The Dilemma of Overseas Parenting!

2 Mons Ago
The Dilemma of Overseas Parenting!

By: Kidist Yidnekachew

Over the past few years, there has been a noticeable shift in the behavior of Ethiopians, particularly parents (mothers), who are driven by economic aspirations and choose to migrate to Arab countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and other locations in the Middle East. As a result, they often leave their children behind in the care of family members.

The primary motivation behind these decisions is the desire to send financial support back home, ensuring a better future for their offspring. However, amidst these circumstances, there are poignant stories that shed light on the emotional toll and developmental impact experienced by the children left behind.

One such story is that of Saba, who faced a difficult decision seventeen years ago when her son was just nine years old. She contemplated leaving him in the care of relatives to pursue better economic opportunities in the Middle East, with the intention of sending financial aid back home to provide a higher standard of living for her child. However, her son's heartfelt plea and emotional reaction changed the course of her plans. He cried and begged her to stay, even going as far as threatening to run away if she left him behind. He expressed that he would rather live in a small, shabby house with her than in a luxurious mansion without her presence.

Touched by her son's unwavering love and devotion, Saba decided to cancel her plans and remain with him. Despite the challenges they faced, such as her son occasionally going without lunch at school to alleviate his mother's stress, they persevered together. Saba, who sells coffee, shared her story with me over a cup of coffee, and I was deeply moved by her experience. She expressed her gratitude for having such a remarkable son and stated that all her prayers had been answered when he recently graduated from university few months ago.

The decision of the mother to stay by her son's side is something that he deeply appreciates and acknowledges. He openly admits that he would rather face financial difficulties and have his mother's support than lead a more comfortable life without her presence. This heartfelt revelation sparks an important discussion about the impact on children when they are raised by family members instead of their biological parents, even when financial resources are plentiful.

Numerous psychological studies emphasize the crucial role of parental presence in a child's emotional and cognitive development. Attachment theory, which was pioneered by John Bowlby, highlights the significance of a secure emotional bond between parents and children during the crucial early years. Children who receive consistent emotional support from their primary caregivers tend to develop stronger self-esteem, healthier relationships with others, and better emotional regulation skills.

On the other hand, children who are separated from their parents may encounter difficulties related to attachment insecurity, anxiety, and struggles in forming meaningful connections with others. Other studies also suggest that children who experience prolonged separations from their primary caregivers may exhibit higher levels of stress, behavioral problems, and emotional distress.

The absence of parental involvement can also have a negative impact on a child's educational achievement. The lack of maternal presence has been linked to reduced educational engagement and poorer academic outcomes. Similarly, research has found that children who have absent fathers are more likely to face academic challenges and have higher rates of school dropout.

Another tale unfolded, recounting the journey of a woman who, like the previous one, entrusted her beloved son's upbringing to her caring sister. The sister, being kind and loving, ensured that the son received a good education. The mother, working for wealthy individuals overseas, would send him ample money. However, despite his aunt's strictness, the boy would often find a way to sneak out of the house to indulge in partying and drinking. It is uncertain how his life would have turned out if he had been living with his mother. Would he still have been mischievous and rebellious? When I learned that he had gotten into a fight and now suffers from physical impairment, my heart broke. I couldn't help but feel that his mother would have somehow protected him if she had been there, or perhaps not receiving such a large sum of money regularly could have saved him from feeding his addictions. Maybe it was destined to happen, and whatever occurred in the boy's life was meant to be, regardless of his mother's presence. Nevertheless, I can't help but wonder how different his life would have been if she had been by his side.

This comparison between financial stability and emotional well-being raises important questions about the choices parents make and the impact it has on their children's lives. While providing financial support is important, they must also prioritize the emotional well-being of their children. These narratives serve as a poignant reminder that the psychological welfare of our young ones should never be compromised in the pursuit of material wealth. They ignite a profound introspection into the essence of our cultural ethos and the significance we attach to our children's happiness, compelling us to reevaluate the very definition of a gratifying and opulent existence for them.


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