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Kirsty writes regularly here

Achieve Your Goals

Vacation on an islandMost people feel after setting goals an enthusiasm and new lease on life. They are on purpose; they know their why, and know what is important. At this point, I like to remind everyone that with change can come obstacles.

Many have been stumbling down their current path for years, and then a whole new direction is decided. Many areas of their lives will now undergo change—from health habits, social relationships, work/career, and even routines.

Here are my top four tips to stay on track –

  1. A comfort zone is just a known zone in your mind—a set way of thinking, seeing and doing things. You will have to get out of it if you want new stuff. Einstein said, “The definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” It takes about 28 days to form a new habit and be rid of an old one. Commit to a new behaviour and actions that support your goals for just 28 days. Then do it again for the next 28 days.
  2. Get rid of the obstacles and mental clutter by asking, “what can I stop, minimise, keep doing, do more of, and start, to make my life flow?” The quality of your life is the quality of questions you ask.
  3. Be kind to yourself and be flexible. Some days are better than others are. If you have a bad one, don’t get mad, just decide to be better the next day and improve. Psychologists are finding that self-compassion may be the most important life skill—it fosters resilience, courage, energy, and creativity. The little things you do on a daily basis create change in your life.
  4. Trust and invest in you. You are going to be so excited and focused on your goals and will notice opportunities turn up to meet every step. I always trust it when I get a hunch to ring someone, follow up on something, or start an activity. I advise people to invest their time and energy, ?and money in themselves—their education, their health, things that make them feel good—and it is amazing how much easier life, and goal achievement gets for them.

Conquer fear, limited thinking, outdated habits, and negative inner dialogue and the rest is easy. I encourage you to continually improve, continually reinvent, listen to your inner ideas and inspirational thoughts, serve others, and persist.

Kirsty 🙂

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3 D’s – Do, Delegate, Dump

Do

I can get very busy distracting myself from the daily grind of life pressures. With no one here to see what I am doing, as my office is at home and my husband works away, I can get caught up in meaningless tasks that do not contribute to any level of achievement or feelings of satisfaction. I often remind myself that how I am using my time compared to how I could be using my time is completely different.

Social media is a classic example of time slipping away unchecked—where magically 10 minutes turns into 2 hours and during this time the tasks on the to do list did not magically get done.

To overcome the distractions I follow the 3 D’s. They are –

Do—The tasks you must do or want to do yourself.

Once you have identified these –

  • Prioritise tasks in order of importance and urgency.
  • Group similar tasks together, for example all phone calls, appointments, housework, play time, you time etc.
  • Make the best of your prime time—the time when you have the most energy during the day and the least interruptions.

Delegate—Get someone else to do some tasks.

I am living the FIFO (fly in fly out) life, if my husband was home I would ask him to do certain tasks, or they would be his job. He is not here some of the time so I will ask my daughter, her boyfriend and close friends to help. Tasks that can wait till my husband gets home go on his list that I have on the fridge awaiting his return.

To delegate chosen tasks is helping others as well as yourself. I encourage my family to think as part of a team, and when one team member can’t, the others step up. In the beginning I found it hard to let go of tasks, for many reasons including being judged as not coping and the fear of not being noticed as a super, important and busy person. I had to look at it another way—I had extra time for other things I wanted to do and I had shared an opportunity for someone to learn something new that they could be appreciated for it.

Dump—If it is of no value, get rid of it.

Be aware throughout the day of the time eaters. Decide if what you are doing is taking you closer to your goals. The time eaters are the activities that take you off track or are not contributing to feeling happy, healthy, and productive. Good examples are—

  • Social media pages and games,
  • Those wonderful warm, funny and fuzzy emails that are sent to you,
  • Too much TV,
  • Annoying and draining people, or worry. ?If it is not on the to-do list—worry is rarely on a to-do list— dump it. If family time or exercise time is lost due to being in front of a screen—turn it off.

Your turn – What can you be doing, delegating and dumping to be more productive?

Write down three things you can start to do differently from today and watch your stress reduce and results increase.

Kirsty 🙂

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Book Review – Mindfulness on the Run

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Mindfulness on the Run – Dr Chantal Hofstee

The power of mindfulness is something I have lived, learnt and taught over the past two decades – so when the opportunity presented itself from Exisle Publishing to review this book I jumped at the chance. My first thought was, “what a brilliant title, promising to allow even more people to feel the benefits of living a mindful life.”

I opened the book and by page 10 I was hooked. The way Dr Hofstee relates key topics like understanding your brain, processing emotions, changing stressful thoughts, the mind-body connection and overcoming blocks is outstanding.

As the pages flowed and an understanding and practice was established for your own life, she then moved onto showing how you could expand into Mindful communication, relationships and conflict resolution.

Each chapter is supported by very real examples and exercises that are explained simply to encourage the reader to practice immediately. My personal favourites were the on-the-run tips. As the book progressed learning’s flowed from previous section and expanded into the next.

I will definitely be recommending this well written and researched practical handbook to others who are seeking a resource that is easy to read, informative and supports their busy lifestyles.

