Separated By Work at Easter

It 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