How much sacrifice is too much sacrifice?

It’s no secret.  Life in Lebanon is expensive..and.. let’s be real..salaries are shit..

I’m reminded of this almost on the daily.. as I tally and re-tally my expenses versus my budget, taking into account all of the unforeseen costs that have creeped up on me that month..trying in vain to find a way to save.  (If you know anything about my..I’m a compulsive saver..and planner..amongst other things.)

All this to say, I know firsthand that it’s ALMOST impossible to ‘make it’ in Lebanon without the support (both financial and emotional) of your family.  Hence why most people live at home till their married, come to work with home cooked food..depend on their family to help them with practically everything..etc etc..

But we know all of this already, right?..and we know about the resultant brain drain this hard-to-accept actuality has caused.  What was the latest figure? 4 million Lebanese in Lebanon, and 20 million abroad?  Yeah, there’s a reason for that.  And I understand it.  If I was a Lebanese male with no prospects for growth in Lebanon, who didn’t come from a privileged family, I would’ve hopped on a plane the day I received my university diploma.

Brain Drain Lebanon

Lebanon suffers from some serious brain drain.. (While we're on the topic, can anyone explain to me WHY the wages haven't been raised to account for the rising cost of living in Lebanon..and who is responsible for this? Is it the Minister of Finance?)

But alas, I digress.  The point of this post was not to point out the obvious, but rather..to delve a bit deeper into another issue I have a lot of questions about: the increasing number of mothers/wives and children who are staying behind in Lebanon while fathers/husbands go abroad to work in Eastern Europe, Africa, and the Gulf.

Now, I’m well aware that this isn’t the case for everyone in Lebanon, but more and more..I’m meeting people who live with this reality, and have done so since they were very young.  I’ve even encountered some people who were raised entirely by their grandparents while their parents toiled away in the Gulf.  (I can name about 15 people off of the top of my head who fall into one of these two categories.)  And while I think that this is an admirable move which requires a tremendous amount of sacrifice..I can’t help but think..what’s the point of having a good “material” quality of life (most of the people who fall into these categories are amongst some of the wealthier people I know) without the emotional love/support/presence of BOTH of your parents?  (No, the ever-present extended family doesn’t count here.)

Not to mention how this affects both adults involved.  What type of life is it to live away from the one you love..the one you married?  I sure as hell couldn’t do it.  If my husband and I didn’t have the financial means to provide for children I, 1. wouldn’t have children or 2. would move my family to wherever my husband/I got a great job that would allow us to provide for our family.  Plain and simple.

Where am I going with this?

Well, as my generation “comes of age” so to speak..I’m interested in knowing how you all feel about the topic.

Men, would you be ok with leaving your family behind while you work abroad, or would you insist that they come with you?

Women, would you be ok with staying behind while your husband works abroad, or would you insist that you and your children go with him?

Family life in Beirut

How much sacrifice is too much sacrifice?

36 Comments

Filed under life in Lebanon

36 responses to “How much sacrifice is too much sacrifice?

  1. The only reason I’m staying in Lebanon is because I can’t leave my family.. I’m the only supporter.. They are old and their age is not sitable to travel and leave abroad. otherwise, I want to find another job in another country.

  2. didielb

    great article on a harsh reality… but i have to say things can be upside down too. let me explain. my dad is lebanese and i live in france. he lived here for 30 years and suddenly decided to go back to lebanon. he was home-sick. but unfortunately, he left my mom, my bros and i behind him. now don’t get me wrong, seeing my dad twice a year is heartbreaking, i live with this constant feeling of missing him, sometimes it just brings me down fajatan. but i also know that my dad needed this. he was just a ghost of himself in france.
    now, for experiencing this situation every single day of my life since too long, i, for sure, woudn’t choose this solution. when i get married, if my husband has to leave, i’ll go with him, bringing my children. your home is where your family is, even if my family would be reduced to its very light substance. i would never separate my family even if it means leaving my country. my children wouldn’t live without their father, and as u said kids need the love of both of their parents.
    now chapeau bas for this article, even if it made me feel a lil bit nostalgic about back when my family was gathered in one country😉🙂

  3. ritakhoury11

    This post really touched me .. thank you. I moved with my parents to the Gulf loooong time ago and we stayed as a family and supported each other, which is the most important thing for me. And when i had to go to Lebanon and live with my grandparents to do my BA , i felt that no way i can live without my parents and their emotional support so now i am back with them, its not easy to be away from lebanon but its a lot easier than being away from my family! I would never leave my family and later on my husband and kids!

