The FIFO Conundrum

The FIFO Conundrum

I imagined the FIFO lifestyle would be the ideal working situation. Company funded jet setting across the countryside, racking up the frequent flyer points, set roster, good money and the chance to pursue a fantastic career opportunity on a $150M+ construction project.

The truth is, I really struggled with the FIFO lifestyle on a personal level. I was very unhappy being away from my wife and two young girls. Life always felt temporary, living out of a suitcase, the work was hard, stressful and being in Central Queensland, it was pretty fucking hot.

Temperature in the HiLux on 13th February 2018 (it was at least 5 degrees hotter on site)

It wasn’t easy for my family either. Apart from dealing with my general absence, when I was home, I was not exactly a delight.

When I would arrive home for my 3 days off after working 11, my little family had moved on with life without Dad around and had their own routine. I was an outsider, struggling to adapt to the home routine without completely upsetting the apple cart. I failed miserably at that… apples everywhere.

To my kids, I was the cranky guy who would show up occasionally, try to tell them what to do, then leave. To my wife, I was the cranky husband who would show up occasionally, cause fights, then leave.

I was stuck in a depression loop. I felt sad before heading back to work (not just the typical Monday blues, but properly sad), and I struggled to sleep the first night away. After a few days I would eventually settle into my away routine. This mainly consisted of going to work then back to the accommodation to drink myself to sleep. Then it was just repeating the bad habits until it was time to travel home where I would feel like an outsider all over again.

Repeat.

A consistent and extremely unhealthy cycle. It was time to instigate some changes.

My wife and I decided that the career opportunity was too good to pass up, so I worked on accepting the FIFO component. I started by attempting to establish a healthy routine which I believe to be the key element for improving mental wellbeing.

Alcohol is fantastic for temporarily helping you to forget about your issues but unfortunately in the long run, it only serves to make everything worse (revelation, I know). So, I went cold turkey and participated in Dry July whilst actively raising money for the cause. This really did have a positive impact and I felt generally healthier.

I began exercising in the afternoons after work instead of drinking. Just simple jogging down the road and listening to Nike Training Podcasts. It was a great little stress reliever and mood improver. I continued this habit in my breaks and my wife even commented on my mood improvement following a run in the afternoon. There’s a lot to be said for the link between exercise and mental wellbeing. The exercise habit made me want to eat healthier and the effects of my new healthy routine were compounded.

It had the added benefit of reducing the size of my beer belly.

Results of my evening run – excellent mood improver – runner’s high

To help me get to sleep I began practicing meditation before bedtime. As a self-professed, hardened construction worker, I was extremely sceptical of meditation. I thought it was a hipster wanker trend, but I was desperate and gave it a go. I have to say, I am absolutely converted and meditate using the free guided meditation sessions on the Headspace app nearly every night.

I also actively tried to be more involved with the kids and their routines when I was on my break. I learned more about their habits, the food they liked and didn’t like and just simply spent more time with them. This, along with the healthy habits I worked on while I was away generally improved my mood, and my relationship with my wife who was always super supportive.

My situation has now changed and I am in pursuit of a different career opportunity. Unfortunately, I am still doing FIFO work, but on a better roster (5:2) than the last project. Long term this will also lead to a position where I can be home every night.

So, why do we do it? Why do we put ourselves through this? For me, it was a financial and career path decision. Ultimately, it was the best way I could provide for my family. However, it got to the point where I was doing more harm than good, and something had to give.

During the 2 years on the project, I had the opportunity to speak with many other workers on the same FIFO or DIDO arrangements and to my surprise, every bloke I spoke to was dealing with the same issues as me. Some were coping better than others, but we were all in the same boat and this highlighted the importance of simply talking about it. There is comfort in knowing you aren’t alone and there are things you can do to help deal with the many shortfalls of the FIFO lifestyle.

FIFO is hard – but it’s hard not to appreciate the beautiful views

There is also a fantastic organisation in the Construction Industry called MATES in Construction which provides mental health support to workers and will even speak at toolbox meetings on site: http://matesinconstruction.org.au

If you can relate to this, please reach out either to a work mate or via this forum. You definitely are not alone.


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How to Holiday with Kids

How to Holiday with Kids

Sometimes it feels like my kids will do everything in their power to ruin our relaxing family getaway. As if their evil little sub-conscious is aware that the adults need time to recharge and they get a kick out of seeing us stressed.

