Review – Fly-In Fly-Out Dad

A year ago, I made a rare flight to Rockhampton. It was a mid-week, evening departure on one of those regional planes no bigger than a Lego model. What struck me most about the flight however as I waited in the boarding lounge, was the sheer number of men and women arriving into Brisbane that night from various regional centres, all still attired in their high-vis work shirts and dusty boots and smelling ‘like diesel and machines’ – the FIFO workforce.

Fly in Fly Out Dad Fly-In Fly-Out Dad is a picture book by Sally Murphy and Janine Dawson that addresses this regular migration of parents (and non-parents) to occupations in remote centres, often for weeks at a time. What is the norm for an increasing number of families is unknown by many children and seldom seen in books. Representations like this picture book and Jo Emery’s My Dad is a FIFO Dad and My FIFO Daddy by Aimee O’Brien, both published late last year, are therefore gold when it comes to surviving this somewhat specialised way of family life.

The FIFO/DIDO employment system exists because the benefits of assisted commuting of employees to mining destinations for example outweighs the costs of relocating families and establishing new communities at the site of employment. This has many benefits for the families involved but several drawbacks too namely the anxieties it can generate within the younger members of a family, most notably, according to studies, in boys.

In Fly-In Fly-Out Dad, our little boy hero loves his dad and seems to accept the idiosyncrasies associated with his job, his funny smells and long absences. Nevertheless, he lives in eternal hope that maybe, one day, Dad will stay and not leave them for weeks on end.

The boy’s family life is a stable, comfortable haven for him, mum, and his baby sister. Having dad at home cements this feeling of security. With Dad around, completeness buoys the boy but also reinforces his desire to have dad around permanently. It’s a simmering anxiety that never fully dissipates.

Through his father’s animated anecdotes and descriptions of life working the mines, he assumes super human qualities in the eyes of his son, which in turn allows the boy to gain a clearer picture of his father. In return, the boy shares ‘all the living’ he has done since he last saw his father.

Anyone who has had a loved one work away for extended periods, be their relationship one of parent and child or as a couple will immediately appreciate how intense this period of initial reunion can be. There is so much want and need to share, to compensate for lost time together that the exchanges don’t always go smoothly.

Sally MurphyThankfully, our little lad’s dad relishes his time at home, dividing it generously between fatherly obligations, his pregnant wife, and adventures with his eldest son. No moment is wasted.

Murphy’s award winning way with words ensures this narrative is relevant and light-hearted yet intrinsically sensitive to the FIFO dynamic. The measured repetition of certain key phrases adds weight and emotion whilst also providing clear expectations within a cyclical time frame. The boy is still deeply dismayed that his father has to leave again but bravely shows stoicism in front of his parents. Dad reminds him to embark on more adventures while he’s away so that his departure ends on a note that rings loudly of resilience and acceptance.

Janine Dawson Dawson’s water coloured depicted family possess a real sense of charm and individuality. I love her portrayal of Super-Dad both in his home environment and in the dongas surrounded by burly workers dining on dainty chocolate brownies and vanilla slices. (The canteen scene is a standout favourite). This clever use of visual comedy illustrates the gender diversity of these careers as well.

More than just a staid explanation of what a work away parent does, Fly-In Fly-Out Dad is a beautiful picture book celebrating the super-hero in every father and an entertaining assurance that the temporary absence of a parent need not make a family any less loving or united.

A brilliant kindergarten to early primary classroom catalyst for discussion about this very real family dynamic.

The Five Mile Press July 2015

Interview with Jo Emery, author of My Dad is a FIFO Dad

jo emery photoMy Dad is a FIFO Dad, an uplifting story that has already touched the hearts of many families, has beautifully encapsulated the highs and lows of the life of a child with a father who ‘flies in and flies out’ for work. (See Review here). But let’s not forget the strength, courage, commitment and perseverance of the mother who wrote the book, who is raising three children on her own for three weeks in every month. Today we talk with author, Jo Emery, about her moments of heartbreak and joy, her achievements, family life and plans for the future.  

Congratulations on the success of your book, ‘My Dad is a FIFO Dad’, already sold out on the first print run!
THANK YOU, it’s been a very busy and exciting introduction to the world of children’s books J  

Can you please tell me a bit about your career background, writing history and family?
I have been employed by the Department of Education and Training Queensland for the past 17 years and most recently held the position of Principal at one of the Sunshine Coast’s Primary Schools. I have been on leave for some time (3years) however, to raise my family. I have 3 children, Sahskia who is almost 7, Ahnika 3 and Grayson 11 months. My husband Steve and I have been married for almost 10 years and have been living a FIFO lifestyle for almost 4 years. I’m not quite sure when I signed up for the FIFO commitment but for now; we are making it work as best we can, for our family.  

