Confused Mama asks about leaving kids to work abroad

Confused Mama asks about leaving kids to work abroad

Mar 13, 2013
Confused Mama torn between being a good mom and a supportive wife

Question: Hi Rose. I have been reading your articles in and your analogy on financial stability in How Important Is Financial Stability To A Family? was the sign I was praying for, though I’m still a bit confused. My husband and I are planning to work overseas, for higher wages of course, but I am still adamant about it. I have two kids aged 4 and 2. I think they are still very young to grow up without their mom and dad beside them. I haven’t told my husband about my uncertainties, for I know we will only argue about it. He says there are technologies that will give us constant communication with the kids. He’s actually desperate to leave and blinded by the amount of money we will be earning abroad. We started a sari-sari store last year only to close after 10 months of operations. We stopped the business because according to him, we were not earning “big.” He has no patience.

Currently, we are earning just enough to cover our monthly expenses (i.e. utilities, groceries, credit card debts, etc.) and our “savings” go to sudden costs (i.e. house repairs, medical bills). As a part of my saving scheme, I have even tried to buy cheaper brands of milk for my kids, only to spend my savings on medicines! I decided to go back to my trusted milk brand that helps boost their immune system, not to mention the vitamins we also take to stay healthy. This is also one of the reasons why I have second thoughts about leaving. Even if I have my parents to take care of my children, I don’t think I will be at peace if ever my children will get sick and I won’t be able to check on them personally, to see how are they recovering. Call me paranoid, but yes, I am.

My husband and I decided that both of us will leave to double the capacity of earning big; thus, cut the time that we have to spend away from our children. Between the two of us, I also have the opportunity of getting a better paying job, since I am a licensed professional here.

I want to support my husband in all of his plans for us. Please help me clear my mind. Thanks and more power.

-Confused Mama

Answer: Hi, you have all the reason to be in a confused state right now. As you may know from my writings, I am a parent who advocates focused and undivided attention to our children in their growing up years. However, your situation is not that simple because your husband is bent on working abroad with you to earn more for the family. In other words, you are torn between the two most important things in your life: being a good mother to your children, and being a good and supportive wife to your husband.

While I was reading your letter, I couldn’t help but remember the Sharon Cuneta movie Caregiver. I’m not saying that your husband is the John Estrada character but somehow when you mentioned that you had to close your sari-sari store business because “he has no patience” and according to him you weren’t earning “big” after 10 months, I couldn’t help but find some similarities. Moreover, when you said that you have not discussed your uncertainties about the decision with your husband, I also saw traces of the Sharon Cuneta character in you.

In cases like this, you are bound to receive all sorts of advice from well-meaning family and friends; some of them will contradict each other. What I wish to offer you right now is the right perspective. You’re right in asking for help to clear your mind instead of asking the usual question of “What should I do?” From your letter I get the impression that you’re an intelligent woman who knows that it’s ultimately your decision.

To help clear your mind, which will pave the way for your best decision, you may wish to answer the following questions:

1. About the Children: At this point in your life what do you think matters most to your children? Is it the additional family income you will make? Will that additional income make up for the absence of their mom and dad? Your children are practically babies. Is there any person who can give the love and care that you, their mother, can give them? Will they grow up resenting you for being away? Or will they understand that you did the sacrifice for the family’s welfare?

2. About Finances: When you said that my article on the importance of financial stability was the sign you were waiting for, what did you mean? Are your finances so bad that you have to go abroad to work? In your present job or business, are there any ways you can augment family income like having a sideline? Think about this: How come a lot of OFWs are willing to work so hard taking two or more jobs abroad but are not willing to put in that much work here at home? Are there ways you can cut down on family expenses? You mentioned that you’re just making enough to pay your utilities, groceries, credit card debt. May I suggest you stop using your credit card for the moment? You see, this mighty plastic can be like your genie, which can grant your purchase wishes even if you can’t afford them; unfortunately, there’s a catch at the end of the month. Stop using it and you will find your expenses going down. There’s a greater pain in parting with cash compared to signing the charge slip. Moreover, if the cash is not there, no purchase is made. 

