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Single Dad in France

Lost in France



I became a single parent a month ago, when my wife left to concentrate on her art.

We live in France and have been here for 7 years. My sons are aged 16 and 14.

It has been a fantastic experience living in France, but we underestimated how hard it would be to earn a living. The pressure caused by this finally broke out marriage.

My wife left saying she could not stand it at home and that it was affecting her art work. I'll not bore anyone (else) with the details.

My boys are great and I couldn't bear the thought of losing them. They kept me alive during the break up. As you can imagine, with 2 teenage boys, things kick off from time to time, but I'm actually finding discipline easier since my wife left and they are helping out more around the home.

I think deep down they feel rejected too. I'm working hard to keep everything positive at the moment. Especially as my 16 year old has the French equivalent of O’levels coming up soon and decisions about Lycées (6th form college) to make.

It's going to be difficult over the coming months. So that’s why I’ve joined this site to get a few tips or ideas and maybe an outlet when things are getting on top of me.

Thanks (or should I say merci!)

ps and sorry if I've messed up my first posting. Think I may have duplicated it


Posted on: June 13, 2010 - 6:58am
Parenting specialist DoppleMe

Hello Lost in France

Welcome to One Space, or should I say bienvenue!

I am one of the moderators of these boards, along with Anna.

There's lots of support and information here. You have two teenage boys and that can be very challenging! We have a special section for parents of teenagers: also a dads section: My youngest is 15 and just doing his GCSEs so I know what a stressful time it can be.

I gather from your post that you are planning on remaining in France. Which part do you live in? You said it was difficult to make a living, what is your line of work?

I do hope that you will become a regular poster and share your day to day ups and downs, it is very friendly here and we all support each other

Posted on: June 13, 2010 - 8:02am

Hi Lost in France. Welcome to One Space. It sounds like you and your sons are working as a team and that is fantastic. It must have been a terrible blow to you all. Do they see their Mum often? My son is only 7 so isn't at the exam stage yet, (not sure how I'll cope with the added stress)haha.

Do you plan to return to England at some stage or stay put in France? Do you have friends there to give you support?

I look forward to chatting, (not much good with French, but I can refer to son's book)!!!

Take care



Posted on: June 13, 2010 - 8:21am
Lost in France

Hi, Yes I do plan to stay in France, at least until the boys have passed through their basic education. My youngest only had a year or so at UK schools and has had 7 in France, so it wouldn't be fair to plonk him in a UK school (although he'd be top of the class in French!)

I'm a self employed handyman/gardener. I also do some web design work. Anything that will get a bit of money in. It's been hard work building the business, getting a good reputation, earning the trust of suspicious locals. But I finally felt I'd got there. Then Madame leaves and it feels like I'm back to square one.

Their Mum is staying in a nearby town. I take them to school, she picks them up and brings them back here. But doesn't spend any time with them at the moment. Her view is that once she is settled, they can come over and see her from time to time, if they want and if it is convenient with her.

Thanks for the pointers about the site.

Posted on: June 13, 2010 - 8:52am

Oooohhh a gardener and handyman. Perhaps you can give us some pointers where the gardens concerned!!!

I am sure things will settle down for you in due course. It must be hard for the boys not spending time with their Mum apart from the lift after school that is. Hopefully, once she is settled somewhere, things will change for them.

I'm guessing you have gorgeous weather there. Wouldn't know it was June here! Sun is shining, but still feels chilly.

What are your plans for today Lost in France?


Posted on: June 13, 2010 - 9:32am


Good luck to your son with his exams.  My daughter is doing GCSEs at the mo.

I'm sure life is quite settled for them there, and weather perhaps more favourable for being a handyman and gardener?

I'm glad their mum is still involved, even if it's not as much as it could be.  Hopefully at their age too, when there comes the odd blip, they may be able to understand things a bit better.

Thing is, I think teenagers have so many blips it can be hard to decide what's set them off - my son is 18, and can be challenging!!

