Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Show me the way to go home

My ex is due to be away on business for 3 weeks from tomorrow - and I think Captain Underpants is concerned that he is never coming back. He has been exceptionally clingy this week and wants his dad around all the time. He also wants his dad to move back home, which is heartbreaking to hear, tho I guess it is better that he is voicing his feelings so we get to reassure him how much we love him and are still there for him. But it is not enough. I'm not sure his desire to have us all together as a family will ever change. Jesus - I would still love to have my parents together and they got divorced nearly 30 years ago. But it hurts that he is sad and I feel guilty that I can't magically make his wish come true.

And I'm not sure whether it is just the time of year or the time of the month but I am seriously homesick and just want to move back to the UK.

This is not a new yearning. I have been homesick and have wanted to move home for - oh - about six years now. Only now it is a bit more complicated. You see, I can't move home. At least not with the kids anyway. Which in effect means I can't move home.

According to Illinois State law I have no right to remove my children from the state without written permission and a legal residency agreement from their father. And because he does not want to go anywhere (unless you count the 3 week work trip to Hong Kong, China and the UK of course) and does not want his children to go anywhere, I am trapped. If I do up sticks and move home with the boys I am breaching the Hague Convention and would be charged with kidnapping. This is not something that I was made aware of before living with the children in the US and, as you can imagine, it came as quite a shocker.

And by the way, this doesn't just apply to children born in the US. It applies to all children who have lived, in Illinois at least, for six months and a day. After this they automatically become wards of State, irrespective of their birth place and nationality, which comes into effect if the parents separate or divorce and one parent wants to move out of state against the wishes of the other. I understand that this is done to protect the children. And potentially to try to prevent instances of children being taken by one parent, moved to another country and never to be seen again.

But still. It is a little galling when it applies to me.

This information was confirmed by both a US Attorney and a UK Solicitor - it appears there are no loopholes and only lengthy and costly legal procedures that MIGHT grant me this right, which takes at the very least two years to process with no guarantee of the outcome. The only guarantee I can foresee is that we would be bankrupt and our current amicability would be lost amongst the legal jargon and predictable 'he said / she said' versions of events. This route is never going to create loving bonds and generate a sense of long-term family care and affection, is it?

Oh what a mess.

When we separated last year I agreed to stay in Chicago until December 2009. And my ex verbally agreed that he would not prevent me from moving back to the UK, with the boys, if I decided I still wanted to leave after that. But if he changes his mind I am snookered. Up the Swanney without a paddle. Or maybe just in Lake Michigan with no life raft. However you look at it, it's a pretty vulnerable position and involves a huge element of trust on my part. All he has to do in the next year is to fall in love with some American bird, change his mind and I am done for. Or make no effort to transfer his job to the UK and plead work commitments, promotion opportunities and potential bonus losses - which is much more likely.

Although it has occurred to me that this might happen to me too...tho much less likely, on both fronts.

And because moving back to England isn't really an option right now, I guess I want it all the more. Which is strange because I was the one that wanted to move here in the first place - and I was the one that acclimatised quickly and made friends. Odd to think that the ambition that I really strived for - to live abroad for a while - has now come back to bite me firmly on the bum.

I think the reason for my acute sense of homesickness at this point in time is that I am lonely. It seems to be one long struggle to make friends and an even harder struggle to keep them. I have made some fantastic friends but in all honesty most of the women that I have connected to have been Brits and most of them have sodded back to the UK without a backward glance. Which is not much help to me right now. My one amazing American friend is relocating to California in June. I'm not sure what I am going to do when she is gone. I try not to think about it. It's not as though there are women lined up ready and willing to take her place and true friendships take time and effort to cultivate. Most of the women that I am friendly with (distinct difference) all seem to have other friends and social commitments that take precedence over hanging out with me. Plus most of them are happily married and my new gooseberry status doesn't fit easily into these happy couple social circles.

The phrase 'she's just not that into me' has sprung to mind more and more of late.

It seems it is just as hard to find a good girlfriend as it is to find a boyfriend - and whilst I have a bigger pool to fish in now (i.e. other mums) it doesn't mean that I am magically going to 'connect' with them. Or, as has been my experience of late, that they are going to magically 'connect' with me.

*pause: sorry, just taking time for a little pity party right now. I try not to exceed 15 minutes a day and this seems an opportune moment to get my daily quota in.

I think the true heart of the problem is that my friends at home are so amazing, so smart, so multi-talented and insightful in every way that it is nigh on impossible for other women to compete. These are women that I have known for over 20 years. We have grown up together: moved in with boyfriends, got married, got divorced, got remarried, had kids, had good money times and bad money times, good health and bad, been through all the highs and lows and supported each other without question throughout. They are my soul sisters. They 'get' me and...although I don't quite understand how sometimes...still like me. Love me even. And I love and admire them immensely and am so very grateful for their friendship. They're the best.

And as I can't be there, I just wish they were here. Preferably with a few chilled bottles of white and a huge tub of Haagen Daz at the ready. Oh - and maybe a popcorn shrimp or two.

But as this just isn't going to happen maybe I am going to have to bite the bullet and set up my own 15 minute speed dating version of 'meet a mate'. There has to be a market for it surely? And even if I don't meet any new friends, at least I will be too busy and occupied to continue to feel this trapped and be this lonely for very much longer.


  1. I can't tell you how many blog posts I've read on how difficult it is to make local friends (I guess this is one reason why we take up blogging). So don't despair. You are not alone. I think you just have to hang out in the right places, and be patient. Sorry - dreadfully smug advice. Didn't mean it to sound that way.

  2. After reading your blog, I feel like a crap friend for leaving you in Chicago. And then all I seem to do is grumble about my ex-husband and his issues.
    I'm so sorry you're going through this and that it is taking so long.
    I'm here (yes I know its London, not Chicago) for you, day or night.

  3. I don't even know you but right now I want to hop on a plane and come over there and drink wine with you and eat ice cream (can't do the shrimp otherwise my head will swell up and you'll have to rush me to A&E). I've lived in the UK for 6 years and I still don't feel as though I've made real friends. My friends here are the wives of my husbands friends and although we are good friends, I've not made many of my own friends. It's hard. Bloody hard. And you not being able to leave because of the legal issues - well that just sucks.

    Lifting a virtual spoon of Haagen Daz to you.

  4. Iota - of course you're not being smug. patience is a virtue that i am not naturally gifted with but i know you're right. i'll just keep plugging away...

    Mum's the Word - yep - all your fault you traitor!!! (love you really)

    Home Office Mum - how lovely of you! virtual spoon of Haagen Daz right back atcha. so nice to connect with other women, if only on a 'virtual' level. thanks so much

  5. What a PITA situation! So many things we never think about when we marry & have kids . . . Even if my (happily married) DH and I wanted to move back to the UK together, it would be monstrously difficult now - even without the complications of divorce and child custody issues it's not easy to move from one country to another. Doesn't stop me dreaming about it, but it ain't gonna happen!

    The whole friend thing is hard. Someone I know slightly actually invited me to a stitch & bitch a couple of weeks ago. I was SO happy! It was just nice to have an excuse to go out (without children!) and NOT be with a) people from work or b) DH's friends.

    Hang in there!