  4. This isn’t a new situation and peaked during during the 1975-1991 civil war when a lot of people had no choice but to move away to work, me included in 1985. I left a sick and dependent mother behind, but it was either that or starve. So there are very tough choices to make for families. Sometimes it is the only way. Also, in many cases, when the family owns a home in Lebanon or are on an old rent, it is much cheaper to leave them at home and go work.
    This is not a problem that is only Lebanese. My brother has worked in and around oil fields for the past 35 years and has always had to leave his wife and children in London while he went to forsaken countries where it was too dangerous to have the family with him.
    In many cases it boils down to where you can make enough money to pay the rent, the school fees, the university fees….
    It’s difficult, sad, but…🙂

    • Thank you for the comment Mich..you bring a whole new perspective to my argument. Sometimes very touch choices have to be made in order to support the ones we love most. Thank you for sharing you and your brother’s experiences. I too have an Uncle who works on an oil rig..it’s not an easy life, but it pays really well. And after doing it for 20+ years, I don’t think you can imagine yourself doing much else.

  5. dont sacrifice, get out of the ordinary, look for the positive, and be a real entrepreneur. life is full of opportunities, we need to take them them. i am not trying to show that i can and no one else can, I only want to disclose that i believe in what my dad once told me. he said if once you have no money, get a box of tea bags, for 10 dirhams, by cups, and some suger and hot water and sell tea for a dirham on the streets, you will multiply your money ten times. believe me guys, it does work. i hate it when people set in a cafe, with the legs crossed and the argeela in the mouth and say that life is tough. life is of course tough for those that think money falls from the sky. i believe that you work hard, you get it, you dont you wont.

  6. Would never leave me family…would definitely move to another place where we can be together.

    Great topic!

  7. 25 years ago, my dad sent us with our mom to Lebanon so that we “don’t lose our identity”. He apparently was aghast of my broken Arabic (my third language as a kid) and that was what pushed him to send us.

    He visited us twice, even three times a year for luxurious 1 month periods, but I still found something missing. Soow It’s my turn, and, unlike my brothers, I don’t have the intention of sending my son to Lebanon any time before university.

  8. Loved the article Danielle! Just had to share it on facebook. I had to be raised as a Gulf kid as well so I guess I’m addition to your list hehe

    • Thanks Sareen! I’m so surprised at how many of my Lebanese friends were raised in the Gulf..or whose parents lived/worked in the Gulf at one point in time or another.. A testament to what I wrote here.

  9. Tal

    First of all, I really have to say that I adore your blog and am a constant reader. Second of all, you really described my life story with this post so I felt compelled to comment. My father has been working in Saudi Arabia for the past 25 years and when he married my mom, she went there and lived for a while, had me and my sister- I even attended school for some time there.
    But they both felt that the education in Saudi Arabia wouldn’t be as helpful as that in our home country, Lebanon, so we moved back and my father was supposed to come back six months after us. That was when I was six years old. I’m 20 now and I’m about to graduate with a BS and my father is still in Saudi Arabia.
    I only see him for a total of two months, one where he comes and one in the summer where all the family goes to Saudia. I admit, it’s not the way anyone should grow up but we manage.
    I have to say though that I feel closer to him than ever because we’re always in contact and I know that whenever I need him, he’s there though not physically.
    Based on that, I don’t think I will want to put my kids through that but you never know what happens.

    • Thanks for sharing your story Tal. It’s a hard choice to make,,and I understand that! I just think that it’s such a shame that parents have to live and work abroad in order to ensure that their children are receiving the best education possible. But it’s also proof of just how much parents are willing to sacrifice for their children..and that is a beautiful thing!

      Thankfully for the internet, it’s relatively easy to keep in touch with people who are abroad..(I don’t know how else I would be able to handle being so far away from my family)..but there are days, and many of them, when the internet is not enough to fill that nagging void.

      Keep reading Tal, and thanks for stopping by.. ;D

  10. JD Wyllie

    I liked your blog today.