Great to see you here and look forward to getting to know you.

Posted on: June 13, 2010 - 2:47pm
Parenting specialist DoppleMe

Hi there Lost in France

Sorry to hear about the break up of your marriage.

It sounds as though your sons have been a huge support for you getting through this.  Are you able to talk with them about their mum leaving? To find out how they feel and for them to know that you will always be there?  It must have been a huge shock. Are they able to talk to their mum when she picks them up from school?

It is so important for them to be able to express their thoughts on the matter however much it might hurt.  It might be why things kick off from time to time, HOWEVER, they are teenagers so it could just be regular!

It sounds as though you are being an absolute rock, which is what they need especially as exam time is looming, however if you feel down it is good to share that with them too, not slating their mum, but you are able to share disappointment or surprise at how life has turned around.

Oh I have soo many questions, one month is still early days so be kind to yourself.  Look forward to getting to know you :)

Posted on: June 16, 2010 - 4:27pm
Lost in France

Thanks All.

I'm really lucky over here and have some fantastic friends who have been very supportive. As you say, talking is such good therapy.

The boys are being great at the moment. They've grown up a lot in the past few weeks. I talk as openly as I can with them, but it is awkward. It's now come to light that there is another man involved and my wife is pushing me for money.

She has no real income (1,800€ last year) and wants me to either sell the house and give her about a third of the value or pay her rent at a flat plus the electric, food, petrol etc until she sells enough of her art to support herself. I was just about earning enough to support 1 house.

It doesn't seem fair to me. I'm looking after the boys and she left us! Everyone thought we were the 'perfect couple' so it can't have been that bad living with me.

I guess I need to check in with a solicitor or Avocat.

We had a birthday dinner this evening for our 14 year old. My in laws have come over and my wife came as well. My son said it was great apart from Mummy sitting there saying nothing. I know it's early days and everything is in turmoil. Hopefully things will improve, but the money thing may be a stumbling block. I've got to look out for the boys.

Thanks all

Posted on: June 16, 2010 - 9:49pm
Parenting specialist DoppleMe

Hello again Lost in France

Glad the birthday meal went well for your son.

Yes it sounds as if you should have a chat with a legal expert about the money. I do not know about the law in France but if you were in the UK, you would not have to pay the boys' mum any income; indeed you would be entitled to some income from her, even if it was the minimum £5 a week. This law is designed to look after the children, which is all to the good.

Stay strong for your boys and I agree with Anna, encouraging them to express their feelings will really help

Posted on: June 17, 2010 - 8:00am

I agree.  I think she needs to sort things out so she can support herself...

Best wishes

Posted on: June 17, 2010 - 4:01pm
Parenting specialist DoppleMe

Hi Lost in France

Louise's info about the law in the UK regarding how much money you may or may not have to pay out sounds promising, I wish you luck with your solicitor, presumably you will have to pay for that also?

Its good to hear that the boys seem to be doing so well, I guess as they are that little bit older they can take things in their stride, its a shame she didn't feel able to join in with the celebrations though.

So you think she has somebody new on the scene?  How do you feel about that?

Posted on: June 17, 2010 - 5:07pm
Lost in France

Thanks again all.

I've now contacted and English 'Euro' solicitor to find out my options/responsibilities.

The boys are still (generally) being good. Although we had a major ruck over iPods last night. I'd finally got to bed before midnight and fell asleep without a pill! At half past midnight, my youngest came up in tears saying his brother wouldn't leave him alone about sharing iPod files and it had got violent.

Ended up with the youngest in the bathroom, door locked and laying in the bath with his quilt! After a fair degree of shouting. My youngest came up and slept with me and I said we'll sort this out in the morning. There will be no screen time today and I'll be taking there iPods away at 10pm from now on. I already cut internet access overnight.

Not the start to Fathers Day I was hoping for, but hopefully it will get better.


Posted on: June 20, 2010 - 8:33am

Oh heck, Paul...

