I have been divorced from my Turkish husband for over four years now. One of the main issues in our marriage was his yearning to move back to Turkey to be closer to his family. Divorce is never easy, but divorcing someone who is from another country adds another element of anxiety to the mix.
Last April, my ex came to me and told me that he was up for sabbatical and would be going to Turkey for a year. He was proactive and came to me with a parenting plan. Ideally, he would come every six weeks and spend 14 days with Mina and then go back. At the time, I thought I would be ok and this plan, on paper, seemed feasible.
I was wrong. I had no idea how hard it would be… in so many unanticipated ways. I wish I had prepared better.
This is my “I wish I had” list for you to learn from:
- I wish I had enrolled my daughter in the aftercare program at school. I had no idea how hard it would be to develop my business within the school time.
- I wish I had asked for clear dates for visits and time share. It has been so hard to plan anything around that 6 week mark. I had asked multiple times for dates at least 30 days ahead of time, but I usually only found out about a week or so before he would come. Finally, I just started planning out life and adjusting the proposed schedule when presented with visitation dates.
- I wish I had found a babysitter Mina was comfortable with ahead of time. Time for myself, with Alex, or even going out with friends has become non-existant. I can see how my fatigue from my being 100% parent 6 weeks straight has adversely affected my relationships.
- I wish I had reached out to friends ahead of time asking for help. It is only just recently that friends are noticing my fatigue and offering to take Mina after school for a few hours so I can rest.
- I wish I had thought about the sabbatical while we were in divorce proceedings. The concept is not alien to me since my dad used to take sabbatical every 7 years and spend 6 months in Turkey himself. I felt that I had not prepared enough for that eventuality during the divorce and paying for it now because no parameters were set down.
By not planning adequately, I am completely worn out at the end of the 6-7 week cycle and usually sleep for days once he comes back. I have never experienced this sort of fatigue before. Somehow, my body just knows it doesn’t have to care for a child anymore, hits that wall of exhaustion and I need to lay down or I will fall down. It has been 7 months into the sabbatical and I am finally developing a system that incorporates rest time for myself during the day. I have finally jumped that hurdle and may actually be productive while she is away this visit!
We are currently on our third rotation of visits and sabbatical ends at the end of July. It has been a bit of an emotional roller-coaster for my daughter to deal with. She misses time with her dad and the regularity of seeing him. They had worked hard over the past two years to build a relationship and I felt that this year would be challenging for them. Weekly Skype calls are ok and important, but it restricts Mina’s time with her friends. Sometimes, Skype calls are postponed for playdates, sometimes playdates have to wait. Mina’s friends don’t really understand our situation and make Mina feel bad for having to cancel playdates. When this happens, Mina feels torn between her want to play with her friends and her need to feel connected with her father.
She also struggles with anxiety just before a visit. She gets used to a certain flow during her time with me and it takes time for her to settle into being without me. Her insecurity within this time sharing structure leads to sleepless nights at her dad’s and 2 am phone calls to me. That means I am still not catching up on sleep because now I am helping her to get back to sleep at his house. Sleepless nights also have been affecting her school work because her fatigue interferes with her ability to do her work properly. It usually takes about a week after he leaves for her to emotionally settle back into our routine.
Her dad wrote to me once last fall about how much he was enjoying being home and that he was, for once, taking care of his needs. The feeling I came away from after reading that email was panic. He was experiencing everything that he had missed and would eventually go back, wanting Mina to spend more time there as well.
I spent the next few days researching International Family Law and found a fantastic site that went over divorce laws, custody, and so much more. I was able to research Turkey and the possibility of shared custody. Next, was Child Support: Did Turkey support and uphold the paying of child support? I was able to search the site under child support, find the country, and felt relief that there was a reciprocal agreement between the US and Turkey to uphold child support payments. There was even and office address and phone number listed for reference and communication. I booked marked that quickly!
My next concern was visitation: Would Mina have to bulk up her time and pretty much spend weeks over the summer in Turkey? What happens to visitation when the non-custodial parent moves overseas? I worried because Mina struggled with being there three weeks last summer. I wondered how she would do if she had to spend six weeks or more. I found many articles on the subject by googling the phrase: Non-Custodial Parent Moves Abroad. It put my mind at ease because most articles state that the non-custodial parent does the visitation in the US with the child, not making the child to spend a chunk of time in another country.
There is a possibility that in the next few years he may move back. I feel that being knowledgeable ahead of time about how to handle this delicate situation helps. Within a few days of doing research, I was able to calm down and relax. I knew that I would be handle this if/when the time came.
If co-parenting across countries is a possibility, do your research and set up a support system for you and your child to help you through. It’s really hard to be a parent 100% of the time, but if you plan ahead-you will make it through just fine.
- 5 Options When Your Ex Repeatedly Violates Your Custody Agreement
- What “Legal Custody” Is And Is Not
- The Dos And Don’ts Of Custody Evaluation In Divorce
- And Then There Were Four: When Daddy Goes Home