The Miner's Girl

The best of both worlds. Life as a fly-in, fly-out girlfriend.

Tag: DIDO

Miner’s girl or mining Mum?

Copyright Minersgirl.com

Copyright Minersgirl.com

I think it’s fair to say that it’s taken me longer than expected to get back in the writing saddle. I knew things would change when I had a baby and I could blame my silence on the general craziness of surviving my first year as a Mum, but in all honesty, I have been nervous to start writing again.

I have always been slightly concerned that calling myself ‘Miner’s Girl’ looks as though I am defining myself by my partner’s career and could come across as; a) a bit old-fashioned; b) the antithesis of my actual feminist view; and c) just a bit sad!

When I started this blog there were no others for ‘partners’ that I could find. There were blogs for families, for mums and for miners themselves, but none for miner’s girls (or boys for that matter). And when I wrote the ‘about me’ section, I thought of myself as ‘sometimes single’, independent, free-spirited, confident etc. I was owning this lifestyle and loving the way it was working out and I wanted to be there for other women (and men) in the same position, who were at the beginning of their adventure and possibly finding it difficult.

But now I am not sure I feel like that – who am I now? Not that I’m having an existential crisis, but having just made the decision not to go back to my previous job, do I have my own life or am I just Mum and Miner’s Girl? Do I now belong to Mr Miner and Mini Miner and have no life outside that?

Before we had Mini Miner and even before I was pregnant, I wasn’t going to be one of those Mum’s, who didn’t do her hair, went out without makeup and wore daggy clothes. I was going to be a cool, young, fun Mum. But now I have mum jeans, mum hair, drive a mum car. I carry a nappy bag, push a stroller and have all the accessories, plus, at 32, I’m not sure who I was kidding with the young mum bit!

I was determined not to become ‘Mum’ and certainly not a ‘Mummy blogger’, mainly because there are plenty of great ones out there and there doesn’t need to be another (slightly mediocre) one.

So what now? I have been through a rigorous year of training and learnt some serious new skills. For instance, in one hour I can hang out washing, wash the floors, clean the bathroom, shower, dress and be ready to go with a toddler in tow. I can function on four hours sleep and I can act efficiently and calmly in the face of a major poonami. But I’m ready for something new, so what now?

Can I even go back to work? I would need a job within an hour’s travel of daycare, which excludes my old Sydney job. The jobs where we live now are few and far between for my skill set (talking about myself, oversharing and occasionally stringing sentences together). So that leaves retail and hospitality, which I would be happy to do, but I can’t be flexible with hours and the pay has to cover the cost of daycare in first place. And this is where my options run thin. I have huge respect for the single mum’s managing this struggle!

So here begins the frustration for so many families, and particularly mums. I had to give up my job for his job. When I say ‘had to’, I wasn’t forced, he didn’t make me, but as a couple it made more financial sense. It’s unfair on both of us as he should be able to have a year with Mini now, but I would have to go back to work full time and our income would still take a big hit. And if we were both working, Mini would be in daycare for 12 hours a day and I would be commuting and still having to do everything at home, a reality for some I know, but again this mixed blessing allows us the choice.

However, whilst I am slightly frustrated at the system and nervous about what comes next, I am very grateful for the opportunities and flexibility that the mining life (and Mr Miner’s hard work) gives me. I am going to enjoy Mini in his toddlerhood, enjoy being ‘Mum’ and hopefully rediscover Miner’s Girl, because I’m sure she’s still in here somewhere!

So there we have it. I’ve had my year (*ahem* 18 months…) off and it’s time to get back to it, to what I’m not sure, but hopefully writing this is a step in the right direction.

My heart has been split in two, but I couldn’t be happier

I know, I know, it’s been a while since I have posted on here, and for that I seriously apologise – but I have a good reason, I promise.

I would like to announce that Mr Miner and I are expecting our first baby!! And although we are both incredibly excited and happy about this, it has taken me a few months (ok, six!) to work out exactly how I wanted to say this.

Let me say from the start that I feel incredibly, enormously, ridiculously lucky right now, as this is something we have both wanted for a long time, but that doesn’t stop a lot of other feelings coming into play and the last six months have definitely seen some mixed emotions.

Loneliness (with a dash of fear)

Copyright Minersgirl.com

Copyright Minersgirl.com

Early on I got a serious reality check that, at points, this will be a journey I am taking on my own (yes, I probably should’ve worked that one out before!).

From the moment I found out I was pregnant when I was home alone (expecting a negative test again), to experiencing terrifying cramps in my first trimester, to lying on the couch feeling sick as a dog, just wishing that the magic cheese-on-toast-making fairies would come and save me, it slowly dawned on me that it wasn’t all going to be easy and there were times it would be hard and I would be alone. The thought ‘what have I got myself into?’, dashed through my mind more than once.

