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Where’s Daddy?

Long-distance relationships can be tough, but what about long-distance parenting? When one parent has to move abroad for business, staying in touch with the children and simply “being there” for them can become tricky. Our guest author Jin Li tells us how she and her husband make it work.

My husband and I have been living apart in different countries for the past four months. While we were in California, he received a job offer that he couldn’t pass up but it required a move to China. It was an exciting role, but terrifying at the same time. Millions of questions floated through our heads. We’re not as young as we use to be - can we really do this? Does this make sense? What are we giving up? What are we gaining? What will this mean for our family, our son? What will I do for work?

At the end of the day, we decided to take a leap of faith and make the big move to China. But there was one glitch. I was unable to move right away, but his company needed him to start as soon as possible. So off he went to China while our 4-year old son and I stayed behind in San Diego.

Staying Connected

Apartment hunting was taken to a whole new level – lots of photos, floor plans, Skype video tours and more. I’m sure we drove our realtor crazy! Luckily he found an apartment we both loved (at least from what I could see of it) in the heart of Shanghai, and close to work and school.

Then came the fun of Skyping every day and as much as we could from the minute we woke up in the morning till the time came for us to say good night. There is a 15-hour time difference between San Diego and Shanghai, so we were always at opposite ends of our time-space continuum. Our son soon got used to seeing Daddy on the video screen. At one point he entertained the fantasy that his Daddy was living in outer space and couldn’t wait to join him there. He would ask his Daddy interesting questions that only a 4-year old can ask. “Are you in outer space right now?” “What’s it like?” “Can you buy me a big dog when Mommy and I move there?” “What are you doing?” “What did you eat today?” Ahhh, the curious mind of a 4-year old!

We took measures to ensure that he remained connected to his dad since he is a toddler and could still form attachments. His Daddy would say “good morning” to him every day and give him a kiss good night as well as tuck him into bed at the end of the day. We didn’t skip a beat when celebrating milestones and achievements in school. We would open presents and cards via Skype together. We would also call at dinner time, and while our son ate, his dad would ask him how his day at pre-school went.

How to Be a Long-Distance Family

What have we learned during our time apart?

  • Skype is awesome!
  • Share, share, share – nothing is too trivial.
  • Calendar time for deeper conversations as a couple.
  • Relish visits together.
  • Keep your eye on the end game – being apart is temporary.
  • Allow yourself to feel lonely or sad, but don’t cling to that feeling.
  • Take care of yourself and enjoy ‘me’ time.
  • Be a role model for your child – love does conquer all.
  • Laugh and be silly. And don’t forget to ask Daddy to bring home a moon rock the next time he comes to visit!

My love for my husband and our bond has never been stronger than it is today. And our son has maintained a healthy relationship with his father, even as he is being asked to be the ‘little man’ of the family while with me. We are planning for and anxiously anticipating my husband’s visits in the upcoming months and we are planning a visit to Shanghai over the Christmas holidays. After that, it will only be a few short months until we our family is permanently reunited, stronger for having gone through the experience and cherishing time together like we’ve never done before.

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