by Rachel Klaus, co-features editor
The stories of work off-shore in the oil and gas industry in South Louisiana are often told— long, often dangerous stints away from home; but those lesser known are of the families who stay at home and support them.
For Heather Stevens of Thibodaux, the holidays can be tough, especially since her husband is working offshore in Mauritania, Africa.
Heather’s husband, Colt, works for Weatherford, one of the largest multinational oilfield service companies in the United States.
Together, Colt and Heather have three children: 5-year-old twins Ana and Ady and 1-year-old Vander. And while Heather says her girls understand why their father is away, they still have mini-meltdowns from time to time when they are missing him.
“The girls understand that their daddy is at work and that he does this for us,” Heather says.
In addition to being the only parent when Colt is away, Heather also has her own business Belle Visage, a women’s clothing and skin care boutique in downtown Thibodaux.
“I don’t sugarcoat it because it is hard,” she says. “Besides my business, I do makeup for weddings on some weekends, and when he is gone, I rely on my family members to help with the kids.”
When Colt is offshore he is not only five hours ahead, but he is not allowed to use bandwidth for things like FaceTime when he is on the rig or drill ship. Heather says she thinks one day her children will completely understand why he works away most of the time, and sometimes she has to remind herself that she understands too.
“Everything my husband and I do is for our family,” Heather says. “We want our children to have a great education and long-term stability. We hope one day that he won’t have to do this, especially as the kids get older.”
Like Heather’s children, John Lefort, 30 of Cutoff, missed his dad too. Lefort’s father, Philip, worked as a welder offshore for Danos until John was a sophomore in high school and then he began work overseas for various contractors another 14 years working his way up to project manager for construction.
“When you are real young, like 5 or 6, you catch on to what is going on,” Lefort says. “You understand and you wait for them to come in.
It’s a hard thing for a kid when your dad is only there for truly half of your life.”
Lefort’s father typically worked 14 days on and 14 days off, and sometimes 30 on and 30 off. But he says his dad always made up for the time lost when he was home. While his dad was gone, Lefort’s mom took care of both parenting roles. He says she did a good job, but every kid still needs a father figure.
“As a child of a parent that works offshore, when you have a good job, the money is great,” he says. “You get to spend time together when they are there, but it’s hard when they are not there when you need them.”