Take our most recent holiday for example. Our youngest girl cut her first tooth the day before we left and our normally perfect little angel temporarily morphed into the spawn of Satan himself.

Our eldest little girl also decided that no matter what she received, it wasn’t enough for her. The whinging was relentless.

The pair of them have a supernatural sisterly bond which allows them to cause as much disruption to their parents’ plans as possible. They work together to ensure that whilst one is content the other is wreaking havoc. Occasionally, when they get bored with the status quo attention seeking they will begin to work together, ensuring none of us are enjoying the experience.

Although this does seem a bit extreme, fellow parents will understand. Kids can be shits.

Fortunately, we did learn some ways to make the most of our time away so everyone in the family could enjoy it. Unfortunately we learnt most of our lessons on the penultimate day of our holiday. Nonetheless, if we ever decide it would be fun to holiday together as a family again, this is what we will do:

Ignore the Clock

You are on holidays after all. Relax. Unwind. Recharge.

If you’re a great bloke you’ll let the cheese and kisses sleep-in while you get the kids ready since she’s been up with them all night while you’ve been obliviously cutting trees down with your snore-saw.

Don’t get too worried about adhering to plans because the little units will make it hard to do anything on time.

Our favourite day (and last day) was the one that began with breakfast at lunch time. We had a loose plan of kid friendly activities without any time constraints and it worked well. We all had a lot of fun.

Food

One of our biggest issues was the time it took us to get ready to leave the hotel room each morning for breakfast. Every day we were all tired due to teething issues (get it?) and didn’t wake up until fairly late in the day. Adults need caffeine and kids need food in their mouth the instant they wake up otherwise everyone ends up hangry.

We were completely unprepared for this (my fault for not wanting to do groceries while we were on holidays) but having a bit of food in stock is critical – even if you mostly plan on eating out like we did as there were limited facilities in our room.

One thing you can generally rely on is tea and coffee facilities available in your accommodation for the caffeine fix, however I certainly won’t be drinking a beverage comprised of the coffee flavoured dirt often supplied in hotel accommodation #coffeesnob. So it’s struggle street until we can get to the nearest caffeine dispensary outlet.

Wear Them Out

The last night of our four night holiday was by far the best any of us had slept the whole time. We were all completely spent from swimming in the pool and a cycling a four wheel bike around all afternoon.

On second thoughts, this activity wore us out more than the kids

My advice for this would be to keep the kids doing the physically exhausting activities while you drink beer and provide general encouragement.

Distractions

Keeping the younglings entertained when you want to spend some time chatting to your beautiful wife is tricky, but worthwhile if you can pull it off. I know it goes against the parenting code but we occasionally allowed our eldest daughter to watch a movie on the iPad while we ate our meals. The youngest daughter was happy chewing on a teething rusk.

I know, I know. Not great, but it worked for us. There are other substitutes such as books or toys that may suffice to keep the children occupied long enough for you to enjoy your meal and have one of those rare adult conversations about things that aren’t related to the kids, like you used to have before you had kids.

Leave Without Them

If all else fails you have no choice but to leave without the kids. Of course I mean before you set off on your next holiday, not leave them and go home from your current holiday.

Seriously though, parent’s do benefit from some time without the kids even if only for a date night or even to spend a few hours at home together.

It’s not always possible but take those opportunities when you can. Your relationship will be better for it.


So when you see other parents stressed on their relaxing getaway, be sure to give them an empathetic smile in acknowledgment of the struggles you share. We are in this together.

Embracing time with the family

I think it’s also important to embrace the time away with the kids. As a working Dad, I find that I don’t get much opportunity to truly bond with my girls due to the business of day-to-day life. So I genuinely enjoy the holiday period for that reason. It is a chance to slow down and really appreciate the little family you have created and the joy that comes with that.

Enjoy the next holiday and make the most of the time you get to spend with the kids.

How to Overcome Gym Anxiety

How to Overcome Gym Anxiety

Of my many excuses to avoid fronting the gym for a workout, anxiety is my main deterrent. When I walk into the gym, everyone stops mid-workout to cast their judging eyes over my unfortunate Dad Bod and ill-fitting workout attire. At least that’s what my mind convinces me is happening.

Sound familiar?

