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Readers Respond: How Do You Work Out Family and Field Life?

Responses: 12


From the article: Geology and Home Life
Spending large amounts of time away from home may be an adventure, but what about the family? A young person asks, "I read that many geologists must be away from their families for a considerable amount of time. Did you get lonely often? How long were you away from your family? Is being away worth it?"

Geology and families...not easy!

Hi I've been a geo now for around 1.5 years and i can tell you being away from my family is extremely hard. Before my little boy was born in january this year i was in seventh heaven getting paid great money (100k + aus$) to be out in the field looking at some awesome geology exploring for new deposits was what i always wanted. But my wife was pregnant back at home but fortunately her family was nearby so she was happy enough. Then my gorgeous little boy came along and that changed everything. I'm struggling to cope with being away from my wife and bub (sometimes 2 weeks away) and when i come home my wife is snarly because she's tired from all the work she has to do and im tired from my work so it becomes pretty tense. However she understands that i must travel for my work as a geologist and that i do love my work. I'm currently trying to get work within an hour of where i live but its not that easy. Anyway think hard real hard before you dive headfirst into geology!
—Guest Paul

It's hard and frustrating

I love to work in the field but, and this is a big but, you must like to live close to where you are working and let's face it mining towns are not nice places to live. FIFO [fly-in, fly-out] is a good concept if and only if it is even time. As most rosters are more work than play 14/7, 19/9 you feel like a stranger at home. If it is your home and you have a huge network of friends this is good, but if you had to move to a FIFO hub (I moved to Brisbane) it sucks. I don't know anyone, I'm hardly ever around to make friends. I meet girls, yes, but they always find another guy who is around more, this might be different if you are already in a relationship but I find starting one, particularly with a low social network, difficult. I also find the state very backwards so I struggle with that also. I'm paid well, but without even time roster I can't really travel on my time off, I can't meet people, and the ones I do have normal jobs. Go into academic life if geology is a passion.
—Guest Tim

Not divorced, stuck single but paid well

I understand maintaining a marriage is difficult with the job, but how about starting a new relationship? Yeah, I get two weeks off and feel like a stranger in the town I live in because no one knows or bothers to call me. Meet a nice girl? "Yeah great, well I guess I'll see you in a few weeks... and then maybe a 3rd date in 2 months from now?" I plan on stressing my heart only a bit longer after doing this for 4 years. It's good money and interesting travel, but hard to keep up for a long time. I don't regret it at all. Life's never going to be easy, and living in a different style is great. What would you rather be... an Accountant? pfff!
—Guest Ryan

Over the Hill Mudlogger

I have always done things a little backwards so after I got my degree in Geology at age 29, I put my career on the back burner to raise my 3 children while my husband worked until retiring from UPS. I am now just beginning my career as a geologist, starting at the bottom as a mudlogger. My first attempt went out the window with the economy in 2008. Now, I am at it again working in Colorado on a well that was predicted to take 2 months and is now in it's 85th day with perhaps another month to TD. My husband has been taking care of our home in Montana and is absolutely miserable with the separation we are going through. Fortunately, after this project is over we have decided to do this together and go where needed. With no children at home except the dog, this is the perfect time for me to pursue this career that I have always been passionate about. If our marriage of 32 years can survive this next month, we'll be on our way to a new life together in the oil patch.
—Guest Lois Martin

It depends on your status

If you are married and have children while they are young your wife can take care of them. But, before having a child, or you have to marry someone with your specialty and travel together, or forget familial life. Unless your wife has the same occupation problem with her job and understand you.
—Guest Hamid Sadeghipour