    The way I see it, families are stronger -and better – together rather than apart. So in order to give your family the best chance for happiness, it has to stay together. This is especially true is the husband & wife/father & mother bond, which are the foundation for the rest of the family. Because the truth is no matter how hard you try, such a sustained separation (years) puts you in so much danger of not making it due to the two people growing apart.

    Love is hard enough without subjecting it to that. And personally, as a man who’s going to be a husband & a father: I want to see my wife’s face everyday. I want to hug my kids everyday. I want to do all the corny/crazy/responsible/loving things that husbands & dads do. Anniversaries, first steps, birthday parties, karate classes, dance practice, proms, family vacations & everything else. And I always want my wife & kids to know that I’m there for them, not in some abstract way, but in the here & now. And after I’m gone, I want them to remember me as someone who they always loved them, b/c I was always right there proving it to them… And I can’t do that from hundreds of miles away.

    Anyway, that’s just my take, but like I said, I liked it.

  11. My siblings and I were all born and raised in the Gulf – when my parents decided to move us here, their reasoning almost similar to the of Mustapha’s, my father stayed behind because there were no jobs for him here.

    He comes to Lebanon around 3 times a year to see us if we are lucky. Although we were given a great life, we grew accustomed to it without our father in it. When he is here, we tend to make our own decisions without his opinion or approval about them. We don’t intentionally cut him out of our lives, it is just that we know he is not here for more than the usual 10 days.

    That is the problem with families living apart, members become strangers or guests in the house that they should be able to call a home. If it comes down to me, I would have preferred to stay with my father and have him send each of us to boarding schools – at least that way we could have seen him more.

    • Many of my friends whose fathers live abroad tell me that whenever they come home, it’s always so awkward having them around. Almost as if they’re a stranger (exactly what you said) in their own house!.. Imagine that.. You spend your entire life working to provide for a family that considers you a stranger! That’s just sad. 😦 I hope something can and will be done to change this reality.

  12. Thank you for this post, I am impressed by your deep knowledge of our situation and society…well this is a very controversial situation and no one can find the best solution, each case has its own characteristics…as for me I would never marry someone and leave her with the children and go abroad…It’s no longer a family in this case…what is the point of building a family remotely? If I want to stay abroad I’ll build my family there and then see how things will work…

    As for rising the wages, it’s the result of a complete governing system that worked since the end of the civil war…it’s never the responsability of one minister, it’s the responsability of the system that was build to eliminate what we call middle class. So the rich class is getting more money and the poor people are getting poorer…and it’s simple: when the lebanese are poorer, the system can control them easier and buy them easier

    • I completely agree with your point. What’s the sense in getting married if you’re going to leave your spouse and your child behind? I just don’t see the sense in it and think it’s no way to live!! I truly hope that there will be reform in the government (wishful thinking I know) taking into account this bleak reality that many Lebanese face.

  13. Patrick

    ” If my husband and I didn’t have the financial means to provide for children I, wouldn’t have children ”

    I am curious, do you or your readers know any Lebanese who think that way? Even entertain the idea of getting married and not have children?

    To almost everyone I know, when you get married you start making children no need to think about it. Young or old, rich or poor educated or not.

    • You know what, you’re absolutely right. I thought about that when I wrote that sentence. In Lebanon, marriage = children..even if you can’t afford them. The two are definitely not mutually exclusive.

  14. What a great topic.

    I find it kind of sad how much of a reality this is for many Lebanese but the fact is that parents have to choose. For some parents, ensuring they provide material is VERY important. Mind you, many of our parents either had us during the war or just lived through it, for them, they don’t want to see the same lack of material in their lives that they had to suffer during the war. They want us to be happy and to have everything. I think its more important to them than emotional love.. being something thats not valued and something that, potentially, many parents do not see how much its needed in a child’s life- heck even as older individuals, parents love and support is necessary.

    I don’t blame parents for any choices they make. Simply, there is no right choice or answer. To see how many Lebanese bloggers (alone) have faced this kind of situation, to me, speaks of one thing… how much privilege many bloggers have in other aspects of their lives because their parents made that sacrifice (Potentially, they wouldn’t even think to blog if they weren’t). Some parents only dream to go away and do something… and some kids dream their parents could provide what other parents can.

