A Day in the Life of a Refugee Parent in Canada

Jun 21, 2019

Every parent knows that with each new day, you're bound to run into a few new surprises. 

But as a Syrian refugee parent who is not only new to parenting, but new to a country, what does a typical day look like? 

Esmaeel, who arrived in Canada in 2016 with his wife Rahaf, was given a camera for three days. And on an average day, he volunteers with N'ai kids choir, teaches music and works at the newcomer kitchen in Toronto. And that's in addition to raising a new child (born late in 2018), performing in a play, participating in an actors' group working with Canadian victims of torture. 

Relevant Reading: My Mother Didn't Raise Me 'Canadian' and Now I Know Why

Many people take what's available to them for granted, but this refugee family is making the most of their situation by contributing to the place they now call home. Above is a short video of a day in the life of Esmaeel, through his eyes. In it you'll see how he interacts with Canada, his wife Rahaf and their first child Nai (the name means "the sound of the flute"). 

After filming, we asked Esmaeel some questions, to get a better sense of how he parents, and what his hopes are for a child now that they live in Canada.

As a parent, what is the most important thing you do every day?

Taking care of my daughter is the most important thing I do every day. I love to make her laugh and smile, of course — that really makes my day.

Do you plan on teaching your child how to play music? If so, what's a good age to start?

There is something I believe in — [that] kids naturally come in to this world as musicians. Every child has a musical ability that can be developed into a life-long relationship with music. I don't know the right age to start, but we have started with Nai already.

Has your parenting style changed since arriving in Canada?

We have a community of friends from Syria that we get together with, but of course the thing that we miss the most about parenting in Syria are the family gatherings we have and sharing them with Nai. We miss them very much.

What are you excited for your child to experience in Canada?

I am really looking forward to my daughter playing sports in Canada. This is a very different experience and does not really happen in Syria. I love that she can learn sports like baseball and hockey.

What are your everyday parenting struggles? How do you overcome them?

Nai has been a good sleeper, but she is teething so that means we lose sleep.  Actually this impacts my wife Rahaf more, since she gets up with her in the night. So, I worry about my wife because she’s tired.

What did you learn filming a day in your life? Did anything surprise you?

We realized how busy our life is when we saw the video. When you’re just doing it every day, you don’t realize, and it was funny to see ourselves almost like reality TV. But mostly we just couldn’t believe how much we do in a day and how our life has changed in Canada.

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