Together apart

A migratory lifestyle is not easy. We attempted it five years ago. For a time, we had a high standard of living in some respects, but the emotional impact was too great for it to be sustainable in the long term.

My wife and children were settled in a lovely spacious apartment, with easy access to schools, amenities and the sea. I, meanwhile, had to come and go, spending weeks and sometimes months apart from them. Those frequent international flights were trying for me, but I got used to them. However, for my family that separation was devastating. Unbeknownst to me, every time they waved me off for my four-hour-long bus journey to the nearest airport, it broke their hearts.

My wife then was effectively a single-parent, charged with all childcare responsibilities, taking on all the stresses of raising children. Me? I just had to send money back to them to cover our living costs, calling daily via Skype. While together, we lived a good life in lovely surroundings, but the migratory lifestyle had a toll on our health and wellbeing. While away, my beloved developed serious health problems, largely caused by stress. We were both beset with loneliness while apart. The children loved their life there, of course, but they missed their dad terribly.

Eventually we had to make a decision. To choose family over wealth. Despite settling there and living the good life — enjoying a much higher standard of living than we are used to here — we realised we had to sacrifice all of that for the sake of our family, relationship and children. I did not want our children growing up without a dad. I realised it was not fair on my wife, to keep on disappearing every few months to return to work.

So it was that we returned to our little house and our modest lifestyle. Much to their annoyance, our children returned to their English schools. Our son returned to his tiny bedroom. In comparison to our life over there, we were living a modest lifestyle again: back in our working class neighbourhood, making do. We left a good life behind when we returned, but it was the right decision. We sacrificed the apparition of wealth and comfort for the happiness of each other.

To be a migrant is difficult. Migrants make immense sacrifices to build better lives for their families, but it often comes at an immeasurable cost. Yes, their children may live a life of material comfort with better access to educational opportunities than their parents, but the emotional impact of an absent father-figure can be devastating. The damage to a partner left behind may never be repaired. We learnt that the hard way.

So here we are, back where we started. Poorer, but together, recognising that we were poorer still apart.

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