Allow Dad to be Dad to Your Filipino Child
I did an article on my personal BLOG page recently (my stories about life in Philippines), and it seemed to strike a few chords. The topic was “Fathers Day”, but I expanded it into what it means to be a father and HOW to be a father. Then I shared it on the Down Under Visa Facebook page and the Philippines to Australia Facebook group page because I felt it could be of value to those new Australian Filipina families where an Australian sponsor marries a Filipina single mum, get a Partner Visa from Philippines to Australia and form a new family altogether with a Filipino child or children.
And it got me thinking further about what can stand in the way when there’s a willing new Aussie dad and a new family member arriving in the form of a 10 year old Filipino child. Katybelle or Kashmire Edgar arrives, has some English skills but hasn’t managed to form a close relationship with Steve (new Aussie dad), and his Filipina mum Mharlyn has no firm strategy but wants her child to be happy. What should she do, and what should she NOT do?
A New Dad – A New Relationship with a Filipino Child
Now, I made 6 separate points under the heading of “How to be a dad”. Please read (link above) if you haven’t. One which I think needs expanding on is the following, and it needs the Filipina MUM to understand (Hint! Share this article!):
Make sure that you and your wife/fiancee/partner work as a team. If you undermine each other, kids will soon work out how to play the two of you off against each other. Support each other and back each other up. If you meet a lady who wants you to not get involved in the upbringing of “her kids”? I think I would go so far as to say you should move on! It will be a bad relationship.
Share parenting responsibility
This is one I got right with my wife back when we were still writing letters to each other (ie pre-Partner-Visa). I said that if we were to become a family, we would be a 100% family. None of this “step-parent” stuff! I would be dad and she would be mum. OUR kids, and not “my-kids, her-kids”. And we stuck to that from the beginning. Never allowed ourselves to get possessive and to forget that we were now married.
Not always incredibly easy. Both Mila and myself have had our moments where we’ve felt over-protective. Letting-go doesn’t always flow easily, but you have to do it. You can’t expect a man to love and house and support your child, yet otherwise be a big nobody. And the same applies to a man expecting a woman to love his kids as her own. And that also means making sure the kids know that there are now two bosses!
Agree on cultural issues – Compromise!
By this I mean food and language. Make sure you’re united and you’re doing the same things. You can’t have separate meals, nor can you have secretive conversations in different languages. And no father-child bond will happen if they can’t speak to each other!
Language: You’ve married an English-speaking Australian (in most cases) and you’re intending to live in Australia. From a practical point of view, better your child can communicate well with his new dad, new school friends and with everyone else in the new world in which he will find himself. Languages can be exclusive or inclusive. If you and the child speak Tagalog or your regional dialect in front of new-Dad, you are telling him he doesn’t matter very much! Don’t do it! Maintain the language, sure. Main thing is to understand that talking Tagalog together in front of an English-only speaker is very rude (bastos), and even more so when it’s your husband and now father of your Filipino child.
Food: Apart from the fact that 90%-rice diets are horribly unhealthy, try to agree on food that you all like most of the time. Yes, if you wish to occasionally cook stinky dried-fish at least 1km downwind from the house and to brush your teeth and use Listerine afterwards? Sure. But families share meals together. Form a happy compromise. Kids also thrive and grow healthy on a good Aussie diet. Lots of protein and vitamins from fruit and vegetables! Again, don’t let adherence to Filipino culture drive a wedge between your new family.
Parenting – Discussion and Compromise
There is no “right way” to bring up kids. Much is instinctive and some is cultural. But it should largely come down to what you’re both happy with. Discipline, TV-watching, internet access, friends, time to go to bed, manners, general morality? Talk about it! Speak your mind! Put your thoughts into words, and never expect your spouse to read your mind. And listen to each other! Respect each other’s opinion and rights to have those opinions. And neither have veto-rights over “your child”. Your family is run by two parents! Read this for more help.
Names and Titles?
Mum and Dad! Mama and Papa if you like, although most of the kids at school will say Mum and Dad (not “Mom”) which you need to consider. Don’t use first names and don’t do the “Daddy Steve” thing. The parental respect starts with the two of you. Visibly show each other respect as parents and as absolute life-partners and the child will soon catch on.
I wish you and your new family a long and happy life together!