
  8. “My family and friends are an okay source of support, but don’t really get FIFO.”
  9. “Friends don’t seem to understand what its like being on your own all the time and then when your partner is home you don’t really want to get together with them as family time is precious.”

A typical theme within FIFO couples was competitiveness around their roles and responsibilities. Who is doing the most, enduring the most and under the most pressure? I have yet to find a reliable, one size fits all, measure of who is doing it the toughest or the easiest. I do find there is never a 50/50 split of responsibility—in any relationship….

Kirsty :) – to get your copy of Separated by Work click here.

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Be Well – Healthy ‘FIFO Life’ Habits

Be Well – Healthy FIFO Life Habits

An Excerpt from Separated by Work by Kirsty O’Callaghan

…In the beginning of our FIFO journey, there were a lot of frustrating moments for me. I was at home cooking meals and cleaning up afterwards and Paddy was at work being waited on hand and foot. I had a vision of a five star hotel restaurant service and buffet. The only burden for him seemed to be that there was a time restriction on when to eat. He had to fall in with their serving times or go without.

The frustration soon became an area of concern as I watched Paddy’s waist balloon and his energy drop. Paddy was generally fit and enjoyed regular exercise, and this was decreasing at a rapid rate. The turning point for us was when he ended up in hospital for stomach blockages twice whilst being in the FIFO employ—one of the operations included removing his gall bladder. The doctors were vague as to causes and preventions; however, I often wondered whether these were bought on because of the stress and diet of a person who works away.

Workers and health practitioners I have interviewed on this topic said that FIFO employees were more likely to be overweight, drink to excess, and smoke. The reasons given for this included diet, boredom, limited opportunities to maintain fitness, and the disruptive nature of the shifts.

Paddy’s body would have been ill prepared to deal with some of the on-site food selections because in our home we are careful with our food choices, avoid preservatives, and additives, and are aware that nutrition plays an important role in promoting our health.

After the illness scares Paddy took charge of managing his health, thought more about the food he ate, exercised more, and managed stress better. Since then his mood improved, he rarely suffers from seasonal illnesses and has more energy.

There are extra demands on FIFO families—physically, mentally, and emotionally—so healthy habits are crucial in supporting and sustaining great results. I research a lot in this area and talk to many people to get their views. I have learned it is never a one size fits all approach. To keep your cup full you have to—

  1. Think well to be well,
  2. Exercise to reduce stress and weight, and
  3. Eat to encourage excellent results.

Lacking proper nutrition can put strain on the body, which becomes mental stress and can contribute to illness. I encourage you to do your own research to create a plan that works best for you and your family.

Two things you can do now to begin healthier habits –

  1. Get off junk food—it has no nutritional value. It may satisfy an energy slump or cover up a lonely moment, but it also decays teeth, lowers self image, and heart health declines. The sugar in junk food is doing a heap of bad things to the brain—impairing memory and learning skills, and contributing to anxiety and depression. Moderation is key.
  2. Drink more water. This is the most effective habit anyone can choose to improve his or her inner health, energy, life balance, and skin health.

A nutritionist once explained it like this—“When dehydrated, your cells become more like sultanas than plump healthy grapes and consequently that’s how you think and feel. Blood flow to your brain is reduced, which limits the amount of oxygen reaching your brain cells and slows it down. Therefore, you feel tired and lack energy. When our cells are like shrivelled- up sultanas the process of nutrients flowing in and out of the cells is hugely decreased and this has ramifications throughout our entire body—our health, our moods, our thoughts, our appearance, our vitality are all below par.”

The vision of the shrivelled sultana was a definite motivator for me. A must-have is a refillable environmentally friendly water bottle—such as stainless steel that many sites provide in abundance. Drinking enough water each day is easier when it’s readily on hand…..

Kirsty :)

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Know Why You Are Going On This Journey

linked in goals header

An Excerpt from Separated by Work- Chapter 3

Viktor E Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning, said, “Those who have a why to live by, can bear with almost any how.”

