As the Christian world ramps up for yet another Christmas we spare a thought for those FIFO workers who will be spending Christmas and the Festive Season working on a mine site. It would be nice to think mine sites could shut down in observance of occasions like Christmas to allow their staff to spend Christmas Day with family and friends. The reality though is that few do. And even if they did, it still wouldn't be practical to send FIFO staff home just for a day or two. So what is a mining family to do when a family member is rostered on to work over what for most of us is a Christmas break.
If you're not particularly religious then realistically Christmas Day is just a date on a calendar. And that being the case, many FIFO families opt to move their primary celebrations to a date when their FIFO family member is home. Some may also have another less significant 'do' on the allocated day itself with extended family and friends, or just 'because' everyone else is celebrating. Kids love that! Two Christmas Days in the one year.
Nevertheless, even though you've had your own family Christmas already it can still be difficult watching others celebrate when you're not. Or attending other festive season functions minus a FIFO family member. For the absent FIFO family member it's likewise difficult being away from the family at this time of the year, which is all about family. But it's important to remember, and realise, that you aren't the only person / family spending this time alone or minus a family member. There are hundreds of people spending Christmas Day without family for various reasons – work, no family, weather etc.
For those spending the festive season working on a mine site there are many ways to 'get through' the day. Top of the list is making sure you don't get into that 'poor me' mindset that believes you're the only person, or family, going through it. Also right up there is remembering why you're a FIFO family / worker. In most cases you're doing this to improve your family's future, or to get ahead financially. And sometimes that means putting in the hard yards and the sacrifices now so that down the track you can spend all your Christmases at once (or at home).
In most cases as a FIFO worker you'll know well in advance where Christmas Day falls in your roster. If you're going to be working use the time to prepare. Have strategies lined up ready to go. Whether that means getting all the shopping out of the way early, arranging to have Christmas on one of your breaks, organising surprises for your family, making arrangements to call or contact them on Christmas Day or anything else you want to do, get it sorted sooner rather than later.
Once you've done all of that, here are a few more specific ways you can help yourself enjoy your Christmas Day spent working on a mine site.
- Be there remotely at those special times during the day. Arrange with your partner / wife / husband / parents back home to do them when you're available during your shift. Then call in on Skype or via some other video call / messaging system (or have them call you) and voila. With a bit of camera tweaking and careful equipment positioning you can be right there (almost) with them as they open their presents, and do whatever other special things you do on Christmas Day. Undoubtedly they'll have sent you presents as well so open them at the same time as they're opening theirs. As you would normally if you were there with them in person.
- If you've organised yourself well enough on your last trip home before Christmas you can hide presents for your family around the house. Then send, or phone through, clues throughout the day to help them find them. And maybe they can video their searches to either beam back live to you, or you can anticipate the pleasure of watching it all when you get home.
- Speaking of organisation – think about taking some of the snacks and treats you usually eat on the day back with you. That way you can treat yourself. It's not exactly the same as eating them at home with family and friends but it's a way you can share in the festivities.
- Remember that your rostered teammates are in the same situation as you are. Arrange your own work Christmas event. You may not be celebrating at home with family but you're still celebrating with friends and colleagues. It'll also help keep you mind, and yourself, occupied.
- Don't be tempted to overdo the alcohol. A little bit may help you get into a celebratory mood but ultimately alcohol is a depressant. Over indulging is therefore more likely to wind up making you even more melancholy than you may already be.
- If you are living in a mining town and can't make it home for Christmas, consider organising an 'away from home' Christmas event for other families in the same situation. One idea that has proven popular is to have everyone bring a traditional family Christmas dish along to the occasion.
Most mine sites have help lines available these days so if you feel you really need to talk to someone, use it.