Question: Hello. I read your article about Confused Mama who asked whether to push through with their plan to work abroad leaving their children behind. The perspectives you gave her were really enlightening. I hope you can also enlighten me in my present situation.
My family and I just moved to Australia last May as migrants. I was the principal applicant. My wife and I are both professionals back in the Philippines. I am a licensed agriculturist with more than 13 years of experience and my career prospects are quite promising. My wife is a registered nurse but with limited experience because she preferred to live a life of a stay-at-home mom to our three-year old daughter. We also owned a small business back home that helped us a lot in financing our basic needs allowing us to keep my government salary intact as savings in the bank. We used to live in a small apartment.
Then came the opportunity of going abroad. We heard a lot of good things about Australia from my wife’s relative who has a family here. So now we are staying here with them.
To my dismay, everything I encountered here are disappointments. Until now I still could not find the right job and I am starting to feel anxious knowing that our financial resources are getting depleted. I am also concerned about the environment and I don’t want my daughter to grow up here.
My self-esteem is way too low right now that I have lost my interest in searching for a job. I have made so many job applications and all I got were refusals. It is just so depressing to know that back in the Philippines hundreds of farmers are in need of my expertise but here I am jobless. I have received some job offers but I don’t like the accommodation because I have to stay in very remote areas including my family. I am not used to living a life of solitude. I love to interact with people and discuss ideas in improving their lives.
As padre de pamilya, I am starting to feel so uncomfortable living in another family’s house. I am really confused right now. I want to go back to the Philippines and rebuild our life there. My problem is my wife doesn’t want to go back and is still hopeful we can both find jobs here and earn some money. We invested so much in coming here and we may just go back for nothing. According to her, once we earn and get a permanent resident visa, which will take two years of residence and one year of fulltime work, that is the time for us to go back. But I don’t have the patience anymore to prolong my agony. I have learned to appreciate the simplicity of our life there in the Philippines.
My parents and siblings are now asking me to go back. They are all willing to help us rebuild my family’s life there. Anyway I still have my job. I am just on official leave. Even my wife has a good prospect there of working as a school nurse with good pay. The problem is she doesn’t like to work in the Philippines because according to her, she doesn’t have the experience. It’s just confusing. She doesn’t have experience working abroad either. She doesn’t like the idea of my parents and siblings supporting us. She wants us to be independent, which is also what I want but look where we are now?
My plan right now is to go home with our daughter and my wife will stay so she can still continue to pursue her dreams to establish a business, build a house and drive a car. But according to her, she can’t live a life without our daughter. We have opposing ideas right now and I think our daughter will suffer eventually. According to her, if I decide to go home she will ask her mother come here to watch over our daughter. That would be costly. But my point in bringing our daughter back to Philippines is for her to be in an environment more conducive to growing up kids. I am now a troubled husband and father.
Thank you for time and God bless.
Answer: Hi Immigrant. Thank you for sharing your story with us. I think it is safe to say, “Hindi ka nag-iisa!” I’ve heard of similar stories from friends and friends of friends who are in the same situation. I know some who just apply with a certain country and then forget about it and when their application is approved, they are faced with the dilemma of whether to go or not to go.
In your case you are already there so your dilemma is whether to stay or to come back home. Decisions like this can only be arrived at after heart-to-heart talks with your spouse, careful weighing of things that you value and dream for in life as a family.
May I suggest to you the following talking points?
1. Go back to your decision-making on how you got there. From your letter I gather that you are there because you were convinced by the positive stories of your wife’s relative. I also hope you also did your own research on the life you will have there. Recall those things you wanted to achieve there? Good education for your daughter? More money for your family? Better career opportunities? Being with your wife’s relative? Other first world amenities?
2. What are your core values and family dreams? What are the things that you really give importance to? When we talk of values we don’t mean the material things of value. We refer to the principles and ideals that we are willing to work hard for, to sacrifice for, and to a certain extent, willing to die for. Examples are Family, Freedom, Spirituality, Health, Education, etc. Then discuss your dreams – both as individuals and as a family. Your dreams and core values should align. I hope you take time out to really discuss these things and come up with something united for your family.
