Monday, September 14, 2009

Fight For Freedom

I am writing this post on behalf of a friend. An incredibly brave woman in the midst of a traumatic fight for her own freedom. I have never met Yummy Mammy in person but we share much in common: we are both single mothers, we both totally adore our children, we uprooted our lives to follow our beloved husbands to another life in another country. And now the marriage has broken down we are trapped by our circumstances and unable to go home, to move back to our family and friends, with our children.

I cannot write this post coherently. Just thinking about this subject, about our shared circumstances, brings me out in a cold sweat. My hands are sweating profusely due to the tempest of emotions it evokes: fear, vulnerability, rage, frustration, heartache and longing. My heart begins to pound yet my chest is utterly constricted. I just want to crumple and weep with the overwhelmingly helplessness that I feel.

How is it that we are in this situation? How is it that two strong, decisive, independent women are being forced to live in a country by the men that no longer love us - because these men are the father of our children?

I live in Chicago and have done for the past 9 years. My husband and I came here - full of excitement - at the start of a 2 year adventure in July of 2000. After a rocky start my ex's job suddenly started going great guns and we both decided to stay a couple more years. Then ex's career sky rocketed and the previously shared intention of moving home became a bone of contention between us. I agreed to stay another couple of years and in that time both of my sons were born here. Although that fact is immaterial. The fact of the matter is that, under Illinois law, if parents separate then neither parent has the right to remove the children from the state without the expressed written permission of the other. This law comes into effect after the children have been residence in the state for 6 months and 1 day and is irrespective of their nationality or the nationality of their parents (both the father and I are British).

So here we are today. Ex is happily separated from me, loving his job, running marathons every spare second that he has, seeing his boys on a very regular basis and living a full and happy life, with no intention of returning to England in the foreseeable future. He is a great dad and does not want to live in a different country to his children. He wants to see them and continue to be a part of their lives as much as he has time to. That I understand.

It doesn't help me much though, does it? I do not want to be here. I have not wanted to be here for years in fact. But unless I choose to leave my children here in Chicago and go back to live in England without them, then I have no choice in the matter. I can choose to go the route of Yummy Mammy and start a lengthy legal process, which can take up to 2 years to finalise, has no guarantee of the outcome - oh and will cost anywhere up to $300,000+. Which, quite frankly, scares the shit out of me.

I think most of the time I survive by living in denial. It is quite easy to keep both physically and mentally occupied with a 6 year old and 4 year old to look after. Most of my days are filled with the day-to-day minutia, which successfully distracts me from dwelling too much on the fact that I am trapped. Trapped living a life that I don't want to live. 4,000 miles from the people that I want to live my life with. Living my life in limbo, with no immediate control over my future. Just waiting for the time (if it ever comes) that I can move home again and start afresh. Start living my life within my terms and by my rules, with my boys by my side and their father within spitting distance and not an ocean away.

This month is particularly hard. It has been the anniversary of my first son's death and the birthdays of my other two boys. What I wouldn't give to have the boys share their birthday excitement with their grandparents and aunts and uncles. To be able to pop round to my mum or dads for a soothing cuppa, when all the gift buying and party planning is getting a little too much to handle without a fortifying shared mug of rosy-lee. But these simple pleasures are not an option and haven't been for a long, long time. Sometimes I doubt whether they ever will be. Although I cannot bring myself to truly believe that. I have to live in hope that one day this situation will be resolved. That my ex will come to his senses and realise that he can have a great job, run marathons - do what the hell he likes - anywhere in the world, but the only place that I can be at home, be at peace, be happy, is with my family and friends back in the UK.

And I also live in hope that my friend Yummy Mammy also gets to move home. A measly 135 miles from Ireland back to England. To live a life of freedom with her daughter, amongst her family and friends. And to resolve this bitter long drawn out conflict and the source of much emotional trauma with her ex husband.

I am rooting for you, brave strong friend.

Please root for her too by visiting her blog Save One Mammy and supporting her cause. You can also read a more detailed description of her ongoing battle at Heartbroke - Part 2.

This post is part of the Save One Mammy campaign. Mammy is fighting for the permission to leave Ireland together with her English-born daughter and return home to England; something her estranged husband is trying to prevent by all means and for seemingly egotistical reasons only. Parental alienation, unfair hearings and a clear and blatant violation of every EU citizen’s right to free movement are just a few of the hurdles she has to overcome. Please help us to raise awareness and visit her blog to support her in her campaign.


  1. I'm so sorry, and angry, for you both. Much love, x

  2. You have me in tears now. Thanks for the support. Although I am rather emotional myself as I've just got off the plane again and you know what that does to me xx

  3. I just can't even imagine the frustration... Rooting for you both

  4. Nic, you're one of the strongest people I know. You can do this and have my full support and love.

  5. Oh, hugs! My heart was in my throat reading all that. Just - hugs!

  6. It breaks my heart to read this - I can't believe how unfair a system can be that effectively makes a woman choose between living her life and her living with her children

  7. Wonderfully written, Nic.

    I too have some experience of this & sympathise with you & YM so very much. From Cape Town originally, met & married my handsome Englishman, moved to London. Ten years and two daughters later everything went pear-shaped... and years later, I'm STILL here.

    Many's the time I've longed to return 'home' to SA with my girls but I know that if I did I'd break three hearts by doing so. Couldn't do that to my Ex (tempted as I've been on numerous occasions!!) or to my darling girls.

    It's not an easy thing ... I still feel like an 'outsider' (although I have citizenship now and lovely friends etc) and I know I always will. I will never feel like I belong here (though I've grown to love London very much). But I regularly miss the easy familiarity & sense of security that being close to family brings.

    I really, really feel for you & Yammy Mammy both.

    (Phew. Seem to have gone on a bit pof a rant-a-thon!!??! You hit a bit of a nerve, you did!) xx

  8. Awful. It seems to me that your ex is putting himself above everyone else (but them a lot of men do). He wants to stay here, so everyone else will have to too. Given that you're both English and there's no extended family here, you might have a chance in the courts but it would be very expensive.
    I know one young girl who went back to Ireland without her daughter in the end. Her ex gave her very little money (despite being from a wealthy family) and she couldn't continue to live as desperately as she was, so she made the awful decision to go back and leave her child with the father, who then proceeded to give her everything he had denied when the mother had her.
    There are no words to describe how I feel about him.

  9. Don't know what to say, except thinking of you.

  10. It's funny how easy it is to get wrapped up in the minutae and push aside the bigger issues and bigger pain.
    I am so used to you living in America that I do the same. Just get on with things. Gloss over what we all are missing and where we both want you to be.
    Because the truth is that thinking about it breaks my heart.
    Don't give up, sister soulmate. You will get home. x x x

  11. Nicola, I am so sorry that you are in this situation. My brother married a girl from Canada and they live there, I know that he is and probably always will be terribly homesick. I had to move away from my parents last year due to my husband's job and it has been v hard following my son's diagnosis. (But we only moved in England). All I can say is, I do understand how you feel in a way, as I now live in a very tiny village where I know no one. And you have all my sympathy. What I also feel is this: your circumstances mean that you get maximum time with your sons and I am sure that in the future, you will look back and feel very glad about that. Not much comfort I know. Life is so bloody complicated, isn't it?

    Also - thank you so much for your very kind words re my blog. Much appreciated. I posted again tonight - I was feeling very low when I decided to stop blogging, but better now. Wish we lived near one another! Fx

  12. What an incredibly powerful post. So sorry to read of your situation. I'm angry on your behalf. Wish I could offer you an easy solution, or even any solution in fact.