There are growing numbers of families where one parent works away regularly. Though usually working in the resource sector, other sectors that often require onsite workers include: the defence forces, transport, maritime, small business, corporate, and sales and service industries.
FIFO (fly in fly out) appears more common than DIDO (drive in drive out), but all families with a parent who works away face unique challenges and opportunities.
Benefits and challenges of a FIFO lifestyle
FIFO work often provides an opportunity for well-paid employment without the need to relocate families. It means families can maintain their social networks and access familiar schools and services.
FIFO parents are able to spend extended periods of time at home to focus on full-time parenting.
There are also unique concerns and challenges for FIFO parents. At the heart of their concern is wanting what is best for their family, whatever the type of employment.
Research has found that social support, negotiating parenting tasks, and maintaining an emotional presence within the family unit were of particular importance to FIFO families.
Common concerns of parents who work away
- How do I stay emotionally connected and in tune with my partner and children?
- How do we both function as a parenting team given my regular absence?
- How do I readjust to family life after being away?
- How does my family at home manage and adapt to the household’s needs as I come and go?
The effects on families of a parent working away vary according to the length, predictability, and frequency of shifts.
Managing issues and getting support
Managing what is best for your family is as individual as the personalities within it. An important way to resolve parenting issues is to recognise the unique challenges of your own family.
Children’s personalities and ages, conditions of employment, availability of family support, and access to services are all factors that affect how you manage with working away.
Parents report that the quality of life with their children is related to the level of support they have. This support may be found through friends, family, sporting and community groups, or parenting education services.
It helps to be part of a network of people who understand what it is like being a family where a parent works away. Developing a network that can provide support in times of stress can act as a buffer for the times when one parent is away.
There are many community services that provide support for families for a range of issues. There are also organisations, like Ngala, that offer specific programs for families with a parent that works away. These organisations provide information that will increase awareness and access to support.
Want to know more?
FIFO families website