Watson, Jacinth Ann (2008) Women's experiences, social support and adapting to the offshore lifestyle: my life, my house, my bed..., not my life, shared house, shared bed, shared..., to get yourself back into sharing, because it takes a bit to work out the two. Masters by Research thesis, Murdoch University.
In the past two decades the growth of the offshore oil and gas industry of Western Australia has resulted in an increased number of families experiencing the intermittent absence of a partner/parent. The gendered nature of the offshore oil and gas industry means workers tend to be male and the partner left at home tends to be female. This was the case for the participants in this study. For two/three weeks the family experience the absence of the male 'breadwinner', creating a gap within the family as the women and children experiences the loss of the partner/parent. Two/three weeks later the male worker returns home for his rest period and he reengages in his roles and the family is reunited. When the worker is absent the partner at home takes on the worker's gendered roles, tasks and responsibilities; upon his return she surrenders (sometimes willingly) his gendered roles, tasks and responsibilities.
Solheim (1988) state families of offshore oil and gas workers experience three social realities; his life at work, her 'single' life when he is at work, and their couple life when the worker arrives home. The families can develop a range of methods to adjust to the flux that occurs within families due to the work schedule (Forsyth and Gramling 1989). The repeated cyclical patterns of parting and reunion, weaving and balancing their three lives, and renegotiation of family work contribute to the stressors and strains the partners of offshore workers experience.
This study investigated how the offshore lifestyle impacts the at home partner of offshore workers and in addition, how at home partners use their social networks as means to help adapt to the offshore work schedule, and makes two major findings. Firstly, the at home partners of offshore workers participate in exchanging, at various levels, social support with family, friends and neighbours, although the most important form of support which helps the at home partner adapt to the offshore lifestyle is the support they receive from the offshore worker. Secondly, adapting to the offshore lifestyle is highly influenced by a process consisting of four reactions. The reactions are: the beginning; normalising his presence; normalising his absence; and balancing two lives. The identification of the four reactions can provide a greater understanding of how the offshore oil and gas industry impacts on the daily lives of partners of offshore workers as it helps make visible the day-to-day lives of partners of offshore oil and gas workers.