by Amber Faulkner
As an oilfield family, we learn to live with spring break ups and small breaks due to delays with rig moves or repairs. Planning ahead financially becomes a way of life. After break up it is generally catch-up time for most oil families. Having the bottom drop out when most are just getting back on their feet was extremely difficult to handle. Bank savings only goes so far.
Oftentimes, there are calls to the utility companies begging for more time. That being said, when there is no oilfield work there is no money to spread around. Two income families have had to learn and try to survive on a third of their household income. Single income families try to make things work with what work can be picked up here and there. Any vacation time banked or rrsps have been pulled…not for future investments but simply to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. Non-oilfield families see the outside, maybe so-and-so family has newer vehicles, a nice house, maybe a few toys. Automatically, it is assumed they have lived above their means. Often it isn’t the case at all. Oilfield men and women work hard. Work dirty. And away from the people they do it for in the first place. They miss births, birthdays, weddings, and many other gatherings. They miss a first step, a first tooth loss, first scraped knees. Spouses are left to ultimately be single parents, to plan holidays, homework, school events, and occasions all without a partner.
Families do get used to oilfield life: they get used to one piece of the family always missing. Families that have nice things are being forced to sell them (usually at a huge loss) just to make another mortgage payment. Not knowing where the next payment will come from. Where will grocery money come from. If there are children, then there are school needs, fees, or activities. Yes, kids need to be taught to be frugal but telling your little ones, “no honey, I’m sorry, but we just can’t afford to do ‘xyz’ anymore.” Let me tell you, looking into your child’s eyes and saying those words is incredibly hard. Many families we have heard of have simply handed the keys for their homes in. They simply can’t make it work anymore. If there is an extended family, they will try to help, but it’s limited if available at all. Food bank numbers are much much higher than years before. That in itself is difficult as you need to show T4s and other paperwork. On paper said family made $100,000 (just a random amount) on the last T4, but that isn’t the case right now. It is beyond humbling.
But things are slowly starting to come around. A small sense of relief amongst groups of families as work is slowly starting again. Oilfield families are a tough bunch. There are ups and downs. Often it’s feast or famine. Good news spreads fast, however, as calls go out that rigs are again firing up. The cycle starts over…save as much as you can and pray the work keeps coming.