Raising a family in an unfamiliar place

“It’s all for the kids’ future.” This is perhaps the top reason given by married Filipino professionals why they took the opportunity to migrate to another country.

It’s a story that Luz Abad, an accountant who has branched out to e-learning and training, knows too well as an Overseas Filipino.

Together with her husband Ramil, she migrated to Canada 12 years ago. When they moved abroad in 2004, they only had three girls. Their little boy was born in Vancouver. With kids aged 20, 16, 14 and 7 years of age, she’s proud to have a family that she says is considered big by today’s standards.

It’s a bonus that her kids are excelling in school and reaping academic honors. Let’s learn from Luz how she’s able to juggle her many roles and responsibilities, especially when they were just starting out.

Luz with her husband, Ramil, and her four wonderful kids (L-R: Lara, Guila, Celine, and Hector)

What made you decide to work and live overseas with your family?

When we were living in the Philippines, we thought Canada would provide more opportunities for our three kids. We had friends who migrated so we decided to try it too. In the Philippines, we were worried about how we could afford to send our kids to university with our meager income then.

Was it a difficult decision for you?

Leaving the Philippines was the hardest decision I have ever made. I am the youngest of ten, so I was leaving behind nine siblings, my parents, 23 nieces and nephews, as well as extended family. Ramil felt the same way. He himself has 6 siblings.

Luz with her mom, dad, and the rest of her family in the Philippines.

Luz with her mom, dad, and the rest of her family in the Philippines.

 What were some of the struggles you had during your first few years abroad?

My major struggle was running the household. I was working full-time back home and was not used to housework. When we got to Canada, I had to do everything. I had to cook, do laundry, clean the house, buy groceries. I went crazy. Ramil was the one working and he was not used to it either. So we both went crazy.

How did your kids adjust?

We were worried about how the kids would adjust, but it turned out that they adjusted so much faster than we adults did. I remember talking to my eldest daughter’s teacher on the first few days of school. I asked about how she was coping in class. The teacher didn’t think we were new in Canada because our daughter was raising her hand answering the teacher’s questions on her first day in school.

I think adults take a longer time adjusting to life abroad because we are used to so many things back home that we can’t get in other countries.

How were you able to overcome the challenges of raising kids overseas?

First let’s talk about the many challenges of raising kids abroad. There is the challenge of not having the help of grandparents, aunts, and uncles in building the kids’ values and character. It’s all on the parents’ shoulders. There is also the challenge of the kids adapting to the culture of the country you are in and forgetting Filipino values and tradition. Plus, the challenge of making sure parents spend time with the kids on top of work and house chores.

It was tough but we just tried our best to raise our kids the only way we know how. We raised them with the Filipino values we know. We tried to show them how to live with faith in God.

What are your tips for mothers starting their families abroad?

Always pray and then listen to your heart, and do the things that you think will be right for you and your kids. Tell your kids how much you love them. Tell them everyday so that whatever good or bad happens in their lives, they know they can come to you and you will still love them.

Sometimes your decisions in raising your kids might not be popular with the group of moms you are friends with but remember that it is you and your kids. You make the decision based on what you think and feel is right.

What are your greatest achievements as an overseas Filipino mom in Canada?

I cannot take all the credit (and blame) for how we have raised our children. I need to share it with my husband and that is one good thing about living abroad. Couples work closer together in raising a family.

Our greatest achievement as parents is that we have raised Filipino kids who believe in God. They are loving, creative, independent kids who can take care of themselves and each other.

What parts of your Filipino identity have you chosen to keep intact in your home?

We ask our kids to say “po” and “opo”. We have raised them to “mano” when arriving and leaving the house and after attending mass. They are not allowed to talk back to us just like how we were raised. We eat together as much as we can. We try to go to church together as often as possible. Our kids help in the house just like we did when we were little.

As an overseas Filipino, what’s your personal definition of “success”?

Happiness is my personal definition of success. I think happiness is the ultimate manifestation of being successful.

What is the best advice/lesson you can give to other overseas Filipinos who want to be successful in their career and family life?

My best advice is to know what you want and know your priorities, and to focus on them. Put your family first and make decisions only after praying for guidance.

It is not where you are raising your kids that matters. What matters is how you raise them wherever you are in the world.

Think of the good Filipino values you want to teach your kids. Think of the good practices in the country you are in. Put them together. This way your kids get the best of both worlds.

Show your kids that you love them. Tell your kids that you love them everyday.