I’m an expat. And if you’ve read this post, you know I’m an expat getting a divorce. We have a child. My husband will be parenting our daughter long-distance. My daughter and I will repatriate. He will stay abroad.
You’d think there would be resources out there to help expats getting a divorce … especially if you’re an expat getting a divorce, with a kid, where one parent will live several thousand miles away on a completely different continent. Surely there are resources to help better parent that child and support them through yet another huge move and adjustment in their little life.
No. I’m not kidding.
No, really. Seriously. I’m not kidding.
OK. That’s a little bit of a lie. You can find loads of divorce attorneys representing international family firms. Some of those sites provide financial advice and tell you not to flee the country with your children. (Duh.) Most of those sites are aimed at British expats.
That’s not the kind of support I’m talking about.
Lack of Stats and Resources
I have not found a single academic or organizational statistic or resource aimed specifically at current expats getting a divorce with children … let alone expats getting divorced.
There appears to be no children’s books for third culture kids suffering through their parents’ divorce. There seems a complete lack of how-to books for parents on long-distance parenting targeting expats and their special circumstances.
Surely, I am not the only expat out in the world getting divorced. Our family won't be the only one that makes a go of long-distance parenting.
I know we’re not alone. A 2012 article from The Telegraph says the divorce rate amongst expats in Dubai is on the rise. (Source: Dubai Statistics Center.) Perhaps Dubai’s the only city gathering divorce stats on expats?
There’s a lot of speculation about how common expat divorce is; this article from the Wall Street Journal states organizations and companies either don’t share or don’t collect data on this because it may cause couples to re-think their overseas post. It’d be kind of like “Hey! Come Work Abroad … And Ruin Your Marriage!” Yeah … might not go down well.
I’ve recently emailed a global relocation company to ask if they have statistics or provide resources to couples and families … especially kids. When I hear back, I’ll let you know.
Expats seem silent about it, too. I’ve tried searching for expat bloggers talking about their divorce. Nada. There are a few expat divorced bloggers out there, but they’re writing about it as though they became expats after divorce.
Divorce, despite being sadly common, still has stigma around it. Many people are ashamed when their marriages don’t work out. In the expat community, it can be hard to talk to others about real issues going on because it’s such a small, strange world … especially if you work in development or teaching. I posted here that being an expat can be isolating. It can be hard to talk about the tough stuff for many reasons.
Do expats feel an additional sense of shame and stigma attached to divorce? There’s a plethora of stats out there about how well-educated, well-paid, and privileged expats are. Smart people don’t get divorced, right? Well-paid people don’t get divorced. Living the dream overseas … what would ever make you get divorced? Right? Wrong.
The truth is being an expat isn’t always rosy. When you’re far from usual support networks, it can be difficult to process things. Life overseas often takes a toll on couples and families. Many people work through it, but it isn’t pots of gold and rainbows all the time.
There are resources – minimal ones – out there on long-distance parenting, but typically targeted to the US population and not always divorced families; many families separated for work in the bad economic times and there are military families who struggle with this issue, too. There are wonderful children’s books like When I Miss You to address the feelings kids get when they’re … well … missing someone. Zilch about missing your parent who lives 8,000 miles away and how to deal with that.
Fantastic divorce books exist for parents and children. At some point I’ll post a tab on the blog listing them. Many of those messages are transferable … until you get to the part where the kid is packing-up to spend the weekend at dad’s house. My daughter will be lucky to see her dad four times a year. She may or may not go to his house. Or if she does, it might only be once a year. Where’s the book about that?
What about books for young kids repatriating? It’s not an easy ride as this post shows. I worry about my daughter fitting in a small, conservative town with little ethnic diversity where the school will be bigger, and the teacher-to-student ratio completely different. To make her stick out a bit more, she's lived in a different country and her dad will still live overseas. Her parents will be going through a divorce. Oh, and she’s bi-cultural. And, she has traveled a lot and has a passport … unlike most Americans, let alone American children. Where the hell is that f’ing book?
I'll only mention this briefly today, but - uh - what if you want to continue a friendly relationship with your ex-spouse? Can I just tell you how nearly impossible it is to find articles or books about that? Like the idea itself is impossible to fathom? I've found this article and this one. Most sources say you can't be friends - if it's even possible - for at least a few years.
Really? I say bullshit.
There are lots of books about positive co-parenting. When I found the book Taking the High Road, I thought it would discuss how to go through a divorce positively ...not just how to parent positively during a divorce. Turns out, the person who wrote the book hated her husband throughout their divorce (like lots of people, I guess) and gives advice on how to find out if you're being cheated on. This includes where to buy mini voice recorders and where to strategically hide them to 'catch' personal phone calls. That's the high road?
We're expats, with a kid. We're getting divorced. One parent and one kid is going home. Long-distance parenting is involved. And we're going through the divorce - RIGHT NOW - amicably (though incredibly painfully). And there is NOTHING out there that talks about this!
If I’m wrong, I hope some of you will guide me to the light and show me the error of my ways. Share the resources with me.
If I’m right – I’m frightened I am – something needs to be done. Expats need to speak out. Organizations need to say something. Data needs to be shared. Resources need to be created. It’s completely wrong not to talk about this.
Even if it makes people uncomfortable, I'm going to talk about this. Someone has to.
Are you an expat? Have you been impacted by divorce? Do you know someone that has? Let’s talk.