Now more than ever, I Want to Tear Out Your Hair

A prototype by and for Filipino Live-in Caregiver families reunited in Canada

Sarap Mong Sabunutan (SMS), which translates as “I want to tear out your hair” is a source of stories by and for Filipino families of Live-in Caregivers.

These are families in which mothers came ahead to Canada to fill Live-in Caregiver positions, and eventually were able to bring their own children to join them, often five or more years later. The stories take the form of short films that focus on what teens and parents have learned about meaning, purpose, and connection on their journey through separation and reunification.

SMS shares those stories, with families who are recently reunited in Canada. The goal is to start fresh conversations about how to ‘do’ family after years apart.  The films make collective wisdom more accessible and avoiding reductive narratives about one way to experience separation, or be successful in Canada. This week, www.smsfamily.ca is available online and looking for families to test the experience! Our website copy is mostly in Taglish: a mixture of Tagalog and English.


Why SMS?

All my best personal growth happens at home, with family – as well as all my basest moments. Who better than my children to tell me how ineffectual I am as a human being, and not sugar coat it? That kind of dynamic is a privilege of familiarity and security. Many of us, pent up for weeks, will be feeling very privileged right now.

For transnational families who have been separated by economic migration, as with many Filipino families whose mothers have come to Canada as Live-in Caregivers, being in the same room is the work of many years. Even after arrival, the round-the-clock work schedules of many mothers mean that tiny apartments can still be lonely, and together-time remains a privilege. Indeed, many Filipino Canadians are serving our community right now through long hours at the front lines of health care.

Filipino teens and their parents inspired Sarap Mong Sabunutan (SMS) through their insight that over time, parent-child communication has been conditioned by the strain of long distance. As a result, airing negative or ambivalent emotions can be among the hardest things to relearn. Back in the Philippines, the expression ‘I want to tear out your hair’ can be an exclamation of frustration, but also the cause of a shared giggle.

How does it work?

We’re looking for families who will sign up to receive daily two-minute films for two weeks, followed by a box of conversation starters and games to help families inquire about and express their experiences, preferences, and (often ambivalent) emotions around family and life. The short films tell the stories of other Filipino families’ reunification.

It’s pretty simple:

  1. We create or join your family whatsapp group.
  2. We send your family movies.
  3. Your family family gets a delightful box of ways into new conversations. In April, we’re even offering a special treat delivered right to the door of the first five families to sign up!

We’re starting with five families so we can get good feedback. We’d like to walk alongside families as they experience SMS materials so we can understand what works for whom, when, why…and what doesn’t.


How can I help?

So glad you asked! Share www.smsfamily.ca with your friends who have Filipino networks, be among the first to like and share our Facebook page, and get in touch directly if you’ve got something to say! We’re at [email protected]. Families can sign up to test SMS on our website.


Natalie Napier

Natalie Napier is Research & Storytelling Lead. She holds a BA in International …

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