Compiled by Hannah Jo Uy
There is a growing population of Skype and Facebook Dads today—fathers that rely on social media communication platforms to help them fulfill their role as the head of the family. This is especially true among OFWs. For the fathers who looked to other shores in an effort to provide their family with a better life, there is a daily struggle.
Their stories vary, from the people whose families were strengthened by the distance to those who suffered from it. They also shuffle between feelings of guilt for being away, and upholding their responsibility as the sole provider of their family’s daily needs, and walking the fine line between showing their love and affection and using the precious moments in communication to discipline their children.
There is a constant battle to reach out with thousands of miles separating them. The computer or mobile screen serves as a vital link that bridges them to their loved ones. While battling with their own loneliness and feelings of isolation, they continue to uphold a strong front.To be the father their children need. One thing they all have in common is the relentless drive to give their children a better future. These are their stories.
Buenaventura R. Jaluag, Jr.
I have two children, a 17-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old son. I stay close to them by calling them regularly. We have our regular video chat and Skype. I make sure I can spend enough of my weekends with my kids even just through Skype. I let them see what I cook and eat. I even let them watch me iron my clothes. I watch them eat and play also.
Parenting from abroad is difficult. When it comes to discipline, I have my wife to do it. I encourage them more than disciplining them. I encourage them to always study hard. I ask them to do some household chores. I encourage them to do better than scolding them for small mistakes. I see to it that I can go home once a year, like every after six or seven months.
To my kids: I choose to work abroad because I want to give you and my family a better life. I want to send you to the best schools. If I’d stayed and worked back there, I can’t provide the best dream I have for both of you.
I have three kids. Two boys and one girl. They are all grownups now. I remain close to them through the occasional calls but mostly through text messaging.
Constant communications is key—you get to talk about anything and the bond would at least be there but I think not as strong as being with them. They happen to have a strict mom in a relatively religious set-up so I’m somewhat fine with how they were brought up. I cope with the difficulties of parenting from abroad through the reward system. You achieve something or did something good or positive, you get rewarded.
I would like them to know that the reason for my working abroad is to help us survive and advance in life. But it is just a temporary solution. I would like to tell them that they must be very good at something to be successful and do well in life. They must not aim to work abroad as a first option, not even a second option, but rather as a last alternative.
Distance is always a concern. Even when I go see them once or twice a year, nothing compares to being with them. My biggest hope is that they become good and honest individuals, regardless of their situations. Most important, I just want to see them happy.
Being a father is not an easy task, especially when you work abroad. Life is too short. We all dream of having a happy family. But not everyone is fated to have that. Working abroad and being away from your children—this was never an easy decision to make. The hardest and most difficult thing for me is to help guide them, when I’m so far away. I face a lot of challenges being a father.
I have three children—two daughters, 20 and 15. My third, a son, is currently staying in Tokyo.
I have been living in Dubai for over seven years now. I left our country when my eldest daughter was 12 years old and the younger one was around six. Those early years with them were very memorable. I would always remember coming home from work and finding my children waiting at the doorstep and asking for pasalubong.
Since then, when I decided to work abroad, everything has not exactly fallen into place. Now, at times, even their mom cannot control them, as she is not always a disciplinarian. So, she often has to call me to talk to my children. But it isn’t that easy for me due to my busy work schedule and the time difference. Once my eldest daughter was out of control and I needed to go back home. It was one of the saddest moments of my life.
I worked abroad because I want them to have a better future. But at the end of the day, money can’t buy everything. I bought expensive gadgets in exchange for the years I lost with them, for the years they were not with me. But things will never be the same again. Nothing can buy happiness. I always pray that all these things are just initial difficulties.
Javib Jr. M. Tahir
I am blessed with two lovely kids. Sean, 12, and Sophia, nine months old. I miss them a lot. I keep in touch with them and my wife via social media. And I do call them once in a while.
I missed a lot of important events when they were growing up. In fact, I haven’t seen my nine-month-old daughter just yet. I also have to deal with my eldest boy asking me why I have to work abroad, often comparing our situation to those of his classmates who have parents that are not far away from them.
Making him understand why I had to work abroad is difficult. I know at some point he already understood my reasons, but he just doesn’t want to listen.
This is for you, Sean and Sophia. I am doing this because I want you to have a good education and to make sure you have a good future ahead of you. I just want you to remember that I love you so much. You are my life.
Alberico Andaya Natavio
I have two boys. My eldest is Toper, 25, and my youngest is Carlo, 23.
My youngest is with me in Dubai, he is even a member of the DXB Dolphins Dragon Boat team. My eldest is in the Philippines right now. But last year, he was also working here but he was at a hotel, and even then our main communication had to be through Facebook.
On difficulties of parenting from abroad, we can start with Toper, the eldest. When he was growing up I couldn’t really remember him causing any trouble. My youngest is the polar opposite of his brother. Even when he was in elementary, we were called to school often because he was a bit naughty. It was when he went to college that I was most worried about him, because that was the time I was separated from them. He was second year high school when I left for Dubai in 2009.
I just have a simple message to share with them: That their dad is always here for them. And I will never tire of helping them along with whatever they need. I often think of my shortcomings as a father to them. When they were young, there were so many things I wanted to do with them. So many father-and-son bonding moments I wasn’t able to have with them. I wanted to thank my wife who raised our children to be good and respectful, even when so often she was alone and I was so far away.