I have written in poem, song and story for as long as I can remember. It is something I have always enjoyed and felt the need to do. It has given me respite and relief, enthusiasm and enjoyment and in this case an opportunity to help others stay connected to the ones they love the most.  

jo emery family photoWhy you were inspired to write ‘My Dad is a FIFO Dad’?
The story, My Dad is a FIFO Dad was born out of the raw emotion of our last drop off of Daddy to the airport. We were late for the plane and had to leave Steve in the ‘drop off zone’, rather than park the car. The children were devastated that Daddy was heading back to work and it was the first time that Ahnika, two at the time, had realized that Daddy was going away for a long time. My eldest daughter Sahskia, was incredibly sad as she felt the angst of her sister also. (Needless to say this was our last drop off and my husband now catches the shuttle bus J) It was incredibly heartbreaking to see and to feel and so, as I have often done in many situations, that night I went home and put pen to paper to debrief. The initial draft of my story was penned some 18 months ago. The story is told through the eyes of Sahskia. I tried to capture what I knew she was feeling on that day and mix it with what I hoped she would be strong enough to feel in times to come.  

How has the change in lifestyle affected you and your family?
Firstly, we are separated physically … Steve and I had never been apart longer than 48 hours so weeks on end has been a very big change for us. Our family is apart 3 weeks of every month and together for one. But what we have learned is that our life style is not about the amount of time spent apart, rather the quality of time we have together. Our mantra is ‘To Make Everything Count’. We are a very open family, when we are sad we cry, when we are angry we get angry, when we are happy we laugh loudly and so the openness and respect we have for each other’s feelings helps us to deal with issues and move on. Our kids are very connected with both Steve and me but that is because we work on it. The difficult times we experience because of FIFO,  is on those special occasions that arise when we are apart… birthdays, weddings, funerals, Easter, holidays and so on.  

my dad is a fifo dad page3On the opening page of ‘My Dad is a FIFO Dad’ there is a child’s beautiful drawing and statement about her dad being the greatest. Can you tell us about that? Who drew the picture?
This picture was drawn by my eldest daughter Sahskia. This is her view of what it means to be a FIFO Dad. Clearly the ‘flying in and out’ component of his job plays on her mind. I love that her Daddy is still smiling while he departs and the family who remain are smiling too; even the man in the ticket box is having a happy day. My kids adore their dad and he knows more than anyone that they consider him to be the greatest dad ever, and that’s because he really is!  

We are then drawn in with fun scenes of an animated dad role playing, riding and reading stories with his kids. What are your partner’s favourite things to do with your three children?
Steve just loves being with them! We live in what we consider one of the most beautiful places on the Sunshine Coast and so visits to the beach, parks and in the pool are all of our favourites. Our kids are heavily into dancing and so having the opportunity to watch them do what they love to do most is wonderful when he is home from work.  

You capture the narrator’s thoughts, feelings and actions of sadness and resilience so well. Are these based on your own child’s words and behaviour, or your experience with dealing with these issues?
I would say that these thoughts are shared from experience, practice and hope. I guess I tried to capture what my child was feeling and mix it with my hopes for what she would be able to feel in the future. My children are very resilient and with age and maturity this is developing more and more. We discuss how to deal with issues of different kinds, very often and I hope that one day it will become second nature. In saying this, the children and I are all sensitive souls and so acknowledging our feelings and working through them is something we will always do.  

What do you hope this book achieves for its readers and the general public?
I hope that our story resonates with others in a FIFO/DIDO situation and that kids that are able to feel ‘OK when Dad’s Away’. I hope the story reassures children that despite distance, fathers can be present in heart, mind and spirit in many situations and those families can work towards building and maintaining strength, resilience and unity. While the platform for this story is FIFO I really think that anyone who believes in the unity of family will enjoy it and take some important messages from it.    

my_dad_is_a_fifo_dad_cover How have you found people’s responses to the book so far?
I have been completely overwhelmed and relieved that all of my readers have loved the story as much as we do. Hearing that there have been tears, laughter and reassurance is the vein in which it was written and I couldn’t be more proud! I have received some beautiful photos of kids reading the book together with sibings, together with mum and together with Dad. In some of the orders I have received, there is a sense of urgency for families to have the book ‘in time for when Dad gets home’, it’s wonderful that the messages within the book are being shared as valuable in advance of them being read.  

