Going the Distance: Successful Long-Distance Parenting
For most mothers, being away from their children for most part of the year is extremely hard to imagine. Yet this is the reality of many Migrant Domestic Workers (MDW) who are mothers. MDW mothers make the very difficult decision to work far away from home, sacrificing precious time with their children,so as to create better opportunities and brighter futures for them.
Successful long-distance parenting is not easy. Yet, it is possible! Here are 3 simple ways MDW mothers can put in place to raise their children successfully from afar.
1. Entrust children with responsible guardians
Caring, trustworthy, and like-minded guardians in the home country play a very important role in supporting mothers who work overseas. They provide the much-needed nurturing care and guidance to the children. Here are some key guidelines to help mothers decide who will be the best guardians for their children.
- Have the best interests of your children at heart? Ensure children have regular and nutritious meals, go to school; and spend time with peers who are a positive influence
- Have similar goals and values as you? Place equal importance in the children’s education, and ensuring they learn responsibility
- Show commitment to build character in your children?
- Have the ability to work closely with you to improve your children’s wellbeing?
Selecting the right guardians will give mothers great assurance and peace of mind that their children are in safe hands. Make your children’s safety and wellbeing a top priority. Teach them about their body, privacy, and ways to protect themselves. Encourage them to speak up and confide in you whenever they feel unsafe or uncomfortable with anyone—even if that person might be a family member.
2. Communicate regularly
Workdays are busy and often long for most MDWs. Find time daily to communicate with your children—even if it is a short, 5-minute video call. Figure out which time slots work best for both you and your children. Try to keep it regular.
Have an open conversation with your employer to discuss how and when you could schedule regular short breaks to speak with your children. For example, every weekday at 4.00pm after you complete most of your work tasks and after your children have come back from school.
3. Connect meaningfully
Go beyond the “Have you eaten?” and “Have you done your homework?” on the video calls with your children. Be curious about their lives by asking who their close friends are, and inviting them to share stories about what happened in school. When possible, guide them on their school work too. It will mean a lot to your children that “Mama” or “Nanay” is still very much involved in their daily lives even though she is so far away.
Connection truly goes both ways. Many mothers don’t want to show their vulnerabilities to their children. As your children mature, try to engage in age-appropriate heart-to-heart conversations with them. Be open and honest about your challenges and feelings as a MDW. This can draw you closer to your children, and strengthen their character.
Mothers who are open with their children about the realities of being a MDW found that their children become more grateful and have a deeper appreciation of the value of money. They seldom ask for toys, clothes, and other material things as they realise how hard their mothers are working each day.
Even though raising your children from afar could be challenging, it is achievable with thoughtful planning, prioritising, and commitment. Above all, every effort will make a lasting difference in your children’s lives and help you and your children build a wonderful relationship that can go the distance!