Luckily the midwives have been generally understanding of the DIDO situation and awkward scheduling. Much better than the GP I went to after 12 months of trying to conceive, who asked when Mr Miner would be home. When I explained he worked week on, week off, she replied, ‘And when is he going to be home for good?’ Gah! Although I am still being asked whether a family member could help out… yep, I’ll just get them to nip over from England for that appointment then…

Worry (with extra fear)

Due to the cramps early on we decided not to tell anyone before 12 weeks, but I also needed that time to get my head around it all. I am usually a pretty well person and not known to take sick days, so the first trimester came as a shock, both physically and emotionally. I was not prepared for constant, incessant tiredness and nausea, but less still was I prepared for the overwhelming fear that accompanied it.

After trying for nearly two years and having attended our initial appointment with a fertility specialist, it’s fair to say that I was astonished when I fell pregnant naturally. As I suffer from Polycystic Ovary Sydnrome (PCOS), which meant my cycle was in no way regular, and Mr Miner is away 50% of the time, statistically and logically the odds were never in our favour.

When I found out I was pregnant, not only did I find it hard to believe, but also I couldn’t get past the feeling that someone was going to come along and say ‘only joking’, and take it away from me. I didn’t want to do anything to ‘jinx’ it, whether that be telling people, reading too much about it or thinking too far forward.

Despite my boobs swelling to ridiculous proportions (you know they have the fruit and veg scale for the baby’s growth? I could’ve had that for my breasts!), I wouldn’t even allow myself to buy new bras until after the 12 week scan in case,  just by making myself more comfortable, something bad would happen. I was overjoyed, excited, but constantly terrified.

Guilt (with some anxiety)

Obviously you can’t live in a terrified state constantly (although even writing that is making me anxious!) and by the time I started to feel better and my tummy had started to swell, my parents had arrived in Oz and we could start telling people (as I wanted to tell them first), but here come the mixed emotions again….

The reason this is not a Facebook post is because I know what it’s like to see lots of pregnancy and baby announcements when you’re facing constant disappointment, and I was aware that I had friends in the same position.

The more you try and the more disappointment you face, the more you find that other people are going through the same thing. Lots of women, whose partners are also in mining, reached out with stories of how they were trying or tried to get pregnant (including some hilarious stories of conjugal visits and turkey basters!), but also other people in my life who, whether due to fertility issues, timing issues, or those altogether more complicated issues for my friends in same sex relationships, were in exactly the same position as us. This was so comforting when we were trying too, but I suddenly became acutely aware that I had crossed over to the other side and become ‘one of them’ – the gleeful fertile, so shiny and happy, and for this I felt incredibly guilty.

Thankfully my friends are an absolutely stellar bunch (which is probably why I keep them around!) and once I began to tell people they were all supremely happy for us, and brave faces or not, I knew they were truly excited.

And then came the really hard bit, the moment I knew my heart had been split in two forever….

Sadness and joy all rolled into one (with a tiny bit of terror)

The joy of reaching the ‘home straight’ of semester three arrived hand-in-hand with Christmas, which should also be a joyful time, but when you live 17,000km from ‘home’, it is also always a reminder that you have loved ones elsewhere and it’ll never quite be the same without them. Not helped by the fact our family Christmas is the best ever (FACT) and everyone else is doing it wrong (I know you want to hit me right now).

And with Christmas also came the realisation that until now I had been free to come and go as I please. I had always been lucky enough to have the time and funds to be able to go home whenever I wanted, but it suddenly dawned on me that financial implications and responsibilities will mean I can’t be as free as that once we have a new family member, someone else to consider and no longer a full double income! (seriously, you think I would’ve considered at least some of this beforehand).

Despite thinking I had accepted that I was probably here for good a long time ago, because as long as I was with Mr Miner it makes more sense as a couple, it’s more financially viable, (plus he said from the very start that he never wanted to live in England again!), it has all become very, very real. Having an Aussie baby means saying goodbye to my traveller life, goodbye to fantasies of home and fully admitting to myself that I am definitely here forever (gosh, that’s a big word!).

There is a quote, which I think is by the author Miriam Adeney, but let’s face it – I saw it on Facebook! Anyway, I think it sums up what I am trying to say here:

Quote by Miriam Adeney, via Pinterest

– Miriam Adeney, via Pinterest

“You will never be completely at home again, because a piece of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of knowing and loving people in more than one place.”

I know the year ahead is going to be another year of mixed emotions. This is going to be a year of ups and downs, absurd highs, but also lows (I know I will have to say hi and bye to my Mum already). There will certainly be rewards and challenges. But most of all it is a time to be positive, because through it all, I vow to remember that I am incredibly lucky to be able to feel any of this.

The hardest part is saying goodbye

‘I don’t want to say goodbye’, he said.
‘I know’, I said, ‘but it’s only for now, you’ll feel better later.’
‘But the longer we’re together, the harder it is to say goodbye’, he said.
‘I know’, I said, ‘but it’ll get easier.
‘But I just love having a beard’, he said.

At which point I gave a long sigh of exasperation and told him that it was totally up to him whether or not he decided to shave his beard off.

We have been doing this for five years (the lifestyle, not the beard conversation) and in that time I have learnt that this DIDO/FIFO thing is much easier if you don’t actually have to say goodbye.

