When I looked at this blank page, I hadn’t even written ten words before I began to feel overwhelmed. It’s a feeling that I haven’t experienced for quite a while now; it’s been more than three years since I’ve stopped feeling overwhelmed.
I guess that must mean that coping crept up when I least expected it!
It’s probably more than clear that this is based on personal experiences. I think the opening paragraph has more than given that one away. So, let’s squash that curiosity and say, that in a delicate and maybe not so eloquent nutshell, it’s about that slightly taboo subject of divorce and co-parenting in a foreign country … and being stuck – my situation, my life! It hits the headlines every now and then and it seems that there’s some fairly strong opinions on it, some valid, some quite purely not!
Now, one thing I want to do is make something clear from the outset, (not that I necessarily need to because it goes without saying) that your child/children are the most important thing in the world to you. They are your creation, your life, your raison d’etre. You would walk to the end of the earth for them, for their well-being, their harmony and inner peace and your endeavour to maintain what is a life-long commitment. But let’s be honest, giving your child what they need can be difficult when you are falling apart at the seams!
Children and their well-being are crucially important in this subject. I do understand that they are key, but I also know, although you are the parent you are also someone’s child, you are also key. You clearly need well-being but you also need harmony and inner peace to function in your role.
When you’re faced with divorce and emotional traumas, functioning normally can be monumentally difficult. When there are additional strains such as being in a foreign country, where your network is limited and you don’t speak the language, it’s a very, very lonely place! That feeling of utter helplessness can break the nerve. It’s that crack that can become a gaping sink hole that you can fall into… and easily!
Yet, being overseas and being a «stuck» parent (for want of a better word) is only a mere by-product of the issue. However, it’s a huge by-product and it only adds to the difficulties in hand, it prevents you dealing with the issues leading to frustration and stress. Below, I am going to outline an understanding of not only what it means to be «stuck» but also discuss some coping mechanisms that are vital to the whole process.
I guess that the easiest way to move this forward, to give it some readability, is to offer an explanation of what it means to parent in a foreign country, why you become «stuck». Here is a clear-cut guide that doesn’t really waiver and some hard facts about the situation in hand!
When your place of residence is not your native country.
You can’t just get separated/divorced and decide to move back to your native homeland.
Your child is a resident of the country where they live, where you reside. This is where it all begins and this is now the place where it all will take shape. This is now the country where you are bound to remain should you wish to regularly remain in your child’s life. You are now stuck in that country.
If you skip country and go back to your native country you will infinitely risk every custody right that you’ve ever had.
This is a point whereby many overseas parents become unstuck. The Hague Convention has very effective methods in place against parental abduction but it doesn’t give any consideration to a reason why an abduction has taken place and it won’t tolerate it. Accept it because you are stuck in it.
Co-parenting is a very popular choice with the family courts in many EU countries.
Once this is implemented it’s almost impossible to reverse, and every decision to be made about your child is a joint one. If one or another parent doesn’t agree with a decision, it doesn’t happen and you can’t return to a courtroom each time you need something sorted out, apart from the fact that you’ll wait forever and a day for a hearing, it’s damn well expensive.
You are in it and you are stuck with it!
Once you’re in it, you’re not going to get out of it.
In effect, in many countries, to overturn a custody agreement that has been installed by a family court or by The Hague Convention is nearly impossible, no matter how much money or weight you have to throw at it. You are stuck with it. You need to learn to live with it.
Overseas travel is often only permitted with joint consent from both parents.
And it’s implemented! If your family is overseas and your ex-partner won’t permit that travel, you can not return to your home country with your child, not even for a weekend hangout. You are, in effect, stuck in a situation that you can’t get out of.
So there you have your quick fire guide to how it is. It’s clear and it’s concise and you have to get on with it and you have to damn well deal with it, no matter whatever the weather it is out there!
In life, it doesn’t always go as you want it to, you have to accept things that go wildly against the grains of your beliefs, things that completely destabilize your inner core and peace. And when this happens you need to be able to find a strategy to cope with the discord.
No one said it was going to be easy being an outsider in a foreign country. No one said being a single co-parent was a walk in the park. I am a foreigner but I am also a parent 50% of the time, I parent one week out of two, I have no choice in this, but one of the things that is great about it, is that I’ve ticked choice off my worry list! So here goes, I’m now going to get up close and personal… this is how I did it.
How I made my life less stuck.
I moved out of the area.