It is a problem that a lot of blokes face. This could be due to a multitude of reasons including low self-esteem, the fear of being judged, or fear of failure. Not to mention the ever-present expectation on blokes to exhibit masculinity and confidence which seems to be amplified in a gym environment.

I have pondered ways to overcome anxious feelings in my preparations for starting a consistent gym routine and have come to the realisation that although the stigma remains, it should not prevent gym sessions. After all, everyone working out in the gym had to start from scratch at some point. In fact, I would wager most of the people in the gym are either feeling self-conscious or have felt anxious at some stage in their gym experience.

With this in mind, I have put together a list of techniques that I’ll be using to help manage my gym anxiety for the sake of improving my physical health and mindset.

Photo by Jelmer Assink on Unsplash

Develop a Program

Wandering around aimlessly in the gym is counterproductive when attempting to quench anxiety. Instead, I’m going in with a clear and simple program so I know exactly what I’m doing and don’t feel like a fish out of water. As advised by my gym-attending brother-in-law (who is built like a brick shit house), it is best for beginners to start with compound exercises which will work multiple muscle groups simultaneously and provide the most ‘bang for your buck’ in terms of results.

Timing is Everything

Google provides a nice little bar graph when you search for venues which allows you to see when it busy and quiet times. I am opting to go to the gym at a time that isn’t as busy (early in the morning) at least for a few weeks until I can build up some confidence.

Make it a Habit

Making gym workouts a regular part of my daily routine will not only be hugely beneficial for my health, but it will also help me become more comfortable in the gym environment. According to Charles Duhigg’s “The Power of Habit”, the habit loop involves a cue, routine and a reward. For me, the cue will be waking up, the routine will be going to the gym and completing a workout and the reward will simply be to document my progress (spreadsheet nerd alert).

Another key takeaway from the book for me was the importance of self-belief when developing a new habit. That is where the next section comes in.

Get Support

I will personally be drawing support from my wife. I don’t just mean encouragement and positive affirmation (although that would be nice) but working with her to share essential responsibilities and making sure I have time for the gym whilst ensuring she has time to work towards achieving her ambitions.

Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Another important aspect of extinguishing anxiety is adhering to general gym etiquette. This includes sharing equipment, using a towel and cleaning sweat off machines and placing weights back on racks. It’s simple stuff but may help to avoid uncomfortable interactions.

Finally, keep in mind you are doing this for yourself. You pay your membership and have all of the same rights as anyone else using the gym.

Good luck!

References

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/arnold-schwarzenegger-quotes-bodybuilding-motivation-success

The Power Of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business. New York : Random House, 2012. Print. Duhigg, Charles.

Dad Bod

Dad Bod

I love beer. Any beer, any time, give it to me and I’ll drink it. Ironically, I am drinking a beer whilst writing this.

Unfortunately, drinking beer excessively, along with poor diet choices and a sedentary lifestyle generally results in obesity. This is what occurred when I became an adult and began making my own lifestyle choices. Add the sleep deprivation, time deprivation and sanity deprivation that inevitably accompanies a newborn baby and the excuses to avoid healthy lifestyle choices will manifest by the 21 piece original recipe bucket load.

My worst fears were confirmed recently, not by the fact that I have upsized my clothes;
or the fact that my fast food bill is outweighing the mortgage repayments;
nor the fact that I have rolls appearing underneath my man-boobs;
neither my belly circumference competing with that of my wife’s 7 month pregnant baby belly; but rather by a visit to the doctor.

Again, the excuses come out of me quicker than the food goes in me: “I need this take away food because I’m too tired to cook” or “I can’t go to the gym today because I woke up early for work and the baby kept us up all night” or my personal favourite, “I’ll start working out next week when my life is miraculously less busy and I have no responsibilities”. This justifies the resultant shortness of breath experienced when walking a short distance or groaning like a wounded donkey when reaching for the TV remote because there is now a ball of jibble where my 6-pack used to be. However, when a medical professional tells you that you have a BMI of 30 and sit comfortably within the ‘overweight’ range, it does increase the pressure to start taking some action.

Typical features of a Dad Bod

It’s no secret that kids are hard work. Even non-parents can appreciate this. Sometimes it feels as though you are the only two people on the planet who have ever had to deal with the stress of keeping a tiny human alive whilst your own ambitions are forced aside. But the fact is, there is always someone who has it worse than you or has had to deal with more difficult circumstances. Additionally, general health is the responsibility of the individual, so although being a parent adds another layer of difficulty to finding time and motivation to exercise, it shouldn’t be used as an excuse at all.