The beardI am lucky that due to his 7/7 roster he always leaves on a Wednesday after I’ve gone to work, so I just give him a kiss goodbye as I leave for work at 7am, usually while he’s still asleep and then I come home on a Wednesday evening and he’s not there. I return home and it feels a little too empty, things abandoned where he left them (slightly annoying), but usually with little gestures that make my heart swell (washing up done, dinner in the fridge, a haphazard attempt at last minute tidying) and although he’s gone, I know he’ll be back soon.

I wonder whether missing someone has something to do with being left behind. When we lived in Orange and I used to travel back to Sydney for the week to work, he always used to seem to take it harder too. I would get on a train and end up in Sydney with my friends and work and busy social life and he would be left behind with not much to do.

Similarly now, although he has a long drive ahead of him, he has something to do and somewhere to be, which is enough to keep him busy. As with many situations in this lifestyle, boredom is loneliness’s evil companion and staying busy is often the key to beating it.

So usually we manage not to say goodbye and just carry on our routine as normal, actually quite enjoying the time we have apart to do our own thing.

But this week, not only did Mr Miner go back to work a day early for training, but I decided to work from home to get some projects completed, which brings me back to where I started…

I am working in my office when he comes in to disturb me with ridiculous beard questions! In defence of my flippancy, he has been growing the beard for over a year and I had already suggested that maybe as he is not, a) a hipster, b) a bikie or c) homeless, that maybe it was time to say goodbye to the beard (also he sheds like a cat!).

I stood and watched (read laughed and took pictures) as he shaved it off just before he left to go back to work and as a face emerged that I hadn’t seen for over a year, I was struck by a sudden wave of sadness.

Maybe it was the funny fuzzy face that made me laugh, maybe it was the handsome stubbly face that reminded me of when we first met, or maybe it’s just that I’m not used to doing this anymore, but whichever it was, I suddenly didn’t want to say goodbye.

I did the dutiful girlfriend thing and walked him to the car, kissed him goodbye and waved him off from the front step and when I walked back inside our flat it felt to quiet, too cold and too empty, slightly abandoned and again I felt a little sad. And just as I was thinking how long a week apart could feel I walked back into the bathroom to see the sink covered in beard hair.

Saying goodbye is hard, but there’s always something to remind me he’ll definitely back. And probably sooner than it takes me to stop finding beard hair all over the place!

The difference between women and men

I realise that I’m a bit behind with this, but I’ve spent the week catching up on some of the great media produced for International Women’s Day.

There were lots of great articles and quotes doing the rounds on social media from some brilliant women, from all walks of life, including business women, stay at home mums, teenage girls and of course women in mining. But it happened to be one celebrity quote in particular that caught my eye.

Buzzfeed quoted Jennifer Garner in their list of ‘31 Times Celebrities Gave The Best Damn Responses To Sexist Questions’, which highlighted how different the questions directed at her and husband Ben Affleck are:

“Every single person who interviewed me, I mean every single one, asked me ‘How do you balance work and family?’ As for work-life balance, Ben said no one asked him about it that day. As a matter of fact, no one had ever asked him about it. And we do share the same family. Isn’t it time to change that conversation?”

I really related to this quote in particular because people ask me all the time; ‘how do you cope with Mr Miner away?’

Andrew H. Walker / Getty Images / Via huffingtonpost.com and Buzzfeed.com

I know some are inferring that I may get lonely or miss him, but I also know I am not being over-sensitive when I say that many outsiders seem to think that it would be impossible for me to cope without a man at home. It’s as if I had a partial lobotomy when we moved in together and lost the ability to carry out simple everyday tasks without his assistance or supervision.

‘But what if something happens when he’s not there?’ They ask. Like what? Cockroach infestation? Power cut? Neighbour from hell? They’ve all happened when he’s been away and although I would’ve loved him to be there to help, I coped all the same.

Of course I asked Mr Miner whether this is something he hears a lot, and surprise, surprise, nobody has ever asked him how he copes. Not once. They ask him what it’s like to go underground, how he finds the hours, how good the money is, but he has never had the question phrased as, how do you cope?

Even more importantly this resonated with me, because I think most worryingly, this question isn’t only sexist towards women. As much as it assumes that I wouldn’t be able to cope on my own, because I’m a woman, it also assumes that he would be able to cope on his own, because he’s a man.

This way of thinking perpetuates the issue of men not discussing their feelings, particularly when it comes to feelings of anxiety and depression, which can be amplified by the FIFO or DIDO lifestyle when you are working long hours, away from your loved ones.

So I am not suggesting that I want people to stop asking how I am coping, but re-phrasing the way they ask it. Please do ask how I’m feeling, whether I’m lonely and if I need a hand with anything at all (particularly if you want to come over and kill cockroaches!).
But if you see Mr Miner, please also feel free to ask him… or your mate, or your colleague, or your Dad, or your neighbour or your brother how they’re doing too, because at some point we could all do with someone to help us cope.

If you’re having trouble coping, Beyond Blue are available to help you talk it through, day or night.

 

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