3. About your work abroad: What do you intend to do abroad? Where? Do you already have contracts? Or will you just go there, spend some good money on your travel for something uncertain? If you have been reading the business section of the newspapers, you would know that the Philippines is moving forward. Of course, a lot would say that the trickle down of this development is not yet felt in some sectors of our population. But do you know that unemployment is also a major problem in many developed countries? Are you going to any of these countries? If you already have a job waiting for your there, what are your medium and long-term prospects in that career? You also mentioned that between the two of you, you have better chances of getting a better paying job because you’re a licensed professional here. This makes me assume that your prospects here are not that bad either.

4. About your husband: What does he do here? What is he good at? What are his strengths and weaknesses? Has he figured out how he will be successful there? Do you think he will have the patience to really work hard abroad? Why does he want you to join him even if this means leaving no parent behind to care for your children? Look deeply into your heart and assess the situation. Does he want you with him because he needs someone to take care of him? I am all for husband and wife being together because there is a danger of growing apart in long distance relationships. However, in your case you have to answer yourself this question honestly: Who needs my care more right now? My husband or my kids? Your husband is choosing to go abroad. Your kids are not. In fact, your kids didn’t even choose to be born. You chose to give life to them. I guess it’s just right to give them the best life you can.

5. About you: What is your dream life? A big house? Nice Cars? Grand vacation with family?  What are your core values that you really hold dear to your heart? Does it include raising bright, confident children? Do you value time spent with your children and husband? How about your career? Do you value self-esteem and the satisfaction that you derive from practicing your profession? What are you licensed for? Will you be able to practice abroad or will you settle for odd jobs? Please make sure that what you do with and for money agrees with your core values. What’s your parenting style? Do you want to be always with your children or does your mother really do more of the child rearing right now? You know it’s not being paranoid, as you mentioned, to worry when your children get sick while you’re away. I think that’s the most normal maternal feeling. I hope you realize that this will surely happen if you leave them with your parents.

Ultimately, you will have to decide. I know that the Christian way to keep a strong marriage is for the wife to be submissive to the leadership of the husband. However, this will only work if the husband is capable of leading the family because he is a sensitive husband and father, considerate of the needs of all the family members. The wife’s opinion is very crucial here because you are the parent who is probably more aware of the needs of your children.

I hope that you and your husband will arrive at a decision after a thorough and honest discussion. I hope that it will be a mutually agreed upon decision because you are partners in life.

Should one or both of you decide to go abroad please always remember the following:

  1. Being separated from family should be a temporary thing. Give yourself a definite timetable for this difficult arrangement.
  2. If the intention is to earn more so you can save up then you must have a saving and investing plan in place before you leave.
  3. Forget about pasalubongs in huge balikbayan boxes and all the other Filipino traditions that are obstacles to saving.
  4. Do not buy luxury items here and abroad yet. You said that your savings go to medical bills, house repairs, etc. In which case, have the discipline to acknowledge that emergency fund, insurance, regular expense budgets, children’s education and savings for retirement should be your priorities. The luxuries may come only after all these have been satisfactorily set aside. This is the common mistake of most OFW families – they buy the latest gadgets right away and rationalize it with “We deserve it!” No, what family members deserve more is to be together to form strong bonds, which will equip them well to face their challenges in the real world.
  5. Design ways of regular communication with family members so you will not grow apart. Be aware of each other’s day-to-day activities.
  6. Always remember why you’re doing the sacrifice. If you say it’s for the welfare of your kids then be on the lookout for signs, which seem to point otherwise. Are they always sad? Are they able to cope with the changes? Even your relationship with your husband should be observed. If things are turning out for the worse, then I think you should “cut loss!” That’s a term we use in investing. Even if we’ve poured in a significant capital, time and effort into an investment, there’s a point where we have to decide whether we should still pursue it or end it in order to avoid incurring bigger losses.

So I hope I was able to pose the right questions to help you decide well on this life-changing endeavor. I know I said that financial stability is the gasoline that allows the family to “run smoothly” in the previous article. However, not even a full tank of gasoline can make your car run if its parts are torn apart. So make sure that all the parts (your family members) are united as a single happy unit.

Wishing you a happy family life,


P.S. If you haven’t seen Caregiver click the link to see the you tube trailer. But I warn you, you may end up crying. I did. I’m really a cry-baby when it comes to mother-son relationships.