Tuesday, February 23, 2016

FIFO Family Life

And my second month of working full time as a ‘single’ mom while Chris is away is almost over.  I have a whole new appreciation for Fridays that I didn’t have while on Maternity Leave.  Since Chris works a FIFO (fly-in fly-out) job, 2 weeks in, 2 weeks out, weekends were never really any different for us while I was off work.  The exciting days were fly-in days which are Tuesdays or  Wednesdays, while the dreaded ‘Monday’ of our world are the Tuesdays and Wednesdays he flies back to camp.  I don’t think I’ll ever get used to those lonely fly-out days.

Being a new mom and a new family definitely has its challenges.  Having a partner who works away has it’s challenges.  Combining both of them has been such a learning experience for me.  I know how much Chris hates being away from home so often and I know that it’s hard on him to essentially miss half of Max’s life.  I can’t really comment on what it’s like to be the one who is always away, but I do know what it’s like to be the one left at home with all the responsibilities of caring for a baby and keeping the house a float, while also working full time.  It’s easy for me to sit here and talk about how I have it harder than him, and while I think that in some ways, I know he feels that it’s harder to be away. 

And because I’m mildly obsessed with lists, I’m going to list the things that being a ‘single’ mom half the time has taught me!

1)      It’s ok to ask for help

 We are very lucky to have quite a bit of family that live nearby.  And living in a small town means that your friends become as close as family too.  All of these things have been life savers this year.  My mother in law and sister in law run a daycare so they are available all day to watch max when I need them to. My sister lives in town as well and has been an amazing support with Max and has been able to watch him for me whenever I need her to.  While I was on maternity leave, this was the occasional afternoon where I needed to get a paper written for my Masters degree or had a rare ‘mommy’s night out’ at book club or a movie with a friend.  Honestly, sometimes these resources were utilized just so I could have an hour alone at a coffee shop to read a book or get errands done.  We are lucky to have such a great support system close by, but if you don’t and your budget allows, it’s worth hiring a sitter once in a while for ‘me’ time. Take people up on their offers to bring you supper or help watch the baby.  While in the moment it might feel like you’re slacking, the little breaks add up in the long run to save your sanity. Even if it’s just for 20 minutes so you can run to the grocery store, prep a hot meal or even just take an extra long shower.

2)      There are more hours in a day then you think, but never enough

Every time Chris leaves, I’m intimidated about doing everything myself. Caring for Max and Penny in a way that showers them both with love. Maintaining some semblance of a clean house, keeping up with laundry, shoveling snow as needed, cooking every meal, doing bath and bedtime routines by myself, getting everyone out of the house on time in the morning.  All of the day-to-day everyday life things. Things that we do together, as partners that you take for granted.  There’s no “I’ll take out the garbage while you get Max dressed” or “I’ll go switch the laundry while you finish supper”.  All of a sudden it all needs to get done by one person.  But you know what? It gets done. Eventually.  Maybe not as quickly as it would with us both home, but the laundry can wait an extra day.  You’ll find yourself doing more in a day then you thought possible, and wondering how you’re so unproductive when your partner is home.

3)      You’ll miss your ‘single’ routine when he’s home

My routine when Chris is home is very different then when he’s away. I’m more organized. I’m more productive. I do things in a way that works well for me.  I don’t have to consider anyone else. When Chris gets home, that all changes.  I have to consider someone else’s schedule and habits.  I have to consider someone else’s dietary preferences. There’s someone else in my space and disrupting my routine with a different mental timeline or a different way of doing things.  But it goes both ways.  There’s someone else home to help with the baby and the puppy. It takes a few days to adjust to him being home.  The first few days we’re stepping on each other and getting into each others way because we’re no longer used to co-existing.

4)      How you think things will run when he gets home is not how it actually work

I always make elaborate plans for once Chris is home and I’ll have so much help and tons of free time.  Nope. Doesn’t work that way! While it’s great to think that he will take over Max duty all day so I can go to the gym and have coffee with friends, he usually has an agenda of things he needs to do while home to. Like fix the truck, plow snow, help a buddy fix their truck.  Communicating really well about my needs and expectations when he’s home and his is so important. He’s exhausted after working 14 days straight, particularly when he comes off nights.  I expect him to be in full on Dad mode the second he steps off the plane, while he needs a day to adjust and recuperate. I expect him to just pick up where he left off but 2 weeks is a long time in the life of a baby and it takes him a few days to get reoriented with Max’s routine and schedule. We both need to give each other a little slack those first few days because it takes time for everyone to get readjusted. 

5)      Fly-out days don’t get any easier

The loneliness that first little while after Chris gets out of the truck and into the airport to fly-out is deep and dark. 2 weeks feels like an eternity in those first few hours and you wonder how you’re going to survive, how you’ve ever managed to do it all before.  While previous two week stretches as a ‘single’ parent should provide confidence, they don’t because so much has changed in the month since he left last. You feel like crying every. single. time but you don’t because you put on a brave face for the baby, who knows he’s gone but doesn’t realize it’s for 2 full weeks.  You cuddle extra with the baby and dog those first few days as you adjust, yet again to a new routine and level of busyness.

6)      You’ll be grumpy that he’s the ‘favorite’ after working so hard solo

 Nothing makes Max or Penny happier then Chris.  When he walks through the door after being away they both freak out.  They cling to him for days.  Max only wants to be held by Dad and play with Dad. And while this makes my heart melt seeing their bond and the love they have for each other, I can’t help but think that I just worked soo hard keeping him alive and safe and happy the last two weeks and he doesn’t even appreciate it.  Obviously he’s a baby and I’m just over thinking it all, but I can’t help but feel a little rejected those first few days.

Oh my gosh I could talk about this forever! There’s just so many complex emotions that accompany this lifestyle. And I'm sure it'll change dramatically now that I'm back to work.

The biggest learning for me personally has been that we're both working hard for our family in very different ways.  Both are equally important, both are equally difficult, and both are equally crucial to our household running smoothly.