With this in mind, I have undergone multiple self-initiated ‘restarts’ with the ambition of a complete health overhaul, unsurprising with no success. Upon reflection of my many failures I determined some learnings:

  • Previous methods for developing healthy habits weren’t realistic or sustainable
  • Habits take time to form and require on more than a sudden burst of motivation
  • Blow-outs on the booze destroy my motivation
  • Mental health is just as important as physical health, and the two are intrinsically related
  • Sleep isn’t optional
  • Unfortunately, work isn’t either but that shouldn’t stop me from exercising
  • Focus has previously been on restriction rather than focusing on feeling healthier and happier
  • Being overweight does affect mood, happiness and self-confidence and therefore, all aspects of life

There is a myriad of resources available for ways I can rid myself of the beer guzzling growth that has made itself comfortable on my abdomen and with it, the Dad Bod stigma. Generally, the consensus on principals for weight loss are fairly simple:

  1. Weight loss (kg) = Energy Out (kJ ) > Energy in (kJ)
  2. You can’t out train bad nutrition – even if you exercise daily
  3. Eat a well balanced, healthy diet consisting of whole foods
  4. Interval training is proven to support weight loss
  5. Strength training can stimulate metabolism

https://www.healthier.qld.gov.au

In practice however, losing weight is not simple or easy and there is a multitude of factors that influence the outcomes of attempts to lose weight. In the posts to come, I will be delving into details of my experiences with habit forming, motivation, nutrition, goal setting and metric tracking in my quest to lose weight and become healthier and happier.

To sign off, I will gift you some wise words from one of the greatest minds of our time:

“I’ve put on about 6lbs recently, but I have a good reason, which is, I’m a greedy pig who’s been consuming more calories than I burn off. Fucking science. Please fat-shame me to help me to buck my ideas up. Thanks”

Ricky Gervais – Instagram (@rickygervais)

The Quintessential Dad Philosophy

The Quintessential Dad Philosophy

Welcome to Quintessential Dad!

My name is Ben and I want to introduce the Quintessential Dad philosophy firstly by providing some background about myself and my reasons for writing this blog.

About Me

I am an average Aussie bloke with a good job, perfect wife and two beautiful baby girls (eldest is 4 years old and the youngest is 1 year old). I have an electrical trade background however after pursuing a number of opportunities I am currently working in the civil construction field as a cadet engineer whilst undertaking part time studies externally.

My life, like many other blokes, is busy.

We had our first child early in our relationship before we were married (which caused some angst amongst the more conservative members of our extended families). When we made the decision to have a baby after being together for only 4 months, we were young, in-love and frankly, had no idea what we were doing.

After two kids, getting married, FIFO work, moving all over the country side, financial pressures, suffering grief and a plethora of stress; our relationship has never been stronger.

That doesn’t mean we haven’t faced significant challenges during our journey so far. At times our relationship has been strained and we have each suffered personally with various internal battles. As a result, I have learnt a lot of valuable lessons which I can’t wait to share via this blog with the intention of provoking discussion and feedback.

About This Blog

I decided to start this blog primarily to help other dads with the day-to-day struggles of balancing work, parenthood your relationship and all of the other things that life tends to throw at us whilst also providing some comical relief.

When expecting a new baby, the focus is undoubtedly on Mum and Bub. Rightfully so, I might add. Unfortunately, this means poor old Dad can tend to forget to look after himself leading to a downfall in physical and mental wellbeing.

Although it’s the most rewarding thing I have ever done, parenting is a tough gig. This blog aims to support dads, facilitate sharing of experiences, encourage health and wellbeing and most of all highlight the wonders of your role to those influenceable young minds and the rewards that brings.

Ultimately, this blog aims to embrace those things that make us quintessentially dads.

The Quintessential Dad Philosophy

My vision for the Quintessential Dad Blog is to become that central hub, fostering a community of blokes who have a sense of humour and want to become better. The aim is to shine a light on issues that blokes face on a daily basis and helping to address the issues.

If reading this or any of my other blog posts is resonating with you, please reach out. I’d love to share other bloke’s stories and experiences or collaborate on topics of interest.

Ben

(Founder, Quintessential Dad)