Hope today is a better day.


Posted on: June 20, 2010 - 10:02am
Parenting specialist DoppleMe

Sounds very tough.

Just a suggestion: how about something like a "family meeting"? This is where each person is allowed ot speak uniterrupted for a couple of minutes about issues that are bothering them. One of the issues YOU could raise is lack of sleep! I think it is a great idea to have a "cut off" time. My youngest is 15 so I do have some experience of what you are going through, but it is the squabbles that are the worst, isn't it?

On a day when it is not school the next morning, my boy is allowed his last drink at 10pm and then has to be in his room, quietly and settled, though he can go to sleep when he wants, as long as he does not disturb others, also no computer (worried about late night Internet), just TV. If school the next day then everything is off at 10pm and he has to be in bed by 9.30. However, if he goes out to friend's houses then he can come in at 11.30 one weekend night only (not both). The reason I am telling you this is that young people tend to say "everyone else of my age is allowed to drink unlimited champagne and go to all night parties every night" so it is helpful for another parent to put their cards on the table.

At the end of the day, you are the parent and it would be good to have a set of guidelines worked out between you so that there is no more midnight shouting. Perhaps you could think of what the consequences might be of their non-compliance. You have already said Internet access, that is a good one, or you could choose lack of pocket money or seven days grounding. Whatever you decide, one of the best tips I can give you is to stay calm. This can feel like an impossible task!

I know you are being caring in understanding things might be hard for the boys with their Mum leaving but actually they need to know that you are strong enough to stick to your guns and provide them with the security they crave, however they seem to kick against it.

Posted on: June 20, 2010 - 10:06am
Parenting specialist DoppleMe

Hi Lost in France

It sounds as though you are firm with your boys amd handled the situation really well and Louise is right, they need to see your strength at this point.

One thing I have been guilty of in the past (and even sometimes now) is thinking that it is because of our family circumstances why my daughter might be acting up and in the early days I think it is fair enough, but generally kids do play up, they have fights, falling out and tears, it is not because their other parent isn't there, or that they have been emotionally scarred, they are just being children and testing boundaries or learning emotions.

We just have to keep parenting consistently.  The family discussion sounds like a good idea, you are the alpha male and your boys have to learn the rules in your house!

You said in your post, "hopefully it will get better", it will, but remember you have 2 teenage boys, so a lot of hormones and learning where they stand in this world is yet to be established. Do you have brothers?

What did the solicitor say? Was it helpful? What have you learned? Do you have to sell the house? Is your ex entitled to anything?

Posted on: June 21, 2010 - 4:58pm
Lost in France

Thanks for the encouraging replies. I'm new here, but already feel at home. 

Us blokes are not generally good at talking about how we feel, but this experience has taught me that it's absolutely vital for your sanity.

I tried the family meeting and it worked to a degree, but we'll need more I'm sure.

I like the thought of being the alpha male. Best not mention it to the boys though! :-)



Posted on: June 22, 2010 - 9:58pm
Parenting specialist DoppleMe

Hey Lost in France

Its great to have you on board and glad that you feel at home here.

I completely agree with you, talking IS vital to our sanity, when my daughter was small I would sometimes spend days at a time not talking to anyone but her!  Poor thing....poor me!! 

It is vital especially when you are going through a break up as well, as we can spend hours and hours mulling things over in our heads with no outlet, it can get quite confusing!

Keep going with the family meetings, perhaps you could make it a weekly or monthly thing? As you are all new to this situation, it would give everyone a chance to air their views and you can recreate how you all want your life to move forward.  It could be followed by quality family time, film or board game or perhaps just a stroll to your favourite place?

Oh and maybe you are right, keeping the alpha male to yourself!!

Is there anything that you enjoy doing together as a family??

Posted on: June 23, 2010 - 4:51pm
Lost in France


Not posted for a while, so I thought I'd drop a line to say how things are going.

Not well, from where I'm sitting.

