They say, it takes a village to raise a child.” What if there is no village to help you?
Back in the Philippines, raising a child seems easier with the whole barangay willing to give you a helping hand. You have the luxury of over-eager grandparents, helpful aunties & funny uncles, the reliable cousins, the responsible older nephews & nieces and not to mention the affordability of getting nannies for each of your kids. Work hours and proximity of work place to home are conducive to longer hours and weekends with your kids.
I would have been tempted to leave my kids with my willing parents or my husband’s mom to spare us from the challenges of raising our kids abroad. My mom practically insist on me daily when I was still pregnant with Fynn that I should leave one of the kids with her. But my stubbornness as well as the joint agreement of my husband and I to tackle the
mountainous hurdle of raising our two kids abroad pushes me to follow the harder route.
When there was only Naj, hubby and I decided we can ask our relatives to come visit every month to Singapore to help us with taking care of our baby. First there was my mom-in-law, my brother-in-law then my sister then my niece. But not all the time, their schedules would allow them to visit us to help with babysitting. There is also the issue of plane ticket expenses and we are embarrassed of our lack of time for a proper vacation for our visiting family who are helping us.
We came into a hard dilemma when there is no relative that can come over and we don’t want to leave Naj in the Philippines at any cost. It is not that we don’t trust our family in the Philippines. We know that Naj will be in good hands. But J and I grew up in a household where one of our parents work overseas. We want our kids’ plight to be different. We have told each other we want to be a complete family no matter what. We don’t want to miss any milestones in our child’s life. We want that they are secure of their parents’ presence in their lives. So we were blessed when a work friend of mine referred me to a Malay babysitter near my workplace to babysit Naj until we can find our own nanny.
It was tough few weeks though. I would be carrying my 9 months old baby Naj with his diaper bag with a can of formula milk along with my work bag to the babysitter. There will be a usual crying and wailing from Naj when I leave him and I would fetch him from the babysitter’s house, carrying all the stuff home again. The babysitter who became a good friend of ours would often send me pictures of Naj throughout the day. Naj eventually warmed up to his babysitter & her family.
We were lucky to find a nanny eventually. But having a nanny in Singapore is not cheap by all means. The standard salary set by Ministry of Manpower is $550, converted to Philippine pesos is 18,700 pesos. Plus for you to hire a foreign helper, you need to pay the government a $265 levy. That is a total of $815! But if this is the price to pay to be with our kids, we accept it with burnt wallets but happy hearts.
Work opportunities were given here so we are staying for now but there are some things that we have to sacrifice to have it all. I have always said we are here for the adventure and we want to take our kids along for the ride, village or no village.
Here are a few of my thoughts on raising your kids abroad:
1. If you don’t have a village, at least have a (tag)team.
We don’t have the luxury of having our immediate family near to us but at least, my husband and I got each other. We have to help each other in taking care of our kids. Resentment can easily ensue if I do all the work while he sleeps throughout the night with wailing baby or he does everything while I tinker my phone all day. We need to be put in an effort to contribute in this parenthood team. We are partners and our goal is a happy complete family. I am lucky to have a husband who enjoys being a great father to our kids and is willing to accept his share of parenthood hardship.
2. Instill Traditional Values.
We may not be in our motherland but that doesn’t mean we should forget teaching our kids the values of our home country. We generally speak to our kids in English but we also speak to him in our dialect and teach him our hometown’s dialect. We want both of them to know the beauty of understanding and talking in Hiligaynon. We also introduced Filipino dishes to our toddler which he loves. He is an Ilonggo through and through. Prayers before meals, goodbye & hello kisses, respect for the elders are few of the things we slowly teaching our toddler.
3. Spend on the necessities
Raising kids abroad is expensive. We have inquired for childcare instutions fees here and for foreigners like us who are not permanent residence visa, it is outrageously high and we couldn’t afford it at all. School tuitions will soon be part of our monthly budget, we should remember to spend only on necessities, stick to our budget and splurge pragmatically only on occasions. We learned to make the kids enjoy and play without spending too much. We get to be creative in finding activities for them to do without opening our wallets.
4. Put the phone down and spend quality time with your kids.
I can be guilty of this sometimes. I would be busy with my phone when my toddler wants my attention or my baby wants some cuddle-time with me. We have decided to raise them here to be with us. But ignoring them when they are beside us makes it no different from them being away from us. So I intentionally turn off my notifications and put my phone away and give them my quality time. Not unless we use the phone to play with Snapchat filters which we enjoy a lot.
5. Incorporate your kids in your daily activity
I am an advocate of babywearing. I don’t know how moms could survive without babywearing. That is how I get things done nowadays – I babywear my 6months old. I cook, I clean, I write blog posts while I babywear my child. If my toddler likes to play with me while I need to squeeze a 30 minute exercise I make him join in or if I am cooking, I bring him with me in the kitchen even if it means more mess. Dirty kitchen can be cleaned but memories are forever.
6. If you’re getting hired help, get someone who has good values.
Now this is a tough one. Beggars can’t be choosy right? But when you are away, that person will spend hours with your child and her values can influence your kids. Get some one who is trustworthy, some will love your kids like her own, some one who doesn’t cuss or yell, someone who is God-fearing.
7. Accept life can be messy and imperfect
Accept that life is harder because we have chosen the not-so-easy but worthwhile option. Allow that there will be moments when the house wouldn’t be spick and span and that our bedsheet will be have to be changed every so often because of poo and pee; that our sleep would be less and our eyebags would be heavy; that our unit will be noisy from the crying and terrible-two tantrums.
Yes, it is hard but I wouldn’t have it any other ways. Our kids is our happiness and as long as we can manage it, we don’t mind toiling here abroad as long our kids are here with us.
Anyone out there in the same boat like us? Care to share who you cope in raising your kids abroad?