There are a variety of challenges when balancing family life with being away from home for two or more weeks during a work rotation. Couples might be more vulnerable to break ups and quarrels. Other families manage these “on and off” conditions very well.
Since mining is male dominated, it is usually the father who is absent from home, but there are also many examples of commuting mothers.
The time off between shifts can be well used as quality time with your kids and spouse.
For many families this lifestyle becomes a routine that they manage well.
In many cases the spouse being off shift devotes this time to the family – as Jason, a mobile worker describes, “You know, when I am at home, I can take out the kids and relieve the burden from my wife’s shoulders. I love to cook for them. My wife also works during the week, so I can help her with running the house.” Jason’s approach is often described by mobile workers as “making oneself valuable for the family.”
Jessica, a spouse of a miner, states, “We celebrate the time together when he is here, like cooking his favourite meal or hanging out at the camp-fire together and maybe invite friends.” She adds, “We also go out for a nice dinner just him and me and value our time together or travel somewhere.”
A big downside is the fact that one cannot be at home for important family events such as birthdays or Christmas, the kid`s hockey game, graduation and other special events – or in emergency situations such as if a family member gets sick.
It is important to be mentally and emotionally prepared for missing important events.
In severe cases, however, companies allow for special leaves, such as when there are substantial health issues or a death in the family.
Not seeing their parents for a prolonged time is especially hard for kids. But on the upside, they can spend more time with the mobile parent while she or he is at home and off from any other duties.
Some take the kids out on a holiday, to the circus, to fish camp or on a hunt. Grown up kids cherish these memories from their childhood, while at the same time they remember longing for the parent who is not there.
Jason explains, “Being seriously engaged with your spouse and kids is really important during your time off. If you are not careful, the years pass by and you have not seen your kids growing up.” Many workers raise the issue of feeling guilty about not being at home, but also highlight that it is important to cope emotionally – like to remember that the whole family is benefitting from this job.
Staying connected during the mobile work rotation is essential. Fighting over the phone or getting too involved in your spouses’ style of parenting can be a source of conflict.
Corey, a social worker states, “I have a couple of clients who come to me with troubles in the family. Most of them are young parents and not very far along yet in their relationship. So they do not have too much experience together.”
It is a gradual process to figure out how you manage your private life in the best way as a rotational shift worker. As you get older and more experienced it becomes a routine. Usually the mobile life is works out well for older couples and families.
It is important to seek information and counselling when troubles occur. If you are making the decision to go away for a mining job, make sure to consult with your partner and children.
Also, think about how you will deal with the hardships of being away from each other for a prolonged period of time and how you will manage the increased income.
I think that the couple needs to have a strong grounding in their relationship before it can work out. So having common goals and interests is probably what is going to be what stabilizes the relationship. I think of the man leaving for camp, knowing that his wife has everything under control and that they are aiming for the same things with regards to their kids or with regards to the home or the vehicle, you know. Phil
It takes strong people on both ends. It takes a strong person to leave the family and go away to work in a camp and leave everybody at home. And it takes a strong person to be at home and take care of the family while the spouse is away. I can see a lot of cases where it works very well out there. You know, and for other people it’s very tough. Kevin
If you trust each other, then, mining is good for families. If you have a toxic relationship, then good luck. Jeremy
I definitely don't see me doing this forever. I mean I do see there's a possibility of returning to it after a certain period. Maybe. I don't think I could be doing this while my children are small. I mean I want to be there when they grow up. Later on maybe I’ll come back again to FIFO. Sandro
We have in the camp a couple that comes out here together. She came here first, and then her husband, a mechanic, started working here too. It seems to work quite well for them. Terry
You just have to set your mind to work, that´s all. If you don’t and go out drinking and all that, you probably would lose your family or your wife. I used to work away from home a lot of times and I just ended up missing my wife, so then I appreciated her even more. Henry