I took legal advice from an Avocat (lawyer) in Poitiers, but I dumped him after he contradicted a lot of what he'd said in our first meeting in our second meeting. I've now taken on another guy who seems to know what he's talking about.

I've been caring pretty much full time for my sons (16 and 14) for the past 5 months. My wife who now lives about 8 miles away only sees our youngest for a couple of hours and one sleepover every week or so. My eldest wants nothing to do with her and she's made virtually no effort to show him her door is always open to him. In fact she ranted at me that he "had to sort himself out".

I now know for sure that another man is involved. In fact she told our youngest son about it a few months ago, but told him to keep it secret from me and my eldest. I can't believe that she would put that sort of burden on a 14 year old. After he had told me that he knew about her boyfriend, he said he felt much better and had felt really bad keeping it a secret.

She's still going around the ex-pat community making up stories about how bad things were at home, which forced her to leave. Most are smart enough to see through her tales and it appears she's not got a sound enough memory to be a good liar.

However, the facts that she left her sons, has had virtually no contact with them and is committing adultery, apparently has not effect on financial settlements. I can try and claim some money for caring for the boys with no physical or financial support, but she can counter claim as I am staying in the jointly owned home 'rent free'. It will be pretty much 50 50, which will force me to sell my dream home and move me and the boys into a smaller, less comfortable house.

To add salt to the wounds, I've been a property owner for 31 years, but only known my wife for 17 years. She came into the marriage with nothing, but like an idiot I signed half the house over to her about 10 years ago. She was 14 when I bought my first house! Again, all this counts for nothing in the eyes of the law.

I'm feeling very flat about it all. A beaten man. The boys are struggling at school and I've no doubt the stress of what's going on is having an effect. I've spoken to their head teachers, but they are not interested in that sort of thing over here. You just get a 'not my problem' attitude.

I'm trying to spend time with them, but it's not easy balancing earning a living, keeping house, cooking and supporting my sons. I guess I'll get the knack in time. They help out if told, though sometimes a 'no internet' threat is required. Sometimes it's more trouble than it's worth getting them to muck in.

Basically, it's all a bit plop at the moment. But I've always been a person who makes the best of whatever I'm dealt with. So it's a big knock, but I'll be back.

All the best



Posted on: October 26, 2010 - 7:42am
Parenting specialist DoppleMe

Hello Lost in France

It is good to hear from you, I have been wondering how you were. It sounds as if French law is not quite the same as in the Uk (here the priority is given to the children's residence but, even then you would probably be forced to make a big payout to her once the youngest was 18 so it still would not reflect the "behaviour" or contribution of both parties)

The boys will take their cue from you, so the more settled and focused you can be, the better they will be. It is unforgiveable that their mum asked your son to keep a secret like that, I am sure you told him so say no if she ever asks him again. Your sons are both old enough to choose whether to see her and it is heartbreaking that she does not seem bothered. Is there abyone they can talk to over there? A youth counselling service or something? I do not know about the services in France but have found what looks like the equivalent of The Samaritans, a telephone helpline staffed by English-speaking counsellors, click here to see it.

Life sure isn't easy for you at the moment but it would help if you could not look back on things you regret (such as the signing over of half the house) as this will just make you feel more bitter and resentful. You have you and the boys and that's all that matters. Look forward to the future now and for things to improve

Take care and I am sure others will be along to say hello too

Posted on: October 26, 2010 - 8:35am

Hi Lost in France. Nice to see you here again. Sorry to hear you're struggling at the moment.


Posted on: October 26, 2010 - 8:53am

Hi Paul

It is so good to have an update from you, and I'm so sorry that things are difficult.

From one who lost everything due to unknown debts, you will be ok. 

My lot have always been told to keep secrets, and that was when I was still married.  I hate to think how awful that must have been for them as my youngest was about two at the time (when the "Texan" came into The Git's life).

Nine years later and they are still told to keep secrets - although my ex will tell them not to tell me as he wants to give me the news personally.

