BY MERLISA BISCOCHO
I had an interesting conversation with a friend, Jordan, about the challenges of having to provide for family and plan a future for ourselves. I realized that so many OFWs are bread winners for their own families and thought I'd share the letter that I wrote to him.
They say that we belong to the Sandwich generation. We're tasked to take care of our elders and we also want to plan for our future, may that be our own families, higher education, or just items on life's bucket list. I know that desperate wish to have enough so you can do both or all of these. And like you, I've gone through a plethora of drama-- cursed the fates, thought that I lucked out in the lottery of life, felt stuck.
I perceive some resentment towards your parents for finding themselves without retirement savings and being dependent on you. You may blame globalization, the government, or even your parents' faith in industries that they will always prosper. May I gently caution you that finger pointing does not pay the bills. I encourage you to spend a little time to acknowledge the unfairness of it all. But after that, the only time you're going to look back is to understand the mistakes committed and to do your best not to make the same.
You told me that the financial support you provide to your parents prevents you from saving for a future wedding. To be a generous son is a blessing and an honor. But you have to ask yourself: are you giving this willingly or are you doing it out of guilt?
For most of our lives, we've gotten used to running to our parents if we're in trouble. It's disconcerting that this time, they turn to us. It took me a couple of years to wrap my head around the idea that sons and daughters, like us, are asked to shoulder such a huge responsibility by the very people who we've always believed will rescue us from any problem.
We may be sons or daughters, but we're also adults. Discern this decision by yourself and for yourself. If you do decide to support them, allow me to give this advice: give what you can whole-heartedly part with. If you give more than you are willing, then you may secretly resent them if you find yourself with less than enough funds. If you give less, then you may resent yourself when they are less than comfortable. You can revise the budget, cut spending, set up investments, and finally arrive at a figure and hatch a plan. But the most important step is to know with certainty that you're willing.
And if you do walk away, I know that you have decided to do so after careful consideration and acknowledging the probable consequences. Trust that I will be the last person to judge and I will continue to support you, whatever your decision will be.
If you've decided, have an open and honest conversation with your family. No promises of a teary, feel-good round of hugs (but you might be surprised, too). But, I think you owe it to them to set their expectations and to let them know where you're coming from. If you cannot give them all of the material things that they ask, then at least give them the honesty and faithfulness of a loving son. If you feel like setting conditions or asking other siblings to help, I encourage you to do so. This is a family affair, after all. I hope and pray that your family's long years of togetherness have fostered a love that can weather this challenging times.
Lastly, I admire your resolve to iron out these problems before going into a serious, life-long commitment such as marriage. Though she seems to be bothered by your seemingly lack of plans, the fact that you are taking steps to have a financially-stable future belies her suspicions. What seems to be sacrifices now can result to a better family life in the future. She may need to be assured that you're also doing this for your future together (that's always a nice thing to hear) and share with her your plans and how you're progressing.
I empathize with your situation. I've long envied peers whose only barrier to taking chances is their willingness to jump head on. No monthly bills to worry about, no need to leave the country to earn more, some can even afford to quit their jobs and spend some time searching for or pursuing their passions. Rightfully or not, I had also envisioned the same things for myself a lifetime ago (It feels that way, but really, it has just been a decade). I comfort myself with the thought that we have our own crosses to bear and this is mine. In the process, I learned to live with so much less materially, but have learned to treasure those that you can have with or without money: the loyalty and understanding of friends, the thrill of experiencing and learning something new, the familiarity and comfort of family who have known me all my life.
Last Christmas, I treated my family to a simple holiday that's usually out-of-range of our budget (I saved for it the whole year). My parents never really asked for it, but I know it's something that they've always wanted. We were happy just spending time with each other, exchanging stories, laughing together. My Mom and Dad quietly approached me and thanked me for this gift. To hear so much gratitude in their voice--two of the kindest, loving, most honest and generous people I know--filled my heart with humility and joy. At that moment, I understand how a burden has turned into a blessing, and how that blessing has brought me so much honor. I hold on to this feeling, and I carry on.
I pray that in time, you will be at peace with the decision that you will make.