As a first time author, how did you find the publishing process, and working with illustrator, Ann-Marie Finn?
I am a true believer that things happen for a reason and firstly I found Ann-Marie and then was lead to Dragon Tales. I have been more than happy with this process and feel that in both, I have made the very best choice! I began my search for someone who could take my words and bring colour and life to them and give the beat of my heart to each and every one. You know you have made the right decision in your choice of illustrator when you open a PDF and your heart swells with emotion. Ann-Marie Finn, gave coloured life to my words and where there were no words her drawings carried the true intent of our family story, like she had known us for a lifetime. I am so very grateful! It is wonderful working with Kaylene at Dragon Tales as I have felt in total control over my work. She has offered constructive feedback and given me the necessary guidance of a true professional in this process, I couldn’t be happier!  

Do you have any plans to write more stories along this line, or on other topics? Will you continue to write picture books?
ABSOLUTELY! I have plans to continue working to provide materials that will support families living a FIFO lifestyle but as well as this I cannot wait to share many other picture books with children and their families.

Thank you for your insights on your journey and for letting us take a little peek into your life, Jo! All the best with your future plans!

For more information about Jo Emery and My Dad is a FIFO Dad, please visit:
http://www.mydadisafifodad.com
http://www.facebook.com/mydadisafifodad

Interview by Romi Sharp
www.romisharp.wordpress.com
www.facebook.com/mylittlestorycorner

Review – My Dad is a FIFO Dad by Jo Emery

my_dad_is_a_fifo_dad_coverMy Dad is a FIFO Dad
Written by Jo Emery
Illustrated by Ann-Marie Finn
Published by Dragon Tales Publishing

Brand new and hot off the press, and already sold out on the first print-run is the popular, My Dad is a FIFO Dad!

My Dad is a FIFO Dad was written by Queenslander, Jo Emery, mother of three and wife to Steve who works in Australia’s Resource Industry interstate. She wrote the book as both an emotional outlet and as a means of supporting other families experiencing the hardships associated with a lifestyle where fathers work away from home. This touching tale highlights tender and heartwarming moments; times of sadness, strength and pure joy.  

Dads can still be the greatest, most involved and loving dads, despite working interstate for three weeks in every month. The book begins with a gorgeous sentiment and drawing of an aeroplane by the child narrating the story. We are then captivated by scenes of a fun, animated father role playing with his three children, riding bikes and scooters in the outdoors, and snuggling together for a night time story.  

my dad is a fifo dad pageBut when Dad’s away, the little girl asks her Mum why he has to go away so often. To highlight his job’s importance she explains how Australia utilises its resources, which is nicely weaved into the story; here and again at the end.

”I think that’s pretty important!”  

Also beautifully integrated is the girl’s sense of longing, but also of resilience and warmth as she continues her daily life as a ballet dancer, swimmer, bike rider and at school, and she knows she’s making him proud. Thinking responsibly and positively helps the little girl to solve problems involving having accidents, friendship issues and boredom.  

Dad is always in the girl’s heart and mind; whether they are interacting over the internet, when she expresses her thoughts in her diary, and she especially relishes when they are finally reunited and hold each other in their arms once more.

my dad is a fifo dad page2Funny
Intelligent
Fantastic and
One of a kind.

He’s MY Dad
And I think that’s pretty important!  

Jo Emery’s My Dad is a FIFO Dad has a clear purpose in connecting with other families with FIFO/DIDO work arrangements. A clever inclusion is an activity sheet for children to write about their Dads. The emotions in the story are perfectly depicted in the pictures by the talented author / illustrator, Ann-Marie Finn. The use of mixed media incorporates a wonderful balance of detail and movement in those active moments, and simplicity and calmness of the scene when the little girl reflects.  

My Dad is a FIFO Dad is a touching book about family unity and resilience, with a dash of humour, that young children will both enjoy and gain strength from. It is a relevant and valuable support resource for many families around Australia and the world.  

Look out for a fascinating interview with the author, Jo Emery, coming soon!

You can find more information about Jo Emery and My Dad is a FIFO Dad at the following websites:
http://www.mydadisafifodad.com/
www.facebook.com/mydadisafifodad

Review by Romi Sharp
www.romisharp.wordpress.com
www.facebook.com/mylittlestorycorner