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Made in the UK: Being an OFW Mama

I am a mother. a Nanay. a Mum. a Mama. My husband and I were born & raised in the Philippines. Our child was born in the UK. We have moved here for over a decade now and intend to stay here for the foreseeable future. I always knew that being a mother is a tough job regardless of where you are in the world. But being a migrant parent is a different ball game. It presents tougher challenges and at times entails bigger sacrifices. Being an OFW mama changed my perspective towards many things and made me a different person.

Let me share with you how it changed & moulded me.

It made me a Multi-tasker.

I never realised that I have multi-tasking abilities until I became a mom. As an OFW mama, help is limited. Most of us dont have the luxury of having our nanay, tatay, tita, tito or ate to help us raising our child/children. This holds true in our case. My husband and I have to care for our child whilst doing our full time jobs. Because we had more responsibilities and little time for each other, I had to learn how to multi- task from eating whilst feeding my child to attending zoom meetings whilst putting her to sleep. Being migrant parents can also mean more responsibilities, more expenses and less time. Meal planning and batch cooking have been a Sunday activity for us. We felt that we need to become smarter and more efficient when it comes to time.

It made me Dream bigger and better.

When I was still in the Philippines, my perception towards progress is limited. I once dreamt of becoming a doctor. But I knew it was impossible. My parents were already working very hard for me and my sibling to have a decent education. Paying for a medicine degree would be too much for them. And so I did not pursue it and dreamt of something that’s more attainable. My dreams before were based from what my parents make financially. As I moved to the UK, I saw a different side of the world. I saw the greener side. Yes it is still tough here but I saw that there are more opportunities here and your dreams can become a reality. Now as a mama, I see that my child can dream of bigger things than what I had back in the Philippines and this would not be based from our earnings as her parents. Once you are at the age of 5, education is funded by the government. When they reach the age of 18, they can take up apprenticeships which is funded by the government or the employer or complete a degree using government loans or scholarships. Our child has a better chance of becoming who they want to be here in the UK.

It made me brave.

It is common for migrants like us to have fears, after all we are living in a place that’s foreign to us. When I became a mom, admittedly, my fears and worries have doubled. I fear more for my child- How can I make sure that she feels safe and well? How can I teach her to live in a place that’s foreign to me? Will she have language or cultural identity problems? These are the questions in my head that brought a lot of worries and fear. I’m scared that I wont be able to raise my child well in an environment where I am also trying to find my feet. Part of me wanted to go back home where life is familiar. But my husband and I chose to stay and grow our family in the UK and dive to the unknown. Bravery is not the absence or avoidance of fear but it is acknowledging & facing these fears. We chose to face our fears because we wanted better things for our child. And we want to teach our child how to be brave too- we want her to feel that change is okay and so are fears. We want to teach her that sometimes you need to take risks for better things to happen.

It made me more open-minded.

I was raised by a traditional and conservative Filipino family. I was proud of it and wanted to raise my child in the same way. But this changed when I became a mama. I realised that although the traditional Filipino way of parenting worked for me, it may not be ideal for my child. My husband and I had to consider that she is now living in a generation and in an environment different from what we had. For our parenting style to work, being open and accepting to these changes would help, especially for our child. Ultimately, we want her to feel secure of herself and celebrate her being her own self.

It made me appreciate more what I have.

Being an OFW mama entailed a lot of sacrifices but it also gave me a lot of reasons to be thankful for. UK has been kind to us especially during our pregnancy days. Since we are already UK residents, we don’t have to worry about our healthcare expenses— most have been covered by the NHS. I had a difficult pregnancy. I spent the latter part of my pregnancy at the hospital, doing all the checks and making sure that me and our baby are well and safe. It was an emotional ride but NHS has spared me from the financial stress. If we were in the Philippines, we might have spent a significant portion of our savings just for my check ups and hospitalisation.

I am also thankful for our employers. We are privileged to be working for companies that have family friendly policies. My one year of maternity leave gave me an opportunity to be with our child, see her grow and witness her milestones— from her first smile to her first tooth.

Being an OFW mama made me appreciate more my better half. The journey of parenthood from Being pregnant, giving birth to caring for a child in a foreign country is an unfamiliar territory for me. Knowing that I am not doing this alone made me felt confident and reassured.

It made me Less controlling and More forgiving

I am a self confessed perfectionist and control freak. I want things to be orderly and do everything. But when I became a mama, I had to learn how to let go and be more forgiving. I had less time in my hands-I had to care for my child, be a wife, do chores and work. At first, I wanted to do all but learned that I can’t. This just brought me guilt and great deal of stress. I realised that my desire for order and control are not helping me & my family. Slowly, I had to let go and accept that I cannot do everything. I had to learn to forgive myself and accept the little mess and chaos I now encounter daily as a mama.

Related Article: Childcare can be difficult.

I feel that a lot has changed since I moved to the UK, more so since I became a mama. I know changes will continuously happen. My role as a mother will evolve too as my child grows. Each day will be a day of discovery, learning and change. But regardless of those changes, there are things that I will never change- I am & will always be mother. a Nanay. a Mama. a Mum.

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