'I want to find a way to be a 52-week daddy again'
James Taplin’s daughter Cara was seven months old when he moved back to Dubai. Going back to work there was easy – leaving his family here was heartbreaking
I MET MY wife Cora in Dubai in 2003. I had been working in the golf business there since 2000, and she was an air hostess. We had a happy few years together there, and married in Ireland in 2005. We always said we would move back to Ireland permanently when she got pregnant, as there was no other place we wanted to raise our children, and so, just before our son Daniel was born in 2007, we moved back to Co Westmeath.
I had no problem finding a job, and we started to put plans together to build our own house. Everything was going swimmingly until the bottom fell out of the golf industry and I was made redundant in 2009.
I worked in a community radio station for a while and wrote a column for the local newspaper, but I was getting paid less than I was getting on the dole. It wasn’t putting food on the table for my wife or my children, and it was a real struggle to make ends meet. I was going stir crazy without regular work.
Eventually, I got in touch with the company I used to work with in Dubai, who said they would be more than happy to have me back. We thought about it for three or four months, hoping the day wouldn’t come when I would have to go.
My daughter Cara was just seven months old when I moved back to Dubai in April last year. I left Ireland because I could no longer bring myself to collect the dole. I was ashamed. I wanted to work. I needed to work. I wanted my wife and children to be proud of me. I wanted to be proud of me.
I was lucky I had lived in Dubai before. I have a network of old friends here, and I am back in the same office with the same email address and phone number. It was an easy transition in that way.
Over the summer, I missed my daughter’s first birthday, my son’s fourth and my wife’s, as well as our wedding anniversary. At the end of August I made it back to Ireland for a few days for Daniel’s first day at school, which is something at least. He probably won’t remember that in the future, but I always will.
I was home for two weeks at Christmas, which gave me a chance to unwind and spend quality time with my family. I woke up every day beside the woman I love, I enjoyed the wind and rain, attended my son’s first Christmas play. I ate and drank, and occasionally I was merry.
But it was also an emotional time. My son was clingy and it took a few days for my daughter, who is now 15 months old, to get used to me. She preferred to sit on her grandfather’s lap than mine, which was hard.
I know she sees him every day and it’s normal, but I should be the one my children come to when they need comforting. I am their dad after all.
As I was packing to come back, my son left something in my suitcase for me.
I asked him what it was and he showed me a small packet of travel tissues, in case I needed to blow my nose when I got upset. I was not upset until that moment, but suffice to say the tissues were well and truly used up.
We originally hoped the move would be temporary, but it is looking more and more likely I will be here for a while. It is difficult to plan for the future, but we have to, because we have to be together. Things aren’t going to work the way they are now.
My wife doesn’t really want to come back here to live. She is a real home bird and thought that once we moved back, that would be it. My son is a real country boy; he loves the farm, the animals, the tractors and machinery.
His grandparents and cousins are all in Ireland, and to take him away from them would be very difficult.
But I can’t move home without a job, so I am continuing to look for work in Ireland from afar. I don’t care what it is, I’ll sweep the streets for 10 hours a day if it pays me a wage and keeps my family together.
I have seen other Irish fathers arriving over here in similar situations to myself, having left their families back in Ireland.
In one way I want to give them as much support as I can, but I find it very difficult to talk to them, because it is like looking in the mirror. I just want to tell them to go home to their families.
We are a nation of people who like to travel and like to experience the rest of the world. But this wave of emigration is different. People of all ages are leaving. I am 40 years old, and I am emigrating again for the second time. I came home to give something back to Ireland, to work and bring my children up in the country where I was raised. But that plan has gone by the wayside.
I am devastated that my family is not here with me; it gnaws away at me every day. I want to be able to sit on the couch with my wife and say absolutely nothing, and feel comfortable, instead of sitting in front of a screen looking at each other and trying to think of something to say. I want my daughter to recognise me in person, not just through a computer.
My new year’s resolution for 2012 is to find a way to be a 52-week daddy again, instead of leaving my wife to raise our children on her own. To the Government, those who emigrate are just numbers. We make the unemployment figures look a little more palatable.
But we are also fathers, husbands, uncles and sons. We are lovers and brothers, and corner forwards on the local team. We are friends and neighbours, but above all we are human beings. We are never just a number.
- In conversation with Ciara Kenny
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