    Sometimes, here in Canada, though I’ve spent most my life here (and yes my situation is different because my parents are here)… I feel a sense of loss and disconnect. Generally, I’m home-sick and don’t feel like Canada is my home. I don’t know if its the cold weather or the stage I am in my life but when I sit to discuss with my parents why I need to leave ASAP, I feel a sense of guilt.. I think sometimes I make them feel bad for the choice they made to come to Canada- for them they only wanted us to have a better life and I have had that. I’ve grown to be a woman I could never be in Lebanon. Parents only make the choices they do for their kids- sometimes there’s a little loss in the big picture and maybe all this material in our lives is not worth it.. but its easier said then done and we are speaking from a privileged position where we have material that in many instances , we take for granted.

    Hope that makes sense😛

  15. Youssef Chaker

    Alright, before I actually talk about the topic specific to the Lebanese situation, I want to point out that this issue manifests itself in many different ways. Think of all the wealthy/rich people in the world, I bet you the majority of the kids coming from these rich families have daddy issues, specifically daddy not being there issues. And we’re talking here about families that actually live under the same roof, but who still struggle with achieving the balance between family and income/work. So, to me the questions Danielle proposes could be expanded beyond just working abroad, but to also include sacrificing your relationship with your family by working long hours for the benefit of a bigger income. The situation in Lebanon, where men travel abroad for work, is a subset or a different manifestation of the bigger problem.

    I, personally, did not live that exact same situation but many of my close friends and some of my cousins did go through it. And the reasons are usually similar (which have been pointed out by some of the earlier comments): civil war or economic situation pushes the bread winner of the family to seek opportunities elsewhere, at that time many of the places that provided these opportunities did not provide ideal situations to raise the children in (whether to dangerous like some countries in Africa, or not yet developed education as the case of some gulf states) so the family was faced with hard choices to make and each family took the path it found was best of it (keep the family together, send the kids and the mother back to Lebanon, send the kids to be raised by grandparents or uncles/aunts, etc).

    I would argue that in the case of most of these families, the choices were very limited. The case is different today since most of the gulf countries have made progress on many fronts, including education. So it’s easier to say I would keep my family together because I’d be able to send my kids to good schools, use skype or gchat to communicate with family members all over the world, etc. All of which were not possible back when our parents’ generation was going through this. I still remember my mom writing hand written letters to my aunts who lived in the KSA. So I guess I just wanted to give credit to the older generation for sacrificing some key things for what they believed was the right thing to do for their families.

    Having gone abroad for college, I know that I would try my best not to put myself in a situation where I would be separated from my family. My wife will have to fight really hard to get rid of me😉 and I will be involved in every aspect of my kids’ life and also try to embarrass them whenever I can😛

  16. jimmy

    Another awesome post Danielle ! I’m glad that you’re understanding our society and helping us to evolve.

  17. A Voice from NY

    I know a number of people who were once or currently are in this situation . . . usually it’s ‘Daddy works and lives in New York while Mommy & the kids are in Lebanon and Daddy visits the family every few months for a few weeks’. Personally, I’ve never agreed with the situation but it’s not my place to judge. Many of these families have made their decisions based on several factors . . . quality & cost of living . . . environment . . . and education (to name a few).

    Everytime I’ve engaged the families in a conversation about this topic, the responses are usually the same . . .

    – it’s too expensive to live in New York.
    This is true – if you have enough money to buy a home and pay a mortgage, then you’ll be comfortable. But that doesn’t include all other cost factors = utilities, food, clothing, etc. Your other option is to rent an apartment and most NY apartments aren’t that large and generally will run you at least $800 a month for a 1 bedroom which isn’t condusive to a family. Most of these families in question own a home or an apartment in Lebanon so that helps cut that cost from their lives. Generally, most of these fathers who decide to stay in NY, will share an apartment with another Lebanese Father in the same situation so they split the rental and utility costs.

    – Overall cost of living is cheaper in Lebanon by comparison
    Also true (especially when Daddy sends the bulk of his paycheck to the family). Yes, New York is home to some of the greatest shopping experiences and yes, this is one of the best places to hunt down a bargain but by comparison, an American Dollar goes farther in Lebanon than it does in New York. The same can be said of food and school supplies. Plus it doesn’t hurt that Daddy can go to Marshall’s or TJMaxx and load up on stuff for the wife & kids before visiting.

