Leaving one’s family behind and moving to distant destinations for professional reasons is not uncommon. Neither is the phenomenon limited to the armed forces. Thousands of Indians move to the UAE, and several other countries, in search of lucrative job opportunities. For those who can’t take their spouse or kids with them, these decisions bring with them a unique set of challenges that affect not only the family, but also the performance of the person who is moving away. Perhaps, this is why the Border Security Force (BSF) personnel at the India-Pakistan border have been granted permission to move their families to their posts.
Rakesh Kumar, a BSF constable, from Uttar Pradesh, became the first jawan to bring his wife and five-year-old son to live with him at the border. A difficult choice Manoj Singh* (54) has been working in Kuwait as a driver for more than two decades. His wife, Archana Singh* (46), takes care of their children in Mumbai, and admits that Manoj’s absence has made her strong. “They have been my responsibility for almost 24 years. It was difficult when our children were young. But now, we have become used to living without Manoj. Thanks to my husband’s good salary, we live a comfortable life here,” she says. Manoj visits his family once every year. But not all such marriages are smooth-sailing. Living away from your family can have various and serious repercussions, points out psychiatrist Gittanjali Saxena. “Living apart could lead to insecurities and fears. In these scenarios, if one partner is not totally loyal and ready for such a relationship, the couple might drift apart. So, there needs to be a conscious effort to stay in touch,” says Saxena.
Stay at home
The other concern in such cases becomes the missing parent’s bond with his or her children. “Because my husband left the country when our kids were young, the children never understood his role in their lives. Initially, they used to ask me where their father was. But as they grew older, they realised that I used to do everything for them. Their father did not matter,” says Archana. Saxena points out that the parent who is taking care of the children needs to be a homemaker to fill this void. “That parent needs to take care of the emotional needs of the kids. This is the only way to make the distance easier for the child,” she says, adding that if both the parents work, it may affect the child’s psyche. “It is the parents’ responsibility to maintain a bond with their kids. This will be beneficial for the mental health of their family,” she says. Relationship expert Vishnu Modi adds, “If the parent who stays with the child doesn’t pay attention to the child’s emotional needs, his or her future can be compromised.”
Get Help from outside
Other family members can also be of great help, says relationship expert Riddhish Maru. “They should talk positively about the parent who is away, and remind the children that their father or mother is away so that they can lead a comfortable life. Children may not understand the reasons initially, but the family members can help instill confidence into them,” he says.
The use of video calling technology, which is slowly becoming more affordable and accessible, can also help address these relationship issues. Alex Pereira (53) works in the UK at an automobile company. He says he keeps in touch with his daughter through Skype. “I’m aware of every little thing that happens in her life. I also guide her at every step,” he says. Maru, too, feels that video calling is a good alternative. “Parents should talk to their kids every day through this medium as they would if they were living with the children. The parent who is living with the child should also share every detail of the kid’s life with the parent who is away. The spouse who lives away should actively share his or her opinions on matters that affect the kids, from their schooling and hobbies to their friends and other problems, if there are any,” adds Maru.
*names changed on request