6 ways my mom changed after becoming an OFW
The overseas Filipino worker (OFW) life is not new to me.
I come from a family of OFWs: my grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins are scattered across the globe, from Canada, the United States, and all the way to countries in Europe.
And my mom, who is a daughter of an OFW herself, took the same path.
Being an OFW isn't a sure recipe for fortune. I've seen OFWs come home either empty-handed or rich. I've met OFWs who brought home success stories, but I've also met OFWs who came home without their arms and legs. I know better than most people that the OFW life is not all glittery. (READ: What they don't tell you about the OFW life)
But almost always, for the OFWs I've met, they come home different people. From their daily habits to their level of confidence, it's quite easy to see the difference.
Perhaps it's because of the everyday struggle of being miles away from home and family, or maybe there's something in the Italian breeze – but I've noticed some changes in my mom after she spent some time abroad. Here is a bit of what I've observed so far:
1. She became social media savvy.
This is perhaps the most obvious change I've seen. Hip as she was before, social media wasn't exactly something she had a good relationship with. Now they're practically best friends.
Ever since she moved to Italy, I've seen my mom post, comment, like, and share on Facebook more than she ever did before. She's online almost 24/7 and my siblings and I are now used to waking up to her messages.
I'd get a video call from her at midnight (afternoon in Italy) so she can show me the exciting new things in front of her. She'd go around a mall or stroll around a park holding up her phone, taking us on a virtual tour.
2. She’s so much more open about her feelings.
My mom and I are really close but we've never been the sentimental types. "I love you" is not something we'd tell each other everyday (it was really quite a rare phrase in our household).
But after some time overseas, our mom, in millennial terms, has become much "cheesier."
She'd tell us how much she misses us and that she's proud of us every time we talk. She’d always ask us how we are feeling. I even saw her cry for the first time in a long time.
I guess being far away from the people you love and staying in unfamiliar territory can really bring out every shred of emotion you have.
3. She's become stingy for herself, and so much more generous for her family.
When she was in the Philippines, my mom loved bags and shoes. Those were her guilty pleasures. But strangely enough, even with the boost in income that came with being an OFW, she's stopped buying what she doesn't need.
In contrast, my siblings and I have been getting so much more than what we actually need – shoes, bags, and clothes. When she's out to shop, it's almost always for me and my siblings. Now that Christmas is coming, I wouldn't be surprised if she's already started to fill up her balikbayan box.
4. She's more vocal about issues in the Philippines.
Before leaving, my mom barely had enough time to worry about anything other than what was happening inside our house. She wasn't really apathetic about current affairs but she wasn't one to waste emotional energy on them.
But now that she's miles away, I'd find her reacting to every piece of news she'd see.
She'd worry about us whenever she hears of bad weather here, or when there's a shooting incident within a 5-mile radius from our home. She'd react to news about national affairs and rants when the economy is not taking a good turn.
Who can blame OFWs for being like this? Living miles away, they tend to worry about home a lot more. In case anything bad happens here, they can't just come home running, after all. The constant feeling of being powerless haunts many OFWs everyday.
5. She initiates more family meetings.
My mom has always been an independent woman. When she was here, we'd barely know about her struggles. She always kept her problems to herself and actually managed to get through them on her own.
Now, every move she makes is a family decision. We'd often have family meetings online to talk about our plans.
Being an OFW has made my mom realize that making sure her sacrifice won't go to waste requires a collective effort. Being stuck far away, my mom has found herself relying on us so much more than ever. In return, we strive to make sure she doesn't have to worry about us at home.
In my mom's absence, my older brother takes charge. All of us now have roles to play.
6. She's superwoman no more.
"If only I can go home now."
I still remember waking up to this message from her. We panicked, of course, but it didn't really take long for our mom to take it back and be her usual self again.
When she says things like this, I'm not really sure what to say. Should I tell her to go home? Should I tell her it will go away? Right now, the only answer I can really commit to is "we're all in this together."
I've always thought that my mom was as strong as a superwoman. She's raised 4 children single-handedly and managed to send us to good schools and provide for everything we need. When she was here, she seemed invincible.
Now, she seems so fragile. My siblings and I always keep her emotional and mental state in check.
Even with this distance, we can see her feeling lonelier and more pressured every day. She's always managed to put up a front of being okay despite everything before. Not anymore.
Seeing her in this state hurts. Being unable to comfort her, more so.
She misses home. She misses us, terribly.
Some things never change
But no matter how much OFWs adapt to their new environment, they will always miss home. Their hope to be able to come home to a better Philippines never fades.
They may see better airports and roads, buy things they never would have been able to buy had they stayed here, and taste food not everyone gets to taste, but their love and longing for their homeland are never gone.
They'd tell you about the beautiful things they see abroad and compare them to what humble things we have in the Philippines, yet at the same time tell you how much they miss it – the heat, traffic, and pollution included.
Months, years, or decades – no matter how long they've been gone, they stay Filipino. They cook sinigang and adobo at home, go to church every Sunday, sing karaoke with friends, and care for their kababayans in need.
But the one Filipino trait that really stays no matter where life takes them – the one we're best known for – is love for family.
My mom may not be here beside me now, but if there's anything I've learned from observing her, it's that there are things that even time and distance can't change – her love for us and our love for her. – Rappler.com
Do you also have an OFW story to share? Send contributions to firstname.lastname@example.org.