Australian Geologist - 31/10/2010

Hi, I'm an exploration Geologist and have to travel a lot. I flyin-flyout to work on a 19 days on 9 days off roster. The travel can be very tiring and it is difficult on relationships with friends and family. I could move permanently to where I work but that would mean leaving everything to go "live in the sticks". You do make many friends in the industry though. I think it depends on the type of person you are; if you enjoy your time with friends and family and that's whats important to you geology probably isn't for you; if you are independent and enjoy traveling it is for you. I think I'm discovering with myself that I'm the former. I know its not that simple and everyone's situation is unique. You will have to work out yourself what you want in life. I'm now thinking of getting into the finance side of the industry, like a financial analyst or something like that. Any geologists that have changed careers want to share their stories?
—Guest Michael

Geology is like a subduction zone

Geology is like a subduction zone, it destroys the "family plate". I'm a 26-year old licensed geologist, I obtained my license when I was 21. I never had an idea that Geologist should be away from the family to work in the field, and it's too late to regret. I liked Geology back then because it is all about the Earth, then when I'm working I'm starting to realize that Geology serves as a hiatus between a geologist and his family. . . life is so short to spend most of the time of your life in the field than in your family. . . geology can last up to million years as long as the Earth is there, but a family very short. Now, I'm thinking I'm losing passion for geology, I like it just to study and for myself and not to give it for a company who doesn't know the importance of quality time with family. I feel what Sue is expressing! I'm feeling it right now, I'm always thinking of my family. I want to improve their lives and at the same time get some more time with them together.
—Guest McNeil A. Gaila

VERY different for Women

You will notice the very positive reviews are written by men with supportive wives at home with the kids. Your experience as a woman, likely with a husband also working, cannot possibly be the same as those reviewers. I totally believe women can do anything and know some amazing women in the profession BUT those women have made the decision to put geology ahead of having a family. My experience is similar to Sue's. I put many years of education and work into my geology career but decided to leave the profession because it is very difficult to have a family and quite frankly you can work just as hard in a business profession and earn a much better salary. Science is wonderful and can be embraced other ways. I continue to teach part time at a community college, volunteer at the natural history museum and encourage my son to enjoy nature.... so it does not have to be an all or nothing thing.... but if I had to do it again I would not have done my undergrad and grad education in geology.

State of Alaska DOT&PF Engineering Geol.

If you like weddings, you can have quite a few with a career as a working geologist (not teacher or author). I am on #3. My boss is on #3. Of the two in the central region, one is currently in process of divorce and the other was always single. In the northern region, two married ones just quit, the other two are single and their boss is on #2. Be realistic, folks. Get out of it before you have kids because then, divorces are much more complicated.


I'm just a rockhound with a love or passion for finding rocks & minerals. I find the day long trips to be all the therapy I need. I never think about problems or life. I am so tired when when I get back home that I rest better or I am so excited about something I have found that I am like a child again.
—Guest annieapple

Canadian geologist

It definitely depends on which field you go into. Soft rock, aka Oil & Gas, will keep most people based in a major city with little time spent in the field (couple weeks tops for drilling). Hard rock, minerals & metals, much of your time will be spent in the field for either sampling, mapping or drilling (my best schedule so far has been 4 weeks on 1 week off, with work stopping for December & early January). Enviromental/Consulting will be ~50/50 between office and field labor. This will sometimes apply to mine site geo's as well. I will be the first to admit that it's unnerving being away from family and friends for so long; you miss a lot and people just don't update facebook enough to catch everything.
—Guest Neil

Be prepared to be away from home

My first job as a geologist was working in the field for mineral exploration. I was single and had no home. After getting my MS I worked in petroleum expl for 6 years and moved once. Then I had to move again to take a teaching job. 3 years ago I took early retirement from teaching and after 20 years away I am back in petroleum geology - as a mud logger. Great, I get paid to look at rocks and people make decisions based partly on my input - Utopia. Bad - I generally work 2-3 hours from where my wife and I live and I have been on this well 7 days/week for the past 72 days and we have from 2 weeks - 2 months to go. Having been married 26 years this is still not a good situation. My wife comes over once a month or so to visit me on my 12 hours off. Since mud logging is one of the 1st jobs a new geologst usually gets - be prepared. It isn't TDY in the military but it causes many divorces.
—Guest Darryl Maddox
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