Father’s Day 2019 is just around the corner, and it is about this time that mums, kids, and families begin putting their heads together and looking for the perfect gifts to give dad.
Dads are amazing. They can be masculine when they need to and wipe away tears when the situation calls for it. They also have the ability to open their hearts and a listening ear when required. Dads give amazing cuddles.
All over the world, there are lots of dads work long hours or work away from home. They provide for the family and sacrifice precious time and hours to do so. So this year, we thought we would round up our experts to put together the best gifts for dads that work away or FIFO dads.
The Effects of Dads Who Travel for Work
The whole family feels the effects and the emotional and practical strain of a father who works away from home.
Mums and partners of dads that work away wish they were home more. It would be easier; we miss them, the kids would be able to have more memories and special bonding time. We sometimes feel angry because we have to deal with the hard times on our own. It can be lonely for us.
It is so important to remember that dads feel the pressure too. They miss out on precious moments and wish they could be home when they are at work.
My dad had jobs that took him away from home for periods when I was a child; he also often worked long hours. He struggled. He missed my first day of school, our sports days.
My own partner used to work away, and the missed memories brought him to tears. Dads that work away miss first steps, first words, all the firsts delivered as stories. He missed them all but felt he had no choice if he was to provide for his family.
When parents work away from home, it can cause stress, and we can wind up in arguments as a result.
Personal Stories from Families with Dads Who Work Away from Home
Sacrifices and Missed Moments—Ben Hunter
Ben is a father of five girls (three biological and two more as a part of his blended family). He has worked a FIFO lifestyle since his girls were little. I sat down with him to get a ‘work away daddy’s’ account of what the FIFO lifestyle looks like.
“I decided to go FIFO because I always wanted to go mining, but my decision was also money-based. I had gone as far as I could in my last industry without mining my own business and had lost the passion in that. My family needed more money. We had bought houses, needed to pay for cars, school, we wanted to be comfortable and wanted to provide the best life for my family. I was working long hours for little money.
“I knew that it would be stressful when I began working away, but I didn’t realize how hard it would be on my family and me.
“I worked long hours; I was out of contact with home. It is like leading a double life. You aren’t available when your kids and wife need you.
“Some FIFO wives think that being on-site is like a holiday; it is far from it. We work for 12.5 hours a day, and you get 2 hours to get in touch with family and do your chores before you have to go to bed. But you keep on because you are providing for your family.
“You lose touch. You don’t have time to do your old duties like pay bills. My wife had to take that on which added stress.
“You don’t have time to have a meaningful conversation with your kids because they are ready for bed when you knock off, you get to say goodnight.
“The nights where they missed me and cried were the hardest. I couldn’t be there to give them the cuddle that they deserved.
“I loved hearing that my wife and family missed me, but you can’t deal with hearing it every day because you just want to get home to them.
“There is added stress about running a risk of not going home that day in high-risk jobs. I had a high-risk job, and I considered what would happen to my family if the worst happened.
“My wife and I fought about things that we wouldn’t have if we were at home. We both long for connection and miss each other, and somehow it can turn into an argument.
“I missed so many things with my kids growing up. I wasn’t around for birthdays, school carnivals, awards, and presentations. I also missed seven consecutive Christmases with my family and seven father’s days. I missed their hugs.
“Personally, I missed out on my friends’ weddings. I couldn’t play sports tournaments because I couldn’t get the time off.
“Sometimes, it can feel like a prison work camp. It was a means to an end.”
FIFO Family Life: FIFO Wife with Twins—Faith Thoms, Luna and Lullaby
I sat down with The Parenting Co’s expert sleep consultant, Faith Thoms from Luna and Lullaby to ask her what her family life looks like with her husband Laurence working as a FIFO miner and living overseas with twin boys. Here is what she had to say.
“Where’s Daddy Gone?”
“Our boys have turned three, and they have just begun to realise that daddy goes away sometimes. Their daddy, my husband, work in the mines, which makes me a FIFO wife. He’s away for two weeks at work, and then at home for one week. He’s always worked away, but… It’s not all bad.
“When we were dating and newly married, we actually enjoyed the FIFO roster. We’d have time to ourselves and then time together. In fact, I would go so far as to say we really enjoyed it. I’d have time with my girlfriends, watch whatever reality TV rubbish I wanted to, and have time for me. Then he was home, and we would have a fun, romantic week together that was all about each other. We had two good incomes and were saving a nice little nest egg. Life was good, and we enjoyed the mining lifestyle that Western Australia had to offer.
