Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Joy And Pain Of An Absentee Parent

The article I just read on the internet somewhat retells my story as an OFW, as a father (absentee) and a provider. The article tells about the “adventures” of the OFWs’ children entering into their “bumpier rides” approaching adolescent years and the difficulties and agonies of 20something and 30something parents as they enter the tumultuous phase of child rearing. Though my age doesn’t fall to that age bracket but the story fits my biography.

Me and my wife are very supportive of each other in the performance of our culturally-prescribed roles as provider and home maker, respectively. However, this old roles have melted by the growing needs of our family; both husband and wife have to work to earn a living to support these growing needs. Though my wife stays in the Philippines to work, however, the impact of these changes on our family still has a jarring effect on our children especially to my eldest son who's starting to confront the paradox of the absentee father as I am now. My children are now beginning to miss my living presence as a father – a gap I’m trying to compensate through monthly remittance and "balikbayan" boxes.

These however can't mask the sense of loss now surfacing as resentment of grief that my children painted in their hearts: "My father did not see me grow up." Prof. Randy David put it in one of his columns, "the suffering of OFWs children could probably double on the parent's side" or perhaps triples. I always think of my family when I see a nice place hoping that they could also see what I'm seeing. I would always think of my family when I eat a sumptuous meal and worry too much for their safety and the desire to share with them the pain in time of their failures and to celebrate in time of triumphs. How I wish I could do all these without remising my other duty -- as a provider.

The fulfillment on the part of an absentee parent is to see that their obligation help steer the course and ensure that those left behind have a much better future – a tangible recognition of their toiling away from home. As the good professor nicely put it, "It has been very easy to measure the economic benefits from overseas work. But I doubt if one can ever quantify what the Filipino family has given up in terms of love, or what it is doing to recover it."

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