There are many moments where we will ask, “Can I bear this one minute longer?” There are days we will have to decide—just make it to tomorrow. This is when our why we are doing FIFO becomes so important.

Creating goals and having a powerful why, will prove invaluable for the whole family—everyone will feel that the sacrifices demanded by FIFO life are, or will be, worth it. I will share in this chapter what our family did, and what I have done with other coaching clients and FIFO families. I will show you how to create meaningful and exciting goals that keep you focused on your why.

I did my goal setting process with Paddy a few years ago. Even though he had spoken with many of the people I had coached and had understood they found success and satisfaction in their lives, he still doubted it was something he needed. One day when he was at home on R & R, I kept asking him if he was free to get this done. Finally, he said he had five minutes to spare. I asked him to sit down in the client chair in my office and answer some questions. He half smiled, controlled the eye roll, and knew it was no use putting it off any longer.

How to find your why

I explained to Paddy that the main reason to do this was to get us both on the same page about how we saw our future. I felt this was a good time as in the previous six months I had watched him undervalue himself, lose some of his self-confidence due to the pressure of being away, missing us terribly, and being messed around by everything from accommodation, travel arrangements, to employers. He needed to refocus and have something meaningful to reach for.

I began asking him to tell me what he was really good at and interested in, what was most important to him and what it was he wanted in the next couple of years. He struggled with the what was the most important so I did a values exercise with him that I have outlined for you in this chapter.

He seemed to look at me as if I was talking in another language, yet humoured me with nodding and smiling at the correct moments. Paddy then listed some one and two-year goals, including a motor bike, to play golf more often, buy a house, holidays, health, and fitness achievements—all the usual stuff. I then asked about career. He replied that it would be the same as what he was doing now.

I can see and feel if a statement they make inspires someone or if they are defeated or passionless. It is deeper than a tone, volume, or pitch of voice. When something clicks for someone it is like a light goes off behind their eyes, their spine straightens, their skin glows, their lips turn up at each side and their eyes widen. There was no click there for Paddy.

I asked him to dig deep and imagine what it was he would really like to be doing in his career. His response, “It will take about eight years for me to get there, you just don’t understand the mining industry.” I silently counted backwards from five, put on my calm face, and resisted the urge to say to him that I might not understand the industry but I do understand human behaviour, how focus creates supreme results and the power and science behind goal setting. “But what if it could happen,” I said. “Just imagine for a moment that it could and did. You are studying, you work hard, you have lots of experience—what does your ideal career look like?”

Paddy knew it would be no use to dig his heels in, especially as he was in the client chair. He went on to tell me the position he wanted. As he spoke I could see the inspired light, his back straightened and his eyes widened. I wrote what he described in the two-year column, to which he shook his head at me. I was persistent. “You have to truly believe this can happen, just imagine what if it could? Imagine it for me. Imagine it for our family. Believe it for you.”

We wrote out the goals, personal and professional, and his values, in a language that resonated for him. I supported and encouraged him and over the next months, he reviewed his goals regularly. When we reviewed his goals around the two- year mark, to his surprise, he had achieved all those goals and a couple more. Paddy is clever and hard working, and I am so proud of him, yet it takes a team, dedication, and belief to realise you can achieve what you imagine, and then the energy goes where the attention flow.


What are most important are our values. They are what we believe are essential in the way we live and work. Our values determine our priorities and the way we talk to others and ourselves. Deep down, they’re the measures we use to gauge if we are successful or not, and if we are happy and satisfied, or not…..

You can get your copy of the book, or find our more information here.

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Communication—Words can Boost, Crush, or Baffle

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Excerpt From: SEPARATED BY WORK – Kirsty O’Callaghan.

