Families of Migrant Workers (FMW) support group meets in Alberton
Moms and children gather for a recent session of FMW (Families of Migrant Workers) support group. From left are Cindy MacKay and Kaylie; Chelsay Matthews with Sirina and Dallas Lewis; Jackie LeClair with Harlee Waite; Tracy Gallant with Zackary Gordon and resource worker Jamie Bulger with Caleb Waite. The support group, which is open to new members, meets every second Monday afternoon at Kids West in Alberton.
ALBERTON -- Jackie LeClair is hoping the Families of Migrant Workers (FMW) support group that recently formed in West Prince will continue throughout the winter.
“It’s just nice to get out of the house and not just have baby talk from morning to night,” the Tignish mother of two said in commenting on the value she finds in the group. “It’s really nice to have adult time.”
Like the other women in the support group that meets every second Monday at Kids West in Alberton, LeClair’s partner is working out west.
Women who have children bring them along. Some stay close to Mom; others playing together or by themselves. Staff help supervise.
Support group facilitator Rhonda MacArthur is encouraged by the early interest the group has generated since forming in late September. It’s an idea Kids West, in partnership with the Tignish Employment Centre ran with after family resource centres heard a presentation from a UPEI student who wrote her thesis on out-migration.
“We know it’s going to grow,” MacArthur said, “because a lot of men aren’t out west yet.”
Sessions start at 1:30 p.m. There’s no fixed end time, except that the centre closes at 4:30 p.m. Fifteen women have joined so far.
“We hope to do some life skills, like cooking for a smaller family, quick and easy meals,” MacArthur said. Group outings are being arranged, and a resource list is being generated of people who can help with routine jobs around the house.
Tracy Gallant had a not-so-routine issue recently when her portable storage unit blew into the woods. She had to call on her Mom to help her gather up the stuff that was in it while her partner’s cousin and uncle came to her rescue and retrieved the shelter.
There are issues like car breakdowns, flat tires and backed-up toilets that the women would usually count on their partners fixing. It’s not such an easy fix, though, when the partner is away on a jobsite in another province.
“It kind of sucks having to wait all day to use the bathroom, especially with a baby,” LeClair acknowledged.
Chelsay Matthews endured two weeks without transportation, until her partner came home, after her vehicle broke down. She often relies on her Dad to help get her oldest child to hockey practice.
Although the wind event was a challenge for Gallant, she said the biggest thing about not having her partner around is he’s not there to be with their baby when she needs to run errands or go to the store.
She and her son have since left on a visit out west and are considering moving out next year.
Cindy MacKay said being home alone with the children limits her ability to get out with other people. She welcomes that opportunity through FMW.
Even being a smoker presents a challenge for LeClair. When she goes outside for a smoke break, she said, she has to bring her three year-old with her so she won’t disturb her six week-old.
MacArthur said FMW might be the first support group of its kind on P.E.I., but she doesn’t think it will be the last. She said feedback from the West Prince group is already generating interest for a group in Charlottetown.
Group members are not suggesting the ones at home are the only partners struggling through work-related separation.
“It’s definitely hard on both sides of the coin,” MacArthur acknowledged. Power struggles sometimes come in to play, MacArthur said in relating some of the group discussions. Mom’s home doing all the parenting and then the partner comes home and tries to get back into that role. The children may not be willing to listen to Dad after being accustomed to Mom being in charge, she said, and sometimes the children might act out because they missed Dad. This can lead to frustrations, she admits.
“It’s a great place to come and kind of vent so that, whenever something does go wrong they don’t have to vent to their spouses. They can still have a great conversation,” MacArthur said in conveying another advantage of the group sessions.