“We decided to take further advantage of what the mining roster offers and move to Bali. A short time later, we got married, then pregnant, and surprised with the miracle of beautiful twin boys.
“You’ll know that when kids arrive, everything changes, more than you ever knew it could.
“We came home to family and lived with both our parents while the boys were babies. My husband was able to have 9 wonderful months of work, and we thoroughly enjoyed our little babies.
“Then, it was time for him to go back to work.
“My husband would have to head back out to the mines. We’d had a really good run, we knew it. But, it was a sad day when he flew out to site for the first time in months. I had family close by and the boys in a great routine. It just wasn’t quite the same this time around. There were now two other little people in our lives who meant more to us than anything.
“Suddenly, there were all these new special days, and the old ones become even more important. Before, the boys missed birthdays, missed Christmases, weren’t that big a deal. We were adults, and we could have other special days together. But now, we didn’t want him to miss seeing the boys’ joy as they opened presents. There was now Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day. The FIFO life was becoming difficult.
“To make the most of the FIFO lifestyle, we decided to move back to Bali. This way, I could be a stay at home mum for as long as we both wanted. At first, it was really hard being back in Bali. I felt very alone, with a husband who worked away and family overseas. I also felt very confined to our villa; heading out along with two 14-months-olds in Bali is no easy task.
“Things are already tricky with twins, more so when you’re parenting alone, even more so in Bali. This was a whole new FIFO life that we had to come to terms with. It wasn’t just me chilling on my own anymore. It was my two babies and me… Doing anything but chilling.
“As a FIFO wife, you often feel like a single mum.
“Believe me; I have the utmost respect for single mums. It’s really tough to parent on your own. You have to play all the roles; there is no one to support you as you make banal day to day decision. All the energy has to come from you. He always seems to miss the birthday parties, the daycare events, the parent dinners.
“Then, he comes home. Everything is as it should be.
“The boys light up; they have someone to really wrestle with. The day runs smoother with an extra pair of hands. Outings are less stressful and more enjoyable, we can do more, and enjoy feeling like a family. When he is home, he is so hands-on. He gets up early to make breakfast and lets me sleep in. He takes the boys out, so I can chill in peace alone. We work to really make the most of the time he is home. We realise that this lifestyle is a choice—a choice that comes with advantages and disadvantages like any life choice. It’s not our choice forever but for now it kind of works for us.”
Gifts Ideas for Dads That Travel for Work
This father’s day, why not put a little bit of extra thought into gift-giving? The Parenting Co’s Chief Editor, Abbey McKenna, and our in-house Sleep Consultant from Luna and Lullaby, Faith Thoms, both have husbands/partners who work away from home. They are well aware of the FIFO life, FIFO families, and the struggles that come with it.
With the help of some FIFO dads, they have put together the ultimate gift-giving guide for dads who work away from home.
Practical Father’s Day Gifts—Faith Thoms
This Father’s Day, daddy will be away.
What do you even buy for men? I always find it so hard. He never seems to want anything. Men are so much harder to buy for than women. With women, if you stuck flowers, perfume, chocolates, jewellery, all go down a treat. It’s not hard. But, I always struggle with what to buy for my husband.
I compiled a short list of Father’s Day gift ideas that are perfect for dads who work away. It’s not just dads in the mines who are away from their families. It’s for dads in the military who work away, dads in business who often have to travel. Plenty of dads will be away from their families this Father’s Day.
What are the top practical gift picks for the dad who is always travelling, who spends lots of time at the airport and on planes?
Planes are noisy; airports are noisy. Bose noise-cancelling headphones will make travelling a breeze, especially if dad is trying to catch some sleep on his flight. Often, flights are at horrible times, so having a bit of peace and quiet might just be the perfect gift.
These are amazing. My husband has one, and he loves it. It’s so much more comfortable than the old neck pillows. I actually found those really uncomfortable. This pillow is super soft and cradles your head in a really comfortable position.
My husband also has one of these. Perfect for early morning flights when you have to head out the door quickly. It’s also great when you are out on-site. Lots of coffee to keep you going and keep it nice and hot or cold for a long time.
When your husband is catching lots of flights, you can never be sure about the weather. My husband boards in Bali, which is always hot. But, Perth is sometimes really chilling. Having a good quality light jacket that can be layered is a great piece to have when you’re often travelling to different places with different climates.
This is a great way to make sure dad always stays connected. He can easily keep his phone charged while on the go.
These are perfect for dad’s who work out on-site. Conditions on mining sites can be dusty, dirty, and remote. This will make sure that Dad’s phone is kept safe and in good condition. Those nightly video calls to the family are cherished times.
