Having a child not only brings happiness, but it also strengthens the couple’s relationship as they enter another transition as a family. There is no turning back when it comes to having kids. Parenting is a complicated process by itself, looking after mini-humans and grooming them to become the best person that they can be. But what could be a more challenging arrangement between a parent-child relationships?

Painful decision

The “Expanded Maternity Leave Law” in the Philippines grants pregnant mothers a 120- day maternity leave and 30 days from previously 7 days paid leave for fathers. This gives parents enough time to attend to and build a bond with their new born. But not all Filipino parents benefitted from this law. OFW parents and expectant parents are exempted because they also have to follow the regulations of the countries where they work.

Oftentimes, pregnant Filipino women are giving birth in the Philippines instead in their host countries. Instead of nurturing their babies, mothers choose the painful decision of leaving their new-borns to their grandparents or relatives. Sometimes, either parents will stay until such time that the child can be left behind with a caregiver. Either way, it is a painful separation to parents and children.

Jhustine Lopez, 26, married, is a dental receptionist in Abu Dhabi for four years. Her husband is also an OFW in Abu Dhabi.

In the Middle East, getting pregnant out of wedlock is punishable by law. A woman may face deportation and imprisonment or death penalty.

In January 2017, Jhustine went back to the Philippines. Her husband followed soon after to witness the birth of their daughter in February. Her in-laws and her mother took care of her prior to giving birth.

A month after giving birth, Jhustine and her husband flew back to Abu Dhabi to resume their jobs. Their daughter was left under the care of their parents.

Parenting from afar

“It is very hard to think that I just delivered my first-born and I will have to leave her after a month. Me and my husband talked it over many times before we came up with the decision to leave our child in the Philippines,” she said.

But for them, this is the reality that they have to face. They both decided initially, to go back to Abu Dhabi where both of them have stable jobs. To only have her husband working for them is not sufficient as their expenses also increased with the arrival of the baby. “We just have to sacrifice.”

According to Jhustine, the most difficult part of being a first-time mother is to be physically away from her child.

“As a mother, I cannot explain the pain that I experienced knowing that I am not there to witness the many “firsts” in her life. I always remember her face. It is tough to not be able to see her, nor hear when she cries,” she said.

The couple’s biggest concern is their daughter’s health. Hence, they always send money to ensure that she will the necessary vaccines, vitamins, and the routine check-up with her paediatrician.

Technologically-assistend parenting

Jhustine and her husband gets their “daily-daughter-updates” from their family online. Technology like Facebook, Skype, and Messenger calls alleviate their longing to their child.

“My husband and I always talk and support each other to ease the pain. We have to be strong for our child. She motivates us also to be strong,”Jhustine said.

Brighter Future

When asked about other people’s negative opinion in this unconventional parenting style, Jhustine explained, “My husband told me not to listen to them. They are not our source of livelihood anyway.”

As jobs become scarce in the Philippines, many Jhustine will still choose to work abroad and face the challenges of raising their children despite their absence for the sake of “brighter and better future”.

They rely and trust upon the guidance of their relatives to the well-being of their child. Technology not only made it possible for parents to supervise their children, but it also comforts them being seeing them even on the other side of the globe.

Being a parent is complex subject. It is a matter of respecting an individual’s parenting style. It is up to the mothers and fathers on how to encourage, feel love, discipline, and support their own children no matter how close or far they are from each other.

For Jhustine, this is just a temporary sacrifice because “we believe that we will be together in God’s perfect time.”

This is the first article for the series, OFW Parenting, if you want get updates, share your experiences or contribute an article, please click here.