Samantha “Sam” Catabas Manuel, another mom based in the Middle East, says their family has its own set of challenges, advantages and disadvantages.
As fulltime missionaries for the Couples for Christ (CFC) Middle East Regional Missions Office, Sam and her husband Noli have been abroad for 5 years, calling the United Arab Emirates as their “home away from home” (though they used to do a lot of travelling around the region).
Their only son, Miguel Joaquin, or “Mico,” was born in Dubai in 2008. “For 3 years, this (Dubai) has been his `home’, the country he has gotten to know and adapt to,” Samantha shares.
Actually, living abroad was not part of Sam and Noli’s initial plans as a newly-wed couple. However, the opportunity came when their Catholic community (Couples for Christ Global Mission Foundation) offered them a 2-year mission assignment to the Middle East. “From 2 years, extending another year then another 3 years, mainly due to the expanding and growing work which needed to be accomplished in the region,” she shares.
Sam says that living abroad with one’s kids has its perks. “I get to be a hands-on mom - not dependent on having "yayas" or my mom or any family member physically helping me out. Getting a nanny here in the Middle East is very expensive and requires a lot of paperwork and legalities so most moms opt to be stay-at-home moms.”
“As for me, since my job allows me flexible time and the opportunity to work from home, I personally - and sometimes when my husband has to be away on mission, single-handedly - take care of my son. I got to witness firsthand his development and milestones. I get to monitor what he watches and what he eats, and teach him proper values and discipline early on,” Sam says.
“We are also able to provide food and other basic necessities for our family, even if, economically, Dubai and the other Middle East countries were also not spared from the recession and the cost of living is also becoming higher,” she shares further. “Still, the basic needs are somehow easily affordable here. As parents, being able to provide for the needs of our son is our main priority.”
Much like Sandy and Roxi, Sam also says her child is blessed to have the opportunity to interact with other nationalities. “It builds up confidence,” she explains. “My son doesn't care who he is playing with whenever I bring him to parks or other public places where he gets to interact with other kids. Although his best buddy is a Filipino his age, he is confident to play with other nationalities as well.”
With these benefits also come some difficulties. “One of these is being away from our extended families (grandma, grandpa, uncles, aunts) who can support me in taking care of my son so I can also maximize myself more at work. Plus the moral and emotional support they can give us, having them around to talk to for parenting insights. Even though we have friends and people from the CFC community around, I still miss the presence of family and the lack of opportunities for my son to build relationships with them.”