By JR Bustamante
Congratulations, you got the job! Now, you can’t wait to start on your new occupation abroad. Excitedly, you prepare for your trip: pack your bags, fix your papers, and finalize all the government requirements. When all the nitty gritty of endorsements and arrangements are done, you prepare your big despedida with family and close friends. The next day, you pick up your tickets and go.
During the long wait at the airport, before you board your plane, the moment of truth hits you like a ton of bricks. Excitement turns to sadness when you realize that you will be many miles away from your loved ones, especially from your young child, for a long time. That’s when you experience one of the loneliest moments in your life.
Your two-year-old boy, who hasn’t the slightest idea of what you are about to do and how long you will be gone, will be growing up without you around. You won’t be able to see him getting the proper care he needs, to be around when he needs someone to run to for help, to give him a hug when he is sad, to kiss his pain away when he falls off his bike. You won’t be able to run to him and reassure him that everything will be alright when he calls for you after a nightmare. You won’t be around to check if he’s cold at night or cheer him up when he is down. These are precious moments that you will miss with your kids, perhaps even haunt you a couple of years later as an Overseas Filipino (OF).
These are heart-wrenching realities of what OFs have to face when they leave their children to work abroad. Being away from their kids for at least two years, they will miss celebrating their children’s growth milestones or simply being involved in their children’s lives. The worse feeling they can experience is when their children do not miss their absence anymore and they are greeted with indifference when they return home. When they see each other at least once a year, it would be awkward like they were strangers to each other.
It is an emotional roller coaster for the OFs. Inasmuch as the idea of working in a foreign country for higher income is the peak of their excitement. The downside of the adventure is their lack of involvement in the lives of their children. How will the absence of a parent affect the kids in their growing years? This is a question that OFWs worry about all the time. Will future consequences of their absence justify their goal of wanting to provide a better life for their kids?
There are basically two options to choose from: either take the child with you or leave them with people you trust. Due to financial considerations, few OFs are able to take the first route. And those who are fortunate enough to able to take their children with them, will most often than not, have to leave them for awhile to take care of settling down in the new country – like finding proper accommodations for the family, perhaps a school for the kids and ensuring that basic needs are ready for when the kids arrive.
If you’re one of those who would have to leave your kids behind indefinitely, the comfort and security provided by your extended family will be very critical at this point in your life. Being surrounded by lola, lolo, titos and titas, will help ease the situation for you and your child.
If you have children below the age of 10, it is always ideal to hire help to provide personal attention to your children’s needs, without overburdening the family you have left behind. Avoid imposing the care of your kids on relatives, unless they volunteer. Look around way in advance for a helper you feel comfortable with to take care of your children while you are many, many miles away. If you have any doubts about the person you are hiring, don’t settle. Give yourself the time to find the right one for your kids.
If your finances allow, your child can also come and stay with you during summer breaks, and you can also come home to the Philippines during your own vacations so you can spend more time with your child, twice a year.
Remember to communicate on a regular basis so you can maintain a strong relationship. Find out how their days go, and keep yourself updated on their achievements or problems. Congratulate them on good performance at school. Console them during low times. Wish them luck on upcoming tests. Make it a point to get involved in your child’s life even if you are far away.
Tell them how much you miss them and how you always think about them. Keep reassuring them of your love. Explain the whole situation, how all this hard work is for them to have a better life, that you need understanding and moral support to keep you going.
These are just ideas to help ease the pain of being away from your loved ones for a long stretches of time and lessen the stress of worrying about your children while you are far away.
The final decision to work abroad is not an easy road to take, especially for those who have growing children. It may be the best – or even the only solution – for the disintegrating family income to address the ever rising cost of living. This road is paved with guilt, risks, and regrets from time to time. The price to pay is steep. Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, OFs often don’t have a choice anymore. But knowing the Pinoy’s oh-so practical and resilient nature, Filipinos will always make the best of a non-ideal situation.
For being a Filipino is being a survivor.