After ten long months, my husband finally came home again from abroad. Although he stayed for only three days and four nights, it felt like he had always been with us. Or at least, that’s what I had hoped for everyone in my family to feel, including myself. I thought it would be good for my husband to witness and experience our daily activities. That way, it would be easier for both him and the girls to talk about things and make the transition less painful as well when the time comes for him to leave again. Hence, my husband and I agreed that there would be no fancy place for us to visit or expensive toys to buy for the girls just because he’s home, and we didn’t have the girls excused from their classes either.
While our daughters were both in school, my husband and I spent time together doing the things we would normally do as a couple… talk endlessly, share jokes, watch TV together, buy groceries, cook together, and so on. It was only during the weekend that our family went out. We went to the mall and dined at one of our favorite Filipino restaurants (Gerry’s Grill), watched a movie (the last of the series of Harry Potter), played games at Time Zone, went to church on Sunday morning, visited my father, and had our first official family picture taken at a studio. These are our usual family weekend activities except for the last one, although we do like taking family pictures using our mobile phones.
Things went well during my husband’s brief stay, and it felt like we’ve always been together even if he’s only home for a few days. (So I guess you could say that my plan worked out.) We had fun and everything seemed normal, as if nothing changed and nothing could change. My husband and I even had an argument, which only made his physical presence more real. For the first time, however, I didn’t feel so bad that we had to argue. I realized that he’s more mature now, he’s able to handle his temper much better, he did not raise his voice when he was upset. Nevertheless, we soon had to face the fact that he had to leave again, that our family set up isn’t really normal. And just like with most goodbyes, our parting had been devastating, especially to our seven-year-old daughter, our Big Baby A.
Our Big Baby A was my number one fan when she was younger, but as she grows older, she has become Daddy’s little girl. (Ironically, she seems to have grown closer to her dad when they were apart.) In fact, even if her young face was my exact replica when I was her age, she would still say that she looked more like her dad. I’d say she’s like her father in so many ways though–they’re both very adventurous, curious, creative, competitive, and well, very impatient at times.
Since my husband’s flight was at 10 AM, we had to leave the house by 5 AM given the distance between our place and the airport. However, as early as 3:30 AM, Big Baby A was already up, making sure that we would accompany Daddy to the airport. Unfortunately, I wasn’t feeling well then. I was feverish and had been vomiting the previous night that my husband had already decided to leave by himself because of my poor health condition.
Upon seeing our daughter’s determination, however, I resolved to look my best and eventually, I felt better. I was successful for the first couple of hours, but my fever came back almost as soon as we got to the airport. (Separation anxiety? Maybe.) It was bad enough to have me unwell just when my husband was about to leave, but what I felt that morning must be nothing compared to how our eldest child had felt. She cried so hard when her daddy finally entered the immigration area. Our younger child was also sad to see her daddy go, but didn’t cry like her big sister did. Maybe because she was still too young to realize what’s really happening?
We thought that A would have been more adjusted by now, since it wasn’t the first time that her father would be going way. On the contrary, she was very emotional. She seemed very angry that her father had to leave and I sensed that in her young mind, I was the one to blame for it. Just before my husband totally disappeared from our view, she started walking away and refused to hold my hand.
I gave A time to be by herself before we left the airport, trusting that she’d be all right. She kept staring out the glass windows with an angry expression on her face, fists clenched. It was alarming. I tried to console her, assuring her that Daddy would be back again soon, but she didn’t seem to hear any word I said and only cringed at my touch. When she realized that Daddy would no longer be coming out to meet us, she finally asked that we leave the airport.
I decided to bring the girls to the mall first to cheer them up a little, especially A, before going home. We didn’t leave the mall until I had seen both of them smile. A few hours later, A finally blurted out what had been bothering her all along: why Daddy has to work in another country; why couldn’t he work somewhere near instead and come home to us every night, or at least on weekends like he used to do when he was working in Clark, Pampanga (he’s an aeronautical engineer, by the way); why we couldn’t just live with him abroad; and why we couldn’t tell exactly when Daddy would be home again. Listening to her seemingly endless questions was heartbreaking. They actually sounded more like accusations to me, to which I had no ready answer.
Sure, it was easy to say that their father needs to work abroad to provide her and her sister good education. His job allows us to pay for their school, buy the things we want and need, pay our bills and debts, have some savings, even enable us to help others, and so on… That Daddy wouldn’t earn as much if he’s working here in our country. But then again, would those words really make sense to her, a seven-year-old child?
For the first time, I hated the Philippine government for not being able to provide jobs that will keep people from being away from their families. I hated the government for patronizing the OFWs as modern Filipino heroes. No, I don’t think they really care for them except for their remittances. In fact, one of the government agencies that’s supposed to take care of OFWs can be called a bogus and I am glad that an investigation was recently initiated by the Senate to check its activities.
I couldn’t deny that having someone in the family working abroad has its perks. For one, it enables the family back home to afford better things in life, especially if that family is in a third-world country like the Philippines. I wonder, however, if one could truly be proud of having an OFW in the family, especially if each family member is deeply aware of the sacrifices it entails.
With my husband miles away from us once more, I have to go back to playing the roles of being both the mother and father to our children. I have to be wary again of people who might want to take advantage of our situation, especially those who might be aware that the head of our family is away and there’s only one adult–a female at that–in our household. I have to be much stronger again, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, as I have no one to lean on, much less have someone to take care of me or look after the children if I get sick.
Like my daughter, I have my own questions too. Is it really worth having my husband work abroad? Did I do the right thing in supporting my husband’s decision to work with a prestigious airline company both to further his career and for financial gain? Am I being selfish in allowing my husband to fulfill my desire to be a full-time homemaker and be readily available to our children at all times?
P.S. This blog post’s former title was “An OFW Family Drama”