“…Karen a mother of three said, “I don’t think he realises how hard it is for me being both parents while he is away.” I asked her if she had spoken to him about it and she replied, “No, if he cared he would just know.” This feeling of overwhelm and resentment of being both parents was repeated many times during the conversations I had with FIFO families.

The question I am asked most is what are the best ways to communicate and how often.

Scott, a FIFO worker, confided that the only reason he made sure he rang every day was so that he could keep up with all the issues and let his partner debrief. His fear was that if issues arose, his wife and two young children would think he didn’t know what was going on or he didn’t care. Ann, who had been the stay at home FIFO partner for 16 years, said that she wouldn’t tell her husband everything that happened so as not to worry him—she just wanted to keep the peace.

Sharon is engaged to a FIFO worker and they have no children living at home with them. She described how they text first thing in the morning to say good morning, and then they may send a text or two during the day or an email. Then they text every evening, make sure they talk via the phone or Skype every night, and they text each other good night before they go to bed. They saw this as mirroring the type of communication they would have if they both had jobs where they came home each evening.

Paddy and I found our balance and continue to re-balance when changes happen, children grow, and a challenging time presents itself. We do not talk on the phone or Skype every day. In the beginning, we did, but as we adjusted to the time apart, we found we didn’t have to speak each day. Some days there was just nothing to say which made it uncomfortable for us. A concerned FIFO partner asked me during my research gathering process, “Is it bad not to want to or need to talk to my husband every day? I do love him.” “No,” I said, “I don’t think that is bad.”

Paddy and I quickly found that what worked pre-FIFO life didn’t continue to work. FIFO rosters demanded a change in the way we approached keeping in touch. One of the changes we had to get used to was regular technology use—like emails, Skype, Facebook, and texts. In the next chapter, with the help of an expert in the social media field, Anna Cairo, I share more solutions, benefits, and pitfalls on the instantaneous methods you have at your fingertips to communicate.

Calls that are made at the wrong time, when one of you is busy or distracted can lead to tension. When this happened for us, rather than saying, “I’m busy can I get back to you in a short while?” we tried to multi-task. I would hear Paddy typing on a keyboard or answering other calls while I was on the phone. When he rang early evening, he would hear me banging pots, nearly tripping over the dog and correcting Joseph’s pronunciation of a word from a school reader. Neither of us was really listening, which led to hanging up feeling frustrated and disheartened.

Things worked better for us when we set aside time to for calls or texted first to see if the other was free. This way we could be completely (or mostly) present and have our 100 per cent (or 95 per cent) attention on each other. I assure you it was felt on the other end of the line in a positive way.

This led to us being able to share our concerns and feelings with each other more openly. There were times I had to ask Paddy to listen more rather than jump into thinking he understood what I was saying or offering an opinion and solution straight up. John Gray, the author of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, summed up my point when he said, “Men need to remember that women talk about problems to get close and not necessarily to get solutions.”

When a person is heard, they feel valued and appreciated. You may or may not be interested—that is beside the point. The point is to allow our loved ones to feel validated because we are truly listening. This is good for them, good for you and is good for the relationship. It avoids many misunderstandings that can happen due to the separation of FIFO lifestyles. Listening without judgement and criticism will make the distance more bearable and everyone will feel more connected.

A Greek Stoic philosopher, Epictetus, once said, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” I would like to see more people use this as the number one rule of good conversation.

I have been in positions where I knew what I was saying was not properly heard. In those moments, I distrusted the other person and felt unworthy. I know from being a talker and a quick thinker, there are times others have felt unheard by me as I jump in mid sentence or get distracted. I know because my daughter Danielle and my best friend Gail have told me at the time. I am grateful for their honesty—later. A coaching colleague many years ago shared with me what he does when he wants to jump in. He reminds himself that the person who is speaking to him is telling their story. He just needs to stop and listen to their story. His story, and advice, can wait.