I was living in a village with a population of 1100, the nearest civilisation was 45 minutes drive away. I didn’t have the luxury of choice to move far (co parenting stopped that in its tracks) and so I moved to live in that civilisation. Living overseas is already a lonely existence. Your family, your school friends are not down the road, but living without seeing a soul is even more lonely. Our school run may be long but we love the chats in the car on the way and we love even more that we can ice-skate on the weekends and it’s not a day out for an hour of fun!
‘Solitude vivifies; isolation kills.’ –Joseph Roux
I learnt the language.
Living with the restraints of not being able to converse throws some serious limitations into the mix. I now speak the language… it’s certainly not fluent enough to land me a job with the United Nations but it’s broadened my social life no end. Integrating with your world that’s directly around you is so character building and culture rich. In turn you pass this newly found wealth on to your child, not to mention how much easier homework help becomes.
‘The limits of my language means the limits of my world.’ –Wittgenstein
Unconventional is often great, train your mind to be open to it.
I live in something that I consider to be unconventional. When my life became somewhat bohemian, I had to accept that disregard for my own knowledge of conventional practices and embrace them with open arms. I realized fairly early on that I will always be a foreigner, learning cultural differences was almost as difficult as learning a language!
‘To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect.’
Don’t waste your energy on unanswerable questions.
No one can answer what the future holds, you can only plan one. Some questions just don’t have a solid answer, live your life each day and plan your future to make it amazing…
‘So long as you have food in your mouth, you have solved all questions for the time being.’ –Kafka
Careers all have a road leading to them.
You may have some sparkling masters degree in nuclear physics but if you’re battling with limited language skills and you’re not moveable that road may be pretty much demolished. Someone once told me to work with what I’ve got… so I did! I’ve always been one to write things down, now I get paid for writing things down, I can do this from the comfort of my own home!
‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.’ –Hubbard
Accept help when it’s on offer and don’t be afraid to ask for it.
No one said you have to survive on bread and water alone. If there’s government help, take it. If your parents can help, ask them to. And it’s not just about financial help. Sometimes you just need someone at the end of the telephone, nothing more, nothing less … pick it up and dial. You’re not necessarily a burden, but your burden may be something that’s a little too heavy to carry alone, use the shoulders of another when you need it!
Accepting help is its own kind of strength. –Kiera Cass
Endure incertitude and authorize it.
You need to understand and accept that life doesn’t always play by the rule book. It’s beyond your control and you need to learn to live alongside this in harmony. It’s surprisingly difficult to do, but if you’re on the bus and you can’t get off so you may as well enjoy the ride somewhat.
Uncertainty and expectation are the joys of life. Security is an insipid thing. -William Congreve
It’s clear that life is going to always throw something unexpected into the mix of things. Sometimes that mix is a little more colorful than other people’s mixes, but I guess that the moral of the story is that storms never last forever they just come and go. Some are just a minor gust of wind and some are full on hurricanes that need a little rebuilding afterwards. We get through them with a little patience and hard work! Embrace the changes, make them work for you and learn to love your circumstances whatever they may be.
About the Author: Annabel Rose
Annabel Rose is a Freelance copywriter and blogger with a massive aim to write some attention grabbing, awesome and newsworthy stuff… particulary if it’s got a French or lifestyle feel to it!
And when the rain or work isn’t stopping some fabulous play you’re likely to find her hanging out with her gorgeous daughter, teaching her all of the tips and tricks on how to daydream and be a true aficionado of life!
Biggest battle so far? French verb conjugation, is it imparfait or passé composé. If you’d like to pen her a gorgeous email with a reasonable answer to that irritating French conundrum, or just get her to write you some fabulous articles, here’s her address ; . You can find out more about Annabel at https://about.me/annabel_rose.
Thank you so much for writing so honestly and candidly. This article really confirmed to me that I am not crazy and perhaps there is someone out there who understands what I am going through. I am so grateful.
I find myself in this exact same position – stuck in a foreign country with no family or friends, no job and a nasty divorce and custody fight. I feel very overwhelmed by it all. Our move to this foreign was suppose to be temporary but after two years my spouse is now not going anywhere. It is unfair, but it is also real and the probability of a court allowing the relocation to another country (even though it’s the child’s previous home) is so remote I’m questioning my decision to pursue such an option. I would be better served by saving my money to enable me to pay the rent and put food on the table for it’s going to be a long stay in this foreign land. Thank you for your article.
I love the sentiments behind this article. It sounds as though you have successfully transferred your frustrations into helpful & positive emotions! A great model for many of life’s situations. I now feel energised to make constructive steps with my own challenges in life. Thank you.
Beautiful. Thank you. I’ll be saving this post to help me navigate future storms more gracefully. What beautiful modelling for the kids.