3. Padre de Pamilya Self-Esteem. A lot of our kababayans leave their professional jobs in the Philippines to settle for blue-collar jobs abroad to earn more money, for the sake of their children. I do not want to be condescending about blue-collar jobs. I believe that any honest job should be something to be proud of. However, if you studied to be a professional in a certain field because you know that you will find fulfillment in it, then sacrificing that fulfillment for the sake of money should be carefully reconsidered. You sound like you are very proud of and find happiness in your job as an agriculturist. You even said that your prospects are good. So it’s really disappointing for you to be jobless for months while you know that your job back home is still waiting for you. Think about this carefully. Should you find a job there that does not give you the fulfillment you get from your Philippine job but gives you the material reward, will you be happy and content? Ask yourself, “How will I be as a husband and father if I am not fulfilled in my career?”
4. How much do we want to have? In your letter you said that you are able to keep your government salary intact in savings because your wife’s small business is able to provide for your living expenses. You are actually way ahead of a lot of your kababayans back home who have a hard time making both ends meet on a dual income. I guess you really have to decide how much is enough, and how much more you want to fulfill your dreams and see where you can earn this. Can’t you earn this back home? If not, how long do you need to be away from home to earn this? A lot of OFWs just forge ahead and work abroad without any clear path – no timetable, no specific goal of how much they should save. And this is a bad idea because after years of sacrificing, they usually come home empty handed. So what is it that you want?
5. Growing up years for your daughter. This is a crucial point of conversation. What kind of values do you want your daughter to grow up with? Your child’s values will still largely come from you but we cannot deny the fact that environment will play a significant role. She will definitely acquire the ways of her classmates, friends and neighbors. We cannot be judgmental here and say that Filipino values are the best in the world but what I can say is that parents would always want their children to share the same values that they have. So if you’re a Filipino who wants to rear his children in Filipino values, it’s definitely easier for you to do that back home. But wherever you end up living, your family values can still be instilled in your children if they see you living it up.
6. Your wife’s needs. What are your wife’s needs? She’s a registered nurse who opted not to practice here and who wants to try out her luck abroad. Maybe you should listen to her more closely to understand what she wants to happen in her life. Does she have dreams that she cannot fulfill back home? If she has, and you agreed with her, then I think three months of not being able to find a job that you really like is too short a time to be discouraged.
7. The grass is greener on the other side of the fence. I notice that even as you said that all you have received are refusals, you also mentioned that you received some job offers that you don’t like – the accommodation is not acceptable to you because you’d have to stay in very remote areas. I think you seem to be a bit picky at this point because you’re regretting your decision and that’s why you’re seeing only the negative aspects there and the positive aspects of your Philippine job now. Try to assess the pros and cons and remember that people always tend to see that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.
8. My family vs. her family. Because of the stress that you’re in right now, there are many things at play in your mind. One of them is your family vs. her family. You prefer to stay here because your family is willing to help you re-build your life here. She prefers to take chances abroad because her relative is there. But let me remind you of this: When you got married, you as husband and wife should act as one unit. It’s easier said than done, but your loyalty should be stronger to each other more than to anyone else now. So when you discuss, be careful about putting down each other’s family. I remember what my mom told me before I got married, “Avoid criticizing your in-laws. Even if you hear your husband criticize his own kin, don’t. It will still hurt if he hears it from you.”
9. Your daughter’s sake. If you can help it, please be a complete family. We have a lot of child-rearing problems caused by the OFW phenomenon wherein one parent has to be away during the growing up years of the child. It is a choice made by the parents but the negative consequences are carried mostly by the children. The trauma of a broken family may scar your daughter for life. So please discuss this carefully with your wife.
10. Loving approach. Remember to set the right atmosphere when you discuss all the above. Praying together before you start may set you in the right mood so that unnecessary confrontations can be avoided. Recall how you used to talk when you were in courtship stage. Reassure her of your love and devotion. This should not be a competition of who gets what he/she wants. It should be for the good of your family.
In the end, only the two of you can solve the predicament you’re in. Always remind each other that you are life partners, you are each other’s staunchest ally, and the ones with the best intentions for your family are no one else but the two of you.