This bag has been on my list for my husband for a while. Currently, he has a good quality duffle bag, but he’s mentioned that a bag on wheels would make life a little easier.
The FIFO life is not for everyone. Sometimes we are so fed up with my husband’s consistent and continuous time away from the family. However, we do appreciate and enjoy the benefits of being able to live overseas and manage on one income. There are sacrifices for every choice made and for now we are prepared to make them. However, as the boys grow older and become even more aware, the time and the distance apart seems to get worse. It’s one thing for us as adults to understand and make a choice for this job, but it’s another for children who don’t yet understand.
Where’s daddy gone?
He’s gone to work; he’ll be back soon.
Heartfelt Father’s Day Gift Ideas for Dads Who Work Away—Abbey Mckenna & Ben Hunter
This Father’s Day, think about what dad sacrifices to bring money in to support the family. Let him know that he is the most special human in the world and deserves to be thought about.
How can we go that extra mile to help dad stay connected with his family and reduce the turmoil of missing many special moments?
A Video from the Family to Dad
Why not put together a super special video of the kids, fur babies, and the special partner in dad’s life, that he can go to and look at whenever he feels the strain of being away.
This gift will take a little bit of time to construct, but it costs nothing and can be a keepsake or an ongoing tradition for years to come.
All you have to do is put together a series of photos, or little snippets of loved ones, and use a free editor like ‘Splice’ or GoPro’s ‘Quik.’
You can make this as simple, funny, or heartfelt as you like. Family members may wish to share what they love the most about dad, why they love him, what they enjoy doing with him, or you can merge special memories in one amazing video. Add sound, text, pick a theme, and you are ready to go.
All dad has to do is save to his phone or tablet, and he can watch it at will.
When dad has been working away, he may be a bit tired to put energy into organizing activities to spend time with everyone. So why not do it for him?
All this takes is a bit of thought and time to plan, and you can arrange something that dad would love and need.
I asked a few FIFO dads what they would like as special time organized for them when they came home from work, and these were the top responses:
- Special time with the kids, with the logistics such as food and location planned, so I can get up and enjoy precious time with them.
- A date night for just myself and my partner.
- A day away from fixing things at home to do what I love (fishing, gaming, riding, etc.).
Concert for Dad
Another great budget-conscious idea.
Why not help the kids write a song, pen a play, or choreograph a dance just for dad? You can then spend special time together showcasing dad’s exclusive event.
You can also record this and send it back to work with dad so he can check back in on the memory when he is missing everyone.
I asked a few work away husbands about this idea. It wasn’t a surprise that not a single dad thought that this was a bad idea; it was quite the opposite.
Many husbands feel disconnected while they are away at work. They can’t cuddle and spend special time with their partner, so why not send yourself away with him?
Book yourself in for a glamour, sexy, or boudoir photoshoot, and present him with the photos as a gift for him to take to work.
I myself have been involved in a boudoir shoot. It was one of the most liberating experiences of my life. It may take a little bit of courage, but I promise you that it is worth it.
Yes, some of the photos went to work with Ben… And he hasn’t complained yet 😊
Podcast or Audiobook Subscription
Dads that work away often spend many hours on the road or hanging out in hotels and dongas.
A subscription to a podcast or audiobook service might be just the thing to help him remain entertained during those lonely hours.
Audible has a fantastic selection of books that is continuously updated. Dad will also get free credit to purchase a new book each month with his subscription.
Mutual Movies and Matching Books
This is an excellent idea for dads who work away that have older children. It can feel tough to find a way to make conversation and connect with pre-teens and teens when you work away. Why not gift dad and your teenager mutual movies or matching books?
The idea behind this is that kids and dads can watch the same movies or read the same books while dad is working away, and they have a common interest and activity to discuss over the phone and when dad is home.
A Final Note: Move the Date and Clear the Day
Many dads will be away this Father’s Day. They will not be home to spend that exact date with family.
It is perfectly fine to move the day to a time when they are home. Holding the special day a few days before or after is not a problem at all.
Many FIFO dads and dads who work away from home that I spoke to mentioned that they often get lugged with, or feel obligated to get work done around the house and pick up any loose ends that they cannot do while they are away.
Dads who work away have limited time at home to get jobs done, but they must have time for relaxation and connection with family.
So this Father’s Day, make sure you clear that day and dedicate time to them for love, laughter, and chilling out. It might be a good idea to clear a regular day for this when they are home. It may bring you all closer and reduce some of the relationship challenges that families with a parent who works away often experience.