    Education
    Most of these families feel that a Lebanese Education is better than an American one. In all honesty, I’m not in a position to comment on this aspect but I will say that most of these families ultimately move back to New York when it’s time to hunt for colleges & universities because they claim that sending their child to a CUNY school is definately cheaper than sending them to AUB and most feel that if the kids have a diploma from an American College, it’ll open more doors for them (internationally).

    The Culture & Family
    At the end of the day I think this is the core of the situation (for those in NY at least) although I haven’t been able to get anyone to admit it. I keep hearing the same (passionate) argument from these families . . . “we don’t have a large community of Lebanese ‘families’ in New York and we don’t have members of our extended family here so it makes most sense to have the kids raised around other cousins, aunts, uncles, etc.” That sounds great but what many continue to say is “this is a different culture from us and we want our kids raised the way we were . . . around other people like us who speak the same language and share our history”. There! That’s what I think the core of the debate is (at least where it comes to the families divided between NY & Lebanon). The fear of your kids losing their culture, language and heritage by being raised in a foreign land. Idk, personally speaking, I will agree with all the other points these families make, but once they bring up this last point, it really gets under my skin. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m the daughter of immigrants who was born & raised in New York with no other cousins around me and my parents managed to keep our culture, history, heritage and language alive with me & my siblings. Maybe that’s why I don’t agree with this particular argument because to me it seems to be rooted in fear of other ethnicities.

    Ultimately, it is a difficult decision these families face and whatever factors they use to make their decision is what’s relevant to them, but I can’t help but sympathize with the kids. I know from my conversations with these kids how much they miss their dads and how much they wish they could either move to NY to be with Dad or that Dad could move back to them. Yeah, they have Skype, Facebook, email, etc. that enables them to keep in touch, but its still not the same as having your Dad around day-to-day.

    Maybe it’s because of my husband’s experiences that makes me disagree with this living situation. My husband was one of those same kids. His father worked in the Gulf while the rest of the family was in Beirut. I’ve asked hubby about it and his biggest regret in life has been the fact that he and his father were never close. He blames the dettachment from Dad to the fact that Dad was only around a few weeks every year. They never had a chance to bond like a father and son should. Yeah, hubby thought it was cool that all his friends envied him for having the newest electronic gadgets (couresty of Dad) but being the first kid in the ‘hood with a color TV didn’t fill the void left by an absentee father. Hubby was raised in Beirut during the Civil War and eventually came to NY to continue his education. His father moved back to Lebanon only after my husband left Lebanon. They now see eachother every 2 years. 😦 I always wonder if the sacrifice my father-in-law made was worth it.

    At the end of the day, I sincerely hope these families take into consideration what their decisions may do to their kids and their relationships with their kids.

  18. The comment Tal left could seriously have been mine. My parents lived in France a long time ago, and my mom did not like the fact that my siblings were growing up away from their Lebanese and Arab identities, and at the time going back to Lebanon was out of the question because of the civil war. My dad decided to move to Saudi Arabia, and my family went with him. At the time, you were not allowed to be put in foreign schools because they do not teach religion (unless, you know, you weren’t of that religion), so my parents were forced to put their previously French educated children in Arabic schools. Then it was time to make a sacrifice; good education vs staying together. My mom and siblings moved back, with the plan that my father would follow a year or two after, and my whole life I’ve spent every Christmas, Easter and summer vacation there. Over 25 years later, and my father is still there, and my brother even joined him.
    I always felt like seeing him once or twice a year was not enough, but I understand the sacrifice. None of the good things that happened to my sisters, brother or me would have happened if we had stayed in Saudi. I would have grown up to be a completely different person in more than one way.
    That said, if I were to marry someone who has to go to another country to work, there is no way they are going without me. I did not get married to live alone, and I have no idea how my mom did it.

