Opinion The Home Issue

The challenges of living away from my family

Confessions of a young engineer.

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By Mohamed Al Mehyas

Sometimes, when I am alone in my work accommodation, in the evening in my small room, sitting on my bed and staring at the reflection on my switched off television, I ask myself, why did I choose this path? Why did I choose to work in a place so far away from my family? Deciding to work hundreds of miles away from my family was one of the most crucial decisions I have taken in my life, and I still don’t know if I was right or wrong in making it. Working away from your family and loved ones is a decision that you need to rethink hundreds of times before you take it.

After my graduation from university in 2015, I was very excited to contribute to the company I am currently working for. With my background and skills as a petroleum and natural gas engineer, I thought that working in an oil field would be the best place for me to add value to the company because I believe that it is more challenging. I will never forget my first day leaving to work when my wife cried. This was the first night I would spend without her. I soothed her and told her that everything was going to be fine.

During my four years in fields, I gained valuable experience in my work. I met experienced people from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds, and learned a lot from them. With the trust and support from the management, I undertook a lot of responsibilities, and my supervisor would rely on me to complete challenging and critical tasks. Furthermore, I am favorited to perform presentations in front of executive management and in meetings. In a nutshell, my professional life is a success and I am proud of it.

On the other hand, I noticed that I was missing many important events that I would have attended if I had chosen to work in a place closer to my home. I started to miss weddings, family gatherings and important conferences and meetings. In addition, I didn’t meet a lot of my friends as frequently as I used to before. I missed my son’s nursery’s graduation ceremony, which was something I wanted to attend badly. I believe that attending these type of events are meaningful to our children, and make them feel that they made a great accomplishment. In the end, the small things matter. I remember one day when I was about to leave to work and my son was asking me, “Dad why are you going to work?” I told him because I want to get money to buy him games and play with him in theme parks. He said “ I don’t need money, I have money upstairs, please don’t go”. At that time, I thought to myself, what am I doing? It was then that I started to rethink the choice I have made.

I understand that some people prefer to work in fields away from home because it is more financially rewarding, and you will be on four days off which is a privilege to a lot of people. Many of my friends actually love working in fields and find it better than working in a routine office environment, and it is totally understandable. In a field job, you get more experience on the operations side. You personally supervise critical operations. You will get to know how the tools are working and how to maintain these tools. You will be accountable to ensure the safety of the personnel and the equipment onsite which is challenging, yet it shows that you are qualified and entrusted to be in this critical position. I have found that many of my colleagues enjoy these types of tasks. However, I believe all of this comes with a price, and it is a costly price.  

Working away from home is working in a place that you don’t belong to, for you belong to your family and loved ones. You should spend most of your time with them. For sure, money is crucial in our lives and we all want to have jobs with more income. But money is not everything. I admire and respect people around the world who sacrifice a lot and travel thousands of miles for the sole purpose of providing the best life for their loved ones.

Nonetheless, I also truly believe that there is nothing that will make you happier than spending time with people you love. In the end, life is short.  So, I will leave this question with you, would you trade being close to home and family for better career prospects?

The views of the authors and writers who contribute to Sekka, and the views of the interviewees who are featured in Sekka, do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sekka, its parent company, its owners, employees, and affiliates.

Mohamed Al Mehyas is an Emirati petroleum and natural gas engineer living in Abu Dhabi. He is interested in issues that concern our society (especially youth issues), and how to find solutions to solve them.