Numerous FIFO family issues are a product of not listening well or not feeling heard. A huge amount of time is spent in this area when I work with couples for relationship coaching. The comparing trap we spoke about in the previous chapter is top of the list. Only half listening and interrupting comes next. One person always having to be right, follows this closely. Then there are those that keep changing the subject because they are not interested in what the other person is saying.

Interesting statistics on listening identify that we may only be listening at a 25 per cent comprehension rate. Considering that 85 per cent of what we know we have learned from listening, imagine if we listened better and took in more of what others were saying. Being listened to properly is the difference between having a sense of acceptance or isolation. It says to the person speaking, I value you and you matter….”

Kirsty :)


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Separated by Work at Easter

Separated by work at easterIt is a time of chocolate, celebration, reflection, family gatherings, holiday activities, fun and extra days off work. Easter means different things to different families – the common thread is gathering together and sharing.

For those that are separated by work, there is someone missing from these gatherings and missing out on making these memories.

And to add more pressure to the mix – those parents that are at home with school aged children will be tearing their hair out as their burden of doing it all on their own is magnified during school holidays. They will be listening to friends and other family members talk about their holidays, getaways and planned family events – and listening to the sympathetic statements of, “oh you poor thing,” and, “I don’t know how you do it, I couldn’t / wouldn’t,” and, “that puts a lot on you and the kids.” Generally you do not hear, “how can I help out,” or, “do you want to join us,” or, “are you ok?”

So how can I help you? How can I help make Easter and the school holidays that bit better and easier for you and your family?

I have been separated by work for over seven years. My husband currently works in W.A. and we live in Queensland. This year he leaves to go back to site on Easter Sunday at 6 a.m. We feel lucky to have him here for half of Easter – it is the first Easter for two years he has been home at all.

Over the last seven years I have found out what works for us, and discovered many things that don’t. Here are my five top tips for you this Easter as you connect and share from afar –

  • Stop and take a moment to understand where your partner is at mentally and emotionally – and then choose your words and communication strategy wisely. Consider, if you are the one at home, your partner is away from their family, feeling very isolated and alone. They are missing special moments and not able to be with their family when a lot of their mates are taking time off work and spending it doing ‘fun stuff.’ Consider, if you are the one away, your partner is missing you, experiencing extra pressure and demands of their time, out of routine, and going on outings with kids in tow and trying to make it fun as they can – all while they watch everyone else with their partners enjoying it together.
  • Make up things to do on Skype together. For example, can you sit down and colour in with the kids, make up jokes, do projects, and pre-plan hiding Easter eggs and you read out the clues? You can get creative. Could the children write you stories – made up or real – and read them to you? Seeing your face, your smile and hearing your laugh can feel like you are really there, especially to kids.
  • Re-frame the blame. It is easy to get caught up in thinking and speaking about how hard it is, how it sucks, how challenging this life can be, how the kids won’t settle, how lonely it is, what if, and the like. Re-frame the blame means to turn it around and think about all the times you are together when others aren’t. Why you are doing this type of work and living arrangement. Why you are making these sacrifices now, so that in the future…
  • Seek out the support you need. If you are on site that could be mates or colleagues who are going through the same thing – talk about it, share your thoughts and boost each other up. If you are at home seek out family members, friends and community groups to help you when you need it.
  • Plan and organise the time. Instead of just staying at home, look up local events in your area. A lot of council events are free for school holiday activities. Are there groups you may be able to join? What are your friends up to – can you plan play dates? Where can you go in your region that would be fun for you and the kids? When is the best time to make phone calls, Skype and connect with your partner? What surprises could you arrange for each other?