  19. Lisa

    Good topic Danielle. Of course I have to chime in here, having lived in five countries, sometimes with and sometimes wihtout my husband. Luckily for us, we have been married for over 20 years and for the most part he has been around for the growing up of the children. But in this society (Sydney, Australia), strange as it may seem, once you cross the age of 45, it gets harder and harder to land a good job and we have had more than one period of time (more like three) where he has been out of work for months on end. When those times come, it’s not easy, but he has to pack up and go where the jobs are … a year in Singapore commuting back on an almost weekly basis so he could be there for the kids (exhausting), a month in Taiwan, four months in Melbourne, a few months in Dubai before we packed up the family and moved out (without one child who was completing his final year of schooling who we put in boarding school – hardest thing a mother can do). I’m sure I’ve missed something. Oh yeah, he now lives in Shanghai and gets back every couple months. It’s hard of course and not something you make a conscious decision early on in life to do, it is a choice of do what is necessary or suffer – not only the financial costs but the issue of depression which is a common side effect when you are unable to provide for your family. We haven’t moved with my husband this time because my daughter is in her final year of school and we’ve only been back in Sydney for a year and a half and it is just too soon to uproot everyone again. You know what though, when my husband is back, he’s really back and involved in our lives. We all have our routines happening and continue with whatever we are doing, but we make a space and slot him back in … if you manage to create a sturdy relationship earlier on then you can weather the separation. Not ideal, but definitely possible. And thank goodness for the internet is all I can say.

  20. Lorena

    You touch on two very big topics in your post – both meriting their own analysis.

    I totally agree with your first paragraphs on how the salaries have not caught up with the higher cost of living – which to be honest is the cause for all the people leaving! Lebanon is not a cheap country! We have everything we need to lead happy lives, but then we find ourselves reaching into empty pockets or working hard for little gain. This frustrates me endlessly after three years working abroad – with nice healthcare packages, retirement accounts (yes, they start you on that right after college) and bonuses.

    I struggle additionally as a freelancer as people will more often than not go for the cheaper option rather than the most effective one.. It’s very disappointing that quality is so easily dismissed in return for price. As a freelancer, I wish there was a guild for us to set a certain margin of pricing so that the competition remains healthy and fair.

    Btw I also fall into that margin of children who’s parents live apart. My dad’s lived more than 40 years away from us just to provide a comfortable life for us. Both my parents have sacrificed a lot for this (I’m very grateful of course) but my dad knows he wouldn’t have the same opportunities here. It’s very tough and to be honest, I couldn’t do it myself.. I’ve thought about it alot growing up. If it came down to my husband moving away, I’d be right there next to him.

    Here’s a post I wrote about distant love affairs a while back: http://lorenasepiphany.com/2009/11/12/distant-love-affairs/

    Keep up the great work Danielle🙂

  21. What I love and is so interesting- one could do research on it😀 is how many people here say my parents did it but I would never and then wondering how the hell our parents ever did it? Has the concept of marriage and family changed? Are we more selfish? Or is it just our privileges and the lack of realization that the truth may be a bit more harsh than we realize.

  22. Ali El Dali

    I find it kinda sad and everything, and from my point of view, I agree with @yasminehajjar and your opinion. I realized from a while ago that now, whenever I go back home, I kinda treat my family as if I didn’t miss them, but is more of a strange feeling you get because you don’t see them too often.

    They come in the summer and I leave back home with them for almost a month, but that’s about it. It does happen that the bond you had with your family kind of loosens or slowly dissolves – its all about the distance. Too bad no one in the country is doing anything to prevent all this from happening more and more. I’m here because I study here, but I really don’t want to think of the reasons of everyone else, its too sad.

  23. Martin Scott

    This is a most compelling topic and the experience is repeated for many millions of people all over the world. There must be thousands of different reasons why but I suggest the majority do what they determine to be the best for their family. Lisa says it with the greatest wisdom. As she always does.
    Grumpy

  24. hi D,
    As usual you are able to “see” reality of life in Lebanon. I have experienced a dad traveling for work since i was 11. My danish mom was coping, in the mids of war. It was not until i reached the age of 18 that i lived a whole year again with both my parents under the same roof (i chose to do it before entering university). That made us close again, and my relationship to my father has always been warm and loving. I swore not to do the same towards my children. However, marrying a Lebanese (again my choice) didn’t really help! I ended up with a wonderful man, who traveled 5 days after our marriage on an assignment! and he has been “in the air” since! Amazing that we got 2 beautiful kids out of this! 9 years later; i can miss the regular presence of my husband, BUT I really really love it when he is around. We miss each other constantly. His kids adore him. He is HERE when he is in Beirut (meaning totally dedicated). Would I repeat it ? maybe yes… it is working out for us, and we still love each other a lot.. our family is strongly attached.. That should be the main reason no?

