"How are you helping with parenting while you are your spouse are in different places?" The best I can. I'll admit that I went back and forth about sharing this: I've definitely felt that sharing about family in academia is taboo. But Fulbright is a life experience and I want to be honest in sharing the full experience and how I'm working to make it the best experience for me (and I'm a Dad) as well as for my family.
There's no two ways about: Mimi's got a heavy load with these 4 little ones until April. But here's what I did to prep with this and I think it's mostly been helpful:
1- "Call Dad any time!" This was a promise that doesn't just rely on Mom being super generous with her phone. I added a Facebook "Kids Messenger" App to all the kids tablets and gave them each a lesson so they would know how to call me in just a two clicks. So far they mainly call me in the morning and after school, but I've let them know they can do that at night too--even if it wakes me up. My oldest largely gets on the app (and dances while staring at her own reflection mostly??) to give me an update on her day. My youngest turns it on and says "Dad. dad. dad. dad" on repeat for a while, providing me views of the ceiling.
2- "Dad's still available" This one might sound a little creepy, but I installed Google Nests around the house that provide stable (they don't rely on someone charging the tablet!) locations where the kids can call me. The Nest also allows me to check in on them because it works like a security camera/walkie talkie. I've "babysat" a few times while Mimi made calls and one time in particular made my youngest sit on the stairs after watching him shove his sister off a chair. The kids can chat back and forth with me on the nest, and I can watch to see that, yes my youngest is indeed watching Avengers: Endgame for the 197th time.
3- "Letters from Dad" Dinner time struck me as what would be the hardest time. 6 p.m. Eastern is midnight in Vienna. So I wrote letters for each kid, for each week that we're apart. Mostly they're short and aimed at reminding them of memories we've had in the past, promising more memories in the future and--most importantly--letting them know I love them.
There's more to say about support for the family that I'll perhaps go into in a later blog. There's obviously no replacement for my physical presence, but we're very blessed to have amazing friends who've helped watch kids and brought meals to help out. I also have a great cousin who loves on my kids and hangs out with them a few times a week. Lastly, my wife is a freaking superhero who somehow manages to keep our house running, our kids happy, while still doing amazing work at her job.