I will leave you now with one of my favourite stories from when I was interviewing people for my book, Separated by Work – I came across a particularly thoughtful FIFO worker –

“My closest friend, Gail, works with a lady whose partner works two weeks away and one week home. During one of his swings away, her daughter became ill and was hospitalised for a few days. One morning after a very stressful week, she was talking to her partner on Skype and he asked if there was anything he could do, anything at all. She jokingly said you could cook dinner tonight. They both laughed. That night after she got home from work, there was a knock at the door at 6 p.m. She walked to the door wondering who would be there at that time of the evening. She opened the door, and to her surprise, there stood the Domino’s pizza delivery boy with dinner – organised by her partner. When I heard this story, it bought a tear to my eye. It shows how we can all think outside of the box, listen to our partner’s needs and not be limited by FIFO.”

Excerpt From: Kirsty O’Callaghan. “SEPARATED BY WORK.

Happy Easter to you all, Kirsty :)



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Book Launch – Oh What a Night!

SLIDE 1 WELCOMEThe day had finally arrived – the 10th of March. The day of my first book launch. Separated by Work was about to be officially introduced.

The last thing I remember the night before was looking up at the ceiling and silently asking to wake up refreshed and with enough energy to get through the next day. It had been a huge month and I was already weary.

The first print run had arrived mid February – which led to collecting book reviews, first round of book sales, uploading to e-Book platforms, updating website and social media sites, invites posted, marketing machine set in motion, radio and newspaper interviews and preparations in full swing for the book launch. To top off all the excitement and activity, two nights prior, I was honoured to receive the 2016 International Small Business Women of the Year Award.

I was slowly running out of puff.

I was overwhelmed with tasks and to do lists – yet I was also overawed with the love and support around me. My friends were so supportive of my new publication and me. I had people driving in and flying in just for the book launch to support me. Anna Cairo flew in from Melbourne just for the night – Gail, my best friend, had driven two hours for the award night and then taken 2 days off work to come down again for launch. I had people stepping up to share the information around about the book and create more awareness. I had many asking for jobs to do to help me.

My amazing friend – Louise D’Allura – put on her event organiser and compere hat and created an event that was so professional and so well run that most people in the room commented on what an amazing evening it had been. I even had Kerrin Smith there to professionally film the event and she has gone above and beyond to give me the most amazing photos and show reels from the night.

Speaking_047I stood at the side of the room – speech memorised and timed out to the minute. After Louise’s introduction, I walked to the front, and began to speak. By the second sentence I was having to frequently look at my notes (thank goodness I took them). The love and the support that was being projected to me from the people in the audience (a packed room, well over the 50 planned) nearly bowled me over. I held back the tears, only just, and soldiered on until the end.

I have spent two years creating this book, Separated by Work, and I am so proud of it and me. I know it will do exactly as I intended it to do and more – to support families, workers and company leaders to survive and thrive through FIFO. Yet, this is in large part due to the support of those around me, those that mentored me, those that contributed to the book and those that believed in me, my vision and that I had something important to say.

Most of my life I have done it on my own. Along the way I have had enough support to save me from being cynical of life, yet on the whole have not had complete unconditional support most of the time. Instead of falling into the debilitating trap of feeling life was unfair, I just did my best, learned more, picked myself up and showed up. I just kept helping others, because I knew what it was like to have no one.

I would get frustrated and I did want people to notice me – yet each time it came up I attempted to let those thoughts go and remind myself I did it because it felt right. I am a firm believer that what you put out there will come back; just not in the way you think or expect.

Signing_007I would like to say – it did come back – it came back in an avalanche!

I could not of felt more blessed, appreciated and acknowledged on the evening of my book launch. There was a room full of people that had my book’s best intentions and mine at heart. It wasn’t just ‘fan’ moments – these people wanted to let me know that they knew how much I had given, and continue to give, and this was their chance to give back to me.

I am so grateful that I had the courage and determination to keep going and finish my book, so that I could feel this, so that I could continue to help others, and so that I could step up and create something bigger than me.

Now onto the next stage – speaking to many and getting loads of books out there so that all families and workers have the opportunity to find that being separated by work can be personally and professionally successful and they can be more, do more and have more because of it.

If you want to get your copy, please click here.

Kirsty :)

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