Dear Mum – with kids miles away,
I cannot claim to know how you feel, still, I am writing this for you, to let you know that you are seen, wherever in the world you may be.
If you have been following my blog you would know that I have a soon-to-be two-year-old daughter, and if I had a good reason to leave her behind somewhere (even in the best of hands), I would probably weep every day; from not being there to hold her, feed her, play with her, and grow with her. I would wonder if she misses me or remembers me less. So no, I cannot relate to all the emotions you must feel, but at the very least I can imagine, and it makes my heart wrench.
…her son called her auntie…
Sometime last year, a friend mentioned how over a video call with her son, he called her Auntie. Goodness, it was barely six months since she traveled abroad to study. This was also after she managed to get his attention, as he seemed more interested in his physical environment than a face and voice over the phone.
Moments like this will fill you with doubt, worry, guilt, jealousy, resentment, or other ugly emotions. They can make you frequently lethargic and perpetually stressed, affect your productivity, and make you less interested in building connections within your physical environment. You are by yourself, pushing through each day, trying to make it work, and you probably can’t complain to hubby and family back home, especially if you are African – ‘Well you chose to go’.
I call you courageous, I call you strong, and I pray your choices bring you and your family great rewards. I also have a few tips that I think you may find helpful as you navigate your path:
- Continue to make those video calls. Stick with a schedule and do not get discouraged even when your kids are running around rather than just staring you in the face and smiling. Call in the morning and at night, join for devotion, and stay on the call as they get ready for the day or school, to the extent that you can.
I know that time zone differences can be a challenge, but together with your spouse or whomever your kids are with, think about it and come up with an arrangement that works.
we make/have time for who/what we prioritize
Years back, I had a boss whose family lived in Canada. He was the General Manager of a food processing firm, and nobody else in the company was busier than him. Yet it was from him that I learned ‘we always make/have time for who/what we prioritize’. Jagaban (as we dearly called him) often had his iPad positioned on the right corner of his table, with a video call ongoing as we went through our 9-5. They were not always speaking, but he/they was/were there.
This may not work for you, just think of how to be consistently present and stick with it, no matter what.
- You must believe your children love and need you. Many days it won’t feel like it, but they do.
My daughter used to be all around me (gum-body) until a couple of weeks back when I resumed school and began to be less around in the afternoons. She grew so attached to her dad within days; he picked her up from school and cared for her till I returned. She insisted on doing most things with him, and one day when I went to pick her up from school, she kept saying – Daddy? Daddy? Daddy? Daddy? It was so annoying. It was annoying, but I sang her nursery rhymes till we got home. I fed her and changed her clothes. I played with her and did everything she needed her mum to do. Because, she loves me and needs me, whether or not she screams daddy all day.
…you are carved deep within their hearts
Do not take children’s preferences to heart, they mean no harm. You are their mum and you are carved deep within their heart. So keep showing up, even if it is via a video call.
- Pay attention to your relationship with your spouse, (or whomever your kids are with). You want to be sure your children are being reminded of your presence and love, even in your absence. You want to know that they are not being misinformed about you. This is important, as it can either ease your relationship with the kids or make it tough. Nourish this relationship as it is a very crucial one.
…a career does not have to come at the expense of family
One of the best things in the life of a woman (or man) is a spouse who supports her (his) growth and pursuits; because with a person like this, a career does not have to come at the expense of family. A benefit to one is seen as a benefit to all.
- Go home as soon and as often as you get the chance. Do not compare yourself with other people; a single person may choose to save money rather than travel to wherever their family is, but you are different. When money and time intersect, please go home; and if all you have is only a few days, spend it loving them intensely. Get to meet their new friends and teachers, and be intentional about creating memories that make them long for you again.
Give the best there is to give, even virtually
The world is changing whether we like it or not; the impact of globalization is bigger than we know it. How you engage with that change is up to you; your values and priorities. We are having to make tough choices by the day, but don’t beat yourself up over it. Give the best there is to give, even virtually, and I pray God brings you together under one roof again, soon.