I appreciate how hard it is doing every thing on your own.  My lot rarely do anything to help unless asked - and to be fair, they are getting a lot better at doing things now.  Eldest is awful though, but then he has been the one most affected by everything.  He's quite materialistic, and having lost a very nice house and luxury car is something he is all to aware of.  The other three have done ok, really.

My ex-in-laws are brilliant - but she is his step-mother, and I do know it would have been a total nightmare had his mother been alive.  The Git has moved away, and when the children were told, they were told not to tell me.  This was in the summer.  My mother-in-law (as I still call them) phoned me up to see how the children had coped with the news, not knowing I didn't know! 

He left on 7 September.  No goodbye party for the children - he just 'went'.  We know, as he asked the eldest to help pack the van up (eldest is 18, my youngest is now 11).

Sorry to go on about my situation.

I guess I'm trying to say that their mother will not change.  She will do enough when she does see them for them to think she's wonderful.  Oldest hardly went to see his father and step-mother when they were given a time slot, as he does see his father in his true colours.  The other three do think their dad is wonderful - and I can't tell you how much that hurts me, as I want to scream at them to hate him!!

I don't though Laughing

And I don't call them The Git and Gittess in front of the either... Honest.

I can understand the upset at having to downsize.  I worked ruddy hard in the 20 years I was married to get the laughingly called family home comfy.  It was big too...

But the children have me.  I am their rock, as you will be for your children.  And it doesn't matter what their age, they need you.

You will be ok, and in time the anger does subside - although I will always be bitter and I will NEVER forgive, I can live with it now, and most of the time, the laughter we share here means I hardly think about it.

Fill every day with laughter.  If they talk about their mother, just say that she's chosen this new path in life and is happy, and isn't it good that she's happy?  My lot agree that it's good their dad is happy.

You're not a beaten man, and like you say, you'll be back.  Just sometimes it seems a bit hard to carry on.  You will suddenly find that you are able to accept things a bit easier and days will seem a bit brighter.

Do you have half-term in France? 

I'm wondering if there is some sort of forum that would be able to help your children - perhaps Louise might know of one.  I'm thinking of kidscape maybe?  I'm off to see my Aunty, but will have a look later.

Please keep posting Paul.  It can be good company here, and the support tremendous.

Best wishes

Posted on: October 26, 2010 - 9:16am
Parenting specialist DoppleMe

Hi Lost in France

Great to see you back online, I am so sorry to hear that things are not going well for you at the moment.  

It is good to hear that you have found an Avocat that you can trust though, I hope that having him on side will be a positive factor in all of this.

You have said previously that you have some supportive friends, do your boys feel able to talk to them too, express what is going on?  Are your parents in England? Could they spend some quality time with your sons?

Young Minds is a fantastic organisation that can support you with difficulties you may be facing with your sons, or your boys might get support from them, if they were interested, although at their age they might just be more interested i pods, you tube and girls??!  Louise's suggestion of the helpline in France, may be useful for you, when you feel you are hitting rock bottom?

I think sparklinglime's post shows that there is life after lies, deceit and loss of home and everything you know.  I can completely understand your frustration and anger about the possibility of moving out of your lovely home, however remember home is where the heart is. Which means wherever you and the boys are. Life has a funny way of moving us on when we least expect it.

The future holds things that you do not know yet, and from your post, it sounds as though you will make the most of it.

It is tough juggling life, work, home and parenting when you are doing it all on your own, I think we can all empathise with that one!

A phrase that I have said before on these boards, but don't think I have said on this thread, that really helped me is:

"It is better to have loved and lost than to live with the psycho for the rest of your life!"

It still makes me smile and know that everything is going to be all right!!

Do your boys talk to one another about their mum do you think??


Posted on: October 26, 2010 - 11:04am
Lost in France

Thanks for all the positive comments.