Kirsty 🙂

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Get Organised – Plans to be on Purpose

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Everyone needs times dedicated to pausing and updating their life and family plan. There is truth in the saying, “For every minute spent organising, an hour is earned.” Instead of being on fast-forward, rewind, or even continuous play—stop, plan, and get organised.

At this point, I have seen many run to the hills of disorganisation, the land of the known and familiar. Instead of planning and implementing, they procrastinate. I challenge you to eat the elephant beetle—which means conquering the hardest and least desirable task first—so you can forever overcome disharmony and overwhelm.

There are countless time management and organisational resources out there—books, blogs, experts, and online forms. Some will work and some won’t. To get you started here are some of my suggested organisation and routine activities. My biggest piece of advice though—as time never changes, yet what can change are the choices made in the time available, always practise choice management, rather than time management.

Have a weekly plan, which creates a flexible routine.

A routine provides the freedom to focus on what is being done in the moment, knowing that all the activities to be accomplished will be done efficiently and effectively—the right things, in the right order. Many stumble whilst doing the right things in the wrong order. Meaningful routines create a happier, calmer, and less stressful environment.

Without a plan or routine days turn into weeks, and the weeks turn into months it all becomes a blur – the purpose of it all can be drowned out by the constant demands. Many times, I have viewed my days as a stream of things to do and busy-ness.

Activity

Take a moment now and reflect on your past week. Each week should contain all or some of the following activities and tasks. Did yours?

  • You time—reading, relaxing, entertainment, rest, hobby, fun, gardening, meditating, journaling, and time to generate new ideas.
  • Body time—Exercise, Yoga, massage, sport.
  • Connecting with others—Family, friends, sport, volunteer or community involvement.
  • Parenting duties—School drop offs and pick-ups, sporting events, tutoring, general running around, homework, fun time together, connecting and being present with your child/ren.
  • Home duties—cleaning, maintaining, general upkeep of house, groceries, finances, ironing, cooking.
  • Study—Assignments, credentialing, recognition from a regulatory body, seminars, researching, continual learning.
  • Work—Employed position.
  • Work—Own business. Delivering the product/ service that is core to your role, admin, course/product development, finances, networking, and professional collaboration.

I would like to point out that you time is at the top of this list. You time is commonly the first thing to go or be down graded to an activity of least importance. If this is happening for you or a member of your family, take time to re-prioritise. Without looking after you first, any routine is difficult to maintain and run-down people get sick.

An example of my weekly planner (which is pictured below) is printed on a sheet of paper I have on my pin-board. I like choosing a different colour for each area, as indicated in the picture, as this has more impact visually for me. In each coloured section I also have written what particular activity it is that I plan to do in that time.

Time Choice Management Schedule

This is a valuable tool for me and has been used by many of my clients. You may like to make your own, change colours, times, or activities. What matters is that this gives you a chance to view your whole week, what you do and how you can do it better.

Have a list.

I love a good list. I have an overall to-do list, a daily to-do list, a grocery list, a work list, a home list, list for gifts, and the list goes on! From watching me make lists over the years my children now have the list-making bug. My youngest son has lists of movies he wants to see, a list for Santa (usually started in April), and a list of jobs to do. My daughter makes lists for presents (she is a gift- giver by nature), a shopping list, which she calls a budget, and a dream list.

A question that I ask myself at numerous times during the day is, “What is the best use of my time right now?” This question is an opportunity to look at my list and see what I could be doing in the time I have right now and the energy I have available to me. Without my lists, I can very easily be distracted and taken off task.

Lists and weekly planning are the most effective way to improve overall performance, both personally and professionally. Wasted time is irreplaceable.

Stick with it to create a habit.

Daily disciplines create the changes in our lives. It takes about 28 days to create new habits. At about week two resistance, distraction, and lack of focus raise their unhelpful heads. This is the testing time. This is the time to push that bit harder, knowing why it is important to be organised and on purpose. Seek and gain support and take one day at a time. You can do it!

K x

 

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Collaborating to Help Others Thrive

DSC_2218I recently had the amazing pleasure of working together with Sophee of Sophee Smiles to create a blog to support couples in any type of long distance relationship – whether married to an adventurous jet-setter like Sophee, in love with a FIFO worker like me, struggling with your partner’s deployments, living in a different city to your loved one, travelling regularly yourself or anything in between, this blog post is filled with guidance, support, tips and understanding.

I adore collaborating, and my business has grown dramatically over the years due to these partnerships.  Whether it be recommendations, working together on projects, getting help, linking people together or sourcing experts to contribute to my publications and referral lists – collaborating is an essential for all business people.  It is also a must for volunteers, friends, people who are separated by work, and within the community – how else can a joint effort and better results be realised?

Charlie ‘Tremendous’ Jones said, “You will be the same person in five years time as you are now, if not for the books you read and the people you meet.” I am certainly blessed to meet and work with many amazing people, which in turn allows me to have more, be more and do more.

So I encourage you to embrace collaborative partnerships and create new opportunities for yourself and others this week.  What have you got to loose? What could you have to gain?

Here are some tips to help keep your long-distance relationship happy and healthy, by Sophee and me.

Kirsty 🙂

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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

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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.

Activity

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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