Bantay OCW

Do children understand why their parents leave?


Parents who work overseas assume  that their kids understand fully why they have to leave—that it is for the children’s good and their future.

Many parents leave when their kids are young. The children do not even know where in the world their mothers or fathers are.

Migration is actually not new. The late economist John Kenneth Galbraith wrote, “Migration is the oldest action against poverty.”

Israel’s founding father Jacob brought his family to Egypt  because there was famine in Canaan. After Jacob died, his descendants remained in Egypt for about 200 more years.

Children of OFWs believe their parents are working abroad to give them better food, better education and better home. The eldest child then assumes the role of a parent.

In a story in the February issue of Awake magazine, published by Watchtower Bible and Tract Society in 98 languages, a woman left her three daughters to work in Europe. Her husband followed after four years.

The youngest daughter said her eldest sister acted as their mother, listening to her problems and fears and teaching her household chores.

The whole family has been reunited and is now living in Europe. The article quoted the eldest child as saying, “We did not suffer when we were a poor family—we never went hungry. But my sisters and I suffered when we were left behind. Our family has been reunited for nearly five years now, but the years of separation have left their mark. We know that our parents love us, but we wish they had made a different decision.”

The article issued a reminder that our greatest needs were for things that money could not buy—love, emotional security and family unity. How sad when desire for money takes precedence over love for family, particularly the children.

Many OFW parents think material things can compensate for their absence but, when asked, the children would probably say, “Sana hindi na lang ninyo kami iniwan, sana hindi na lang kayo nag-abroad. (We wish you never left us to work abroad).”

Our children will experience childhood only once. This is the time when they really need the guidance of parents. We should not waste the opportunity.

When you come home, the children you left behind have probably grown up and are too busy to have the time to be with you.

Susan Andes, aka Susan K. is on board at Radyo Inquirer 990 dzIQ AM, Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-12 noon and 12:30-2 p.m. with audio/video live streaming: Studio: 2/F MRP Bldg., Mola St. corner Pasong Tirad St., Makati City; PTV 4, Friday, 8-9

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  • JVV123

    I never considered myself highly emotional but this article about children left behind when parents work abroad broke my wall of resistance. I do feel for the children but Philippine society has been lagging behind economically and the government so inept in curbing graft and corruption that families are forced to seek abroad for a better life. When the country so imbalance economically with a wide gap between the extremely rich and the extremely poor, the other alternative is revolution. The NPA is trying to create that miliew but a typical Filipino is not a revolutionary type. Remember it took 400 years before the people threw the yoke of Spanish oppression. It would take a long while before such thing can happen again. EDSA 1 an EDSA 2 is not a real revolt in a sense  of creating a social change. It merely created a vacuum in a ruling power which when filled in did not really make a substancial makeover. Going back to the issue of children left behind. I’m sure there will be problems in the future for the families concerned but the hope is human beings in general would be able to find an answer to this.

  • observer1356

    Parents can only hope that their children left behind can understand the reasons why their parent or parents have to leave for work. And, OFW parents miss their children too, (more than anyone else could ever tell in a story or in an article like this).

    Parents miss their kids regardless of their age, and most especially when they have grown up. They sacrificed for their kids who, in many cases, do not even know how to acknowledge such sacrifices.

    Now that mine are all grown-ups… i miss the lost chances of being able to carry them in my arms, hugging them or cradle them in my arms… i miss those unknown times that they were happy or sad or excited… missed those times when and how i was supposed to feel for them when they fall, and how they got back on their feet again… missing the times when they were growing up from kids to teens; how they feel and how i would have felt when they could have told stories of their daily explorations of the world when and where i should have been just a laughter or a cry away…

    But then, most often, being an OFW is not necessarily by choice, but by compulsion – an option chosen, if available, that is due to compelling situations when the salary cannot support the needs of a growing family. Desire for money could be secondary, but the need is prime reason…

    A long litany of reasons can be listed here, but what’s the use if the Philippines cannot provide local employment to its citizens? In fact, Philippine labor is being promoted for export !

    To which, the government should be able to come up with a program that helps OFW dependents understand the reasons why their families had to work abroad. In the same token, that the returning OFWs should be able to re-integrate into the local mainstream of society with the help of such program.

    Anyways, the kids should also know and understand the other side of the OFW story…

  • tra6Gpeche

    I agree with you 100%. The most precious part is to be with
    your young children until they become at least 17 years old. Once it is gone,
    it will never come back anymore.

    But how can one, especially those poor Filipinos, ignore and
    not acknowledge the power of money by working abroad?

  • George Lapulapu

    …set time frame and targets for going abroad. once you acheived it, go home.

  • Edgardo Mendoza

    the goverment is stupid milyon milyon ang tambay!

  • riza888

    It’s not a matter of asking whether it is right to leave your kids or not to work abroad. It’s a matter of priority actually, since your reasons for leaving them can be justified by your desire to provide for them. If your top priority is to give them a better future by working abroad, at the expense of leaving your kids, then that would be something you have to deal with. Nobody can really tell us if what we’re doing for our kids is right or wrong. 

    But as long as the other parent is left behind with the kids, they will grow up well-mannered. Kids will not respect and listen all the directions that they are given by someone else who is not their parent.

  • suburbanmother

    I agree. There is no substitute for the joy of seing your children grow right before your eyes. Children need their parents at their side in all aspects of their formative years.

  • Joanna Rose

    My father has always been an OFW, my siblings and I have understood why he had to because of needs. We never really had the problem wondering why he had to be away while we grew up. We’re grateful that he ‘sacrificed’ himself to provide us our education and future. And we still feel the love he has for us and ours to him as well.

    Some leave Pinas for their own reasons, be it for for money or for other things, it’s their business and not ours. Or maybe I just seem to be practical?

  • nilphil

    I cry when I read this article. I am an OFW and I remember my son’s comment when he was still 5 years old (now he is 15 years old and I am still here abroad) and he asked ” Bakit kailangang umalis ni Papa? Ano ba ang mas mahalaga pera o tayo?” Ano nga ba ang mahalaga pamilya mo na maaring magutom kung hindi ka aalis o pera na maaring makasalba ng pamilya mo kung ikaw ay magtitiis at aalis? Para sa aming OFW, masakit ang malayo pero sa aming tingin kailangan upang maitaguyod ang pamilya at mabigyan ng magandang kinabukasan.

    • Joanna Rose

      I agree and hats off to you, Nilphil.

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