I've told my youngest (in fact I've told my eldest and all my friends) that they can repeat anything I say to my wife. I'll tell no lies and keep no secrets. 

My youngest recently met the boyfriend for the first time. I asked what he thought. It started with a 'w' and ended in 'r'. I'd normally tell them off for bad language but I let him get away with that one. I've told him that in relation to this situation, neither my wife nor I should force him to do or say something he doesn't feel happy about.

They are both happy with me I think. I recently mentioned about moving back to the UK and both said they wanted to stay here. I said 'what if I were to move back and you stay with your Mum' they both said if you go back, we go back. My youngest said he wanted me to get a girlfriend so he could have a step mum. I said you've got more chance of getting a step dad at the moment. To which he replied I don't want a step dad, but I do want a step mum. It's heart-breaking and encouraging at the same time.

I know I've got to accept the situation and make the best of however it works out, but it's hard not to get bitter. I always try and be honest, fair and decent. But it doesn't seem to pay these days. Selfish and lying seem to be the way to get on.

I'm back in the UK this weekend with my youngest (it's a working trip, but gives him the chance to see Nan's, Grandad's etc) Then we are all back again for a week at Christmas, which they are both really looking forward to.

It's been better today. I took the internet box to work with me this morning and left a list of chores. No chores done by lunchtime = no internet today. Low and behold, all chores done. They call it blackmail, but it works for me.

A friend gave me a good tip. She said at the end of each day write down the things that have been good about the day. Even if it's just that you've made it through another day. It does help focus the mind on what's positive.

Thanks again, and I really will try and post more often.


Posted on: October 26, 2010 - 12:27pm
Parenting specialist DoppleMe

That's an excellent tip to think of the things that have been good about the day. Sometimes, when we are going through a really hard time, it is difficult to think of many, but even if it is something like "The sun shone today" or "I enjoyed that piece of music I heard on the radio" then it is worth doing!

Posted on: October 26, 2010 - 2:18pm
Parenting specialist DoppleMe

Hi Lost in France

I hope that you have had a good Christmas in the UK and things have moved on for your family. Look forward to hearing from you :)

Posted on: January 6, 2011 - 11:55am

Afternoon Paul

How are you my name is Stuart and am to a single parent with 3 children have been for 3 years now.

Any time you fancy a man to man chat let me know and i will respond.

We can share the ups and downs together.



Posted on: January 7, 2011 - 2:21pm
Lost in France

Just caught up with this thread again. (Is there anyway of receiving a mail when a post you've commented on is updated?)

We had a brilliant Christmas back in England. Family pulled out the stops to make it memorable for the all the right reasons.

I'll post an update on how things are over here, because lots has changed, big decisions made and I'm in a very positive place right now.

Thanks for the offer Stuart. I may take you up on it. Always good to speak to an 'old hand' (no offence Smile)


Posted on: January 25, 2011 - 1:23pm
Parenting specialist DoppleMe

Hi Lost in France

No there isn't a email alert service (I guess you are thinking of sites like Facebook) but when you log in all the posts you have not read show up as new. We would love to have a Bookmark service as well.

Glad you had a good Christmas, look forward to catching up on your news when you get chance

Posted on: January 25, 2011 - 2:17pm

I am glad you enjoyed Christmas, and so good to know that you're feeling positive about things.

Happy New Year!

Posted on: January 25, 2011 - 6:05pm

Lost in France

The old board had a facility where in when you logged on it showed any updated threads that you had commented on.

: )

Unfortunately we had to move with the times and suffer the new, bah humbug, mummble mummble... form follows function, aesthetics over functionality, blah de blah.

: )

P.S. I'm not bitter.

Posted on: January 26, 2011 - 8:13am
Parenting specialist DoppleMe

We are still working on making this a more user friendly forum, we are hoping to having your latest posts, so you can click straight to them, however all in good time.

Great to 'see' you back online and also that you are in a good place, look forward to hearing the update Smile

Posted on: January 27, 2011 - 7:22pm