Moving overseas has been one of the most arduous decisions of my life. When children are involved, situations can get precarious. Let’s face it ladies/gents, it’s not about you anymore. As single parents, our children become our priority, focus and motivation. They truly become a product of who we are. Therefore, it’s crucial to make sure they are cultivated in the appropriate environment.
When I received confirmation of my current teaching position here in the UAE, I was filled with anxiety. Most singles with no children were euphoric thinking “Wow, I’ll be moving to another country” while most married families reciprocated likewise feelings. I, on the other hand, felt anxious and very apprehensive when I discussed the move with my son’s father. He immediately disagreed on the idea of moving our son to the UAE or anywhere else abroad for that matter and said that he wanted him to stay in the US to live with him.
Of course, being stubborn, I was totally against it. “What you mean you don’t want to expose our son to other parts of the world, immerse him in this different culture and change his global perspective,” I said. We battled over this grueling decision for weeks in court, fighting for what we both thought was the best choice for Christion. In the end, the judge saw that it would be a great chance for Christion so he granted permission for removal from the country so that my son could experience living overseas with the understanding that I obliged with the compulsory visitation schedule during the summer and winter breaks.
Moving forward, a year and a half later, I question whether or not bringing my son to the UAE was the best decision after all for a few reasons.
Since living abroad, Christion has had boundless exposure and experiences that will enlighten him for a lifetime. Most black boys his age have not had the opportunity to experience this advantage, leaving him in a position that will enhance his social relationships, global perspectives and views of who he is in a world that is not openly accepting of him. Fortunately, from his international exposure, he has made meaningful friendships with boys and girls alike from at least 5 different continents, picked up a little Arabic and is now considered a world traveler, visiting places such as Thailand, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Oman, Qatar and the UK! Since the UAE is considered an overseas melting pot, he has now become knowledgeable about other cultures, tried various delicacies and can tell you a bit about what a traditional Emirate dance is. Yes, I am a proud mama and am confident that this exposure has added value to his life. With that being said, Christion literally has the world before him and it is my motherly duty to expose him to the boundless opportunities this world has to offer.
On one hand, I also take into consideration that we live in a world that doesn’t necessarily accept him for who he is. On the other hand, I recognize how this exposure can also become extremely beneficial for his overall growth as a black man in this world. I want to help him rise above the ignorant misunderstandings and shine bright as possible to influence, inspire and motivate other young black boys to do the same. You must constantly tell your children that they can do ANYTHING they set their minds to so that they can make an unbelievable mark in this world while remaining vigilant of God’s purpose in their lives. From this perspective, being considered a “global man” in the making, I think I made a very rational decision when I initially considered moving my son with me to the UAE.
However, a year and a half later…I see things quite different.
Since moving my son overseas, he has been faced with extreme separation anxiety from his father. I have never seen my child in such a vulnerable and emotional state as I have now in terms of being away from his family, especially his dad. It breaks my heart to see my child cry or suffer on account of missing home. In my defense, as I previously mentioned, exposing my child to another side of the world was my primary reason for wanting to bring him along. As a single mother, I am completely aware of the benefits of having both parents in the household. Therefore, making sure your child has a comfortable, open and flexible relationship with both parents is admissible. Now that I’ve witnessed Christion’s anxiety toward not being able to see his dad regularly, it really makes me think if this was in his overall best interest.
I also look at the entire situation from a community standpoint. Back home, my family was always involved with Christion. Most of the time, I really didn’t see my son, except on weekdays. I didn’t feel like a genuine single parent because my mom, dad, sisters, cousins, friends, etc would always offer to babysit or entertain him on the weekends when I needed a break. In addition to that, every other weekend was time spent with his dad. This is great because not only did my son have his dad around him, he also had siblings to play with in the household, unlike my current home situation. I believe this is very important for socialization, emotional development and self esteem. My son is a very family centered child, thriving around his “people” and always wanting to be in the presence of familiarity. I am the same way so being here has been very difficult in terms of coping…alone. So as I consider all these options, I ponder on whether or not removing him from the comfort of family, especially at this age, was the most optimal thing to do. What if I waited until he was a teenager? Would that be best? What if I didn’t take him at all? Would he be who he is today?
In addition to the whole separation anxiety thing, the UAE, in my personal opinion, is not the best place to raise black children. Separate from the fact that there is a large African-American presence, it doesn’t really appreciate or support African/African-American culture. When you are out in public, you never see a person of color represented in media, books or other social outlets other than activities created by African Americans living here who have also recognized the deficiency. Additionally, I still find this place very close-minded and prejudice in terms of pre-conceived notions about African Americans in general, especially boys. A lot of times, I personally don’t feel comfortable being out in public so I know that energy rubs off on Christion. He has been faced with more adversity here than ever before, simply being who he is. This, however, is important to see since it’s not best to shelter your children from reality, however, not having that support system really makes a difference when experiencing certain obstacles. Overall, in hind sight, I personally feel it is not a conducive environment for a single black mother raising a black boy.
So, after analyzing this, I realize that I made the best decision I could have made with the facts and opportunities that were in front of me at that time in my life. I had no idea what I was getting myself into and how it could ultimately affect my child. Now, I have truly experienced firsthand the complexities involved with removing my only child from a family centered home environment.
My recommendation for single mothers considering relocation overseas is to follow your intuition and be totally honest with yourself and your child. Be very cognizant of the potential intricacies involved in removing your child from their country of origin when another parent is actively involved and the potential effect it can have on them. If siblings are also involved in the move, the situation may be more adaptable for them because they have each other for support. It’s always great to have all the components together (father, immediate family, distant family, etc) because it influences a very positive social and emotional development for your child. This is something that I really didn’t take into consideration until it was experienced. Now, I’m saying all this to say that the UAE has influenced these perspectives. Rightfully so, another place maybe a more favorable fit. I have definitely considered other places that I feel would be more accepting, friendly and culturally sensitive for Christion’s overall acquisition.
Either way, I am confident that whatever you decide, you will make the right decision. Sometimes, we don’t realize the situation is right until we step out on faith, take a chance and actually complete the task. This, my friend, is apart of life.
Comment if you have something you’d like to share on this topic or would like to hear more about my experiences living abroad as a single mother of color!!!
Until next time, be blessed!