There were years, especially during job searches, where I hid the fact that I am a mother. In the States during academic interviews, questions about your family are illegal. Family takes you away from your professional commitments, true. But what people without kids do not realize is that it expands your world view, and your research, so profoundly, at a visceral level. It also gives me better work-life balance. I fought it for years, anticipating that motherhood would be the end of my career. And it wasn’t. It caused me to be more focused, to prioritize. Ah but now the Fulbright. This long time dream. When I research “Fulbright with children,” I found little advice or documentation. So as I struggle to focus on my Fulbright project and not worry about my daughter who currently hates her German school, I offer the reading the following link with excerpt about a mother who moved her children to Paris. This is hard on all of us, but worth it, I think.
We considered this question head-on in Paris, where the American School of Paris was one of our options for Kaitlin’s education in this city. Kaitlin and I visited together, and we both had the same reaction.
The American School of Paris could be the American School of Any American Town. Every student is from the States, as is every member of the faculty. English is the only language spoken. The curriculum, the calendar, the sporting events, the special events, the locker rooms… everything about the school is as it would be Stateside. Nothing wrong with this, per se, but it seemed a shame to us for Kaitlin to miss out on the chance to learn French, to make friends from all over the world…
…here’s what I can tell you: Your children will be fine. The truth is, their move will be harder on you than it will be on them. They will learn the new language quicker than you will, they will make new friends more easily, and they will assimilate more readily.
If you let them.
Our first six months in Paris, Kaitlin would sit at the dining room table after dinner doing her homework—all in French. Before our arrival in this country, she’d never studied the language. Then, overnight, she was studying in the language, doing high school math in French. The work would take her hours, after which she’d retire, exhausted and nearly in tears. Then she’d have to get up the next morning to return to school, where, again, all lectures, presentations, and course materials were in French. This shouldn’t be so hard on her, the mother in me couldn’t help but observe. I made an appointment to meet with her advisor at school, who said this:
“Kaitlin is struggling, yes. But you must let her struggle. It is good for her.”
This is the last thing a child wants to hear and the hardest thing for a parent to accept. But I tell you now, it is the right thing, the true thing. After six months of exhausting effort, Kaitlin was bilingual. She retains this asset, which, already, has opened doors for her.