  25. Jamie

    I’ve often ruminated on this very topic over the past 13 years. See that’s when I married a Lebanese man (I’m American). At the time I was living in Dubai, and as so many people have already mentioned, there were many divided families (husbands in Gulf, wife and kids back home, wherever that was). I always said I would never do that, and it’s no way for kids to grow up or to maintain a healthy marriage.

    Well, now 13 years later I’m in a similar situation, although in reverse. My husband has been in Beirut for the past 10 months setting up a new business, while my 3 kids and I are here in the States wrapping up our other business and finishing the school year. It’s not like anyone gets married and has kids with the INTENTION of living apart, but for whatever reasons, it can happen.

    Fortunately our situation has been a truly temporary one, I know so many families who intend to do it for “just 6 months or a year” and lo and behold 20 years later it’s still the same. We’ll be moving to Beirut in June, woohoo! which is why I’ve been following some Beirut blogs lately, just bringing myself up to speed.
    I think it is probably easier for families to make this situation far more bearable now than it used to be. Skype is a lifesaver, we can see each other every day and talk as long as we want for free. Contrast this with 40 years ago– my at the time single brother-in-law went back to Lebanon for a visit after living with his parents in Dubai, 3 months later they got a cassette recording of a message for them delivered by someone who happened to be traveling back to the Gulf from Lebanon (no international phone lines at the time) – he was married and would be bringing his new wife to meet them in a year or two. So it might not be quite the same now as it was for those who grew up this way in the past. It’s still not an easy situation, but it can be bearable. Do I like it? Not really. Has it been a learning experience that we are all hopefully growing from and appreciating each other more when we are together? Absolutely.

    Most importantly, my husband and I are both committed to this being temporary and are looking forward to being a real family again (he really misses yelling from the sidelines at soccer games, I really miss having someone else do the dishes after dinner, oh and a warm body in bed next to me). And we’re all excited to get to know a new city. He’s Lebanese but has lived outside Lebanon for most of his life, the kids and I have been to Lebanon many times, but only for a few months at a time and rarely in Beirut. So, all in all, sometimes the sacrifice is worth it, if you handle it the right way and make sure that family, not just financials is really your motivation.

  26. Bruno Elias

    My family is in diaspora since the 30’s, a few years before the beginning of the WWII, and our immigration story began with my grandparents leaving Lebanon together.

    From them, one thing I can remember was the will to go back to Lebanon one day with their children. This will, generation after generation, started fading – partly because of the conditions in Lebanon, partly because our family started growing to much to manage a repatriation.

    For one reason or another, I have decided on my own to leave the nation where my parents and grandparents decided to live, and came back to Italy, home of my maternal family. At that time I was engaged and Italy happened to be my wife’s family’s homeland too. After a few years in Italy, we decided to move to London to invest in our careers. It was the beginning of 2009, soon after the announcement of the European recession, and we were looking for jobs before moving to spare some time and money. My wife got hired over the phone, and had to leave before us, in the middle of our dog’s 6 months quarantine (UK has a weird pets quarantine scheme). Long story short, we were apart for 3 months, and I’ll tell you: it was one of the worst experiences we’ve ever had. OK, I must admit it, I ended up losing 20kg, which is great from one part, but all the rest was terrible… I felt in a kind of limbo, living someone else’s life in a parallel dimension, just waiting to be reconnected with my own family. And even if those three months didn’t work for me, I completely understand who chooses (or has) to live abroad far from their family, as long as one’s able to manage fairly well this long distance relationship, then well, whatever works!

    But from a rover, one thing I can say for sure: after roaming overseas in pursuit of my identity, I discovered that I can only find comfort and happiness when I am able to unite my family and my roots – in my case, being with my wife and amongst my people, the people from whom I descent. And this is a real commitment I’ve made with myself: to be able to live both in Italy and in Lebanon one day, raising our kids amongst the two cultures that built my family.

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