When I came to France, I had left Ireland,under the impression that I was moving into a house that was been given to us to look after and do some work on, and that my father in law would help me find a job through his contacts. I very quickly realised that this would never happen.
The house I moved into on 2.5 hectares of land had no electricity or hot water, holes in the roof and the grounds were completely unkempt. The house had rats and was not suitable to be the living quarters of a family.
In my time there I replaced ceilings, helped plan the installation of electrical wiring , installed water pipes cut grass and trees and used a chainsaw, and a heavy garden machinery. None of which I was qualified to do but all of which I did thinking it was for the future of my family.
When the relationship between my ex and I broke down, I had no job, my level of French was minimal, my understanding of the administrative tasks involved in French life was non existent and I found many practices culturally very different.
Faced with the prospect of probably never seeing my son again or only in Summer time at best, I decided to stay in France for him. I was completely alone.
I had asked my ex for help in order to find a place to live, she refused. It was with tenacity and persistence on my part that I finally found someone willing to rent me a studio and I had no references no guarantees but I pleaded with the agent.
During the break up I got my first job teaching English.
My revenue Brut Global in 2004 was 3600 euros. I still had to feed myself and my son when he was with me, and pay rent and electricity.
In 2005 my revenue Brut Global was 7782 euros. Fortunately I had friends at home and had made some friends in France who helped out with administrative tasks, kept my morale up as best they could and encouraged me to stay for my son. In these two years, I was obliged to rely on others to get by, I visited the St Vincent de Paul in order to be able to eat. .
I obtained a scooter for transport and found finally a willing companion who has been my rock in a very challenging time in my life.
I am 1m80 which is a inch short of 6ft, and when I met my current partner I was 59kgs. There is a pic of me on face book. It scares me now when I look at it.
I had discussed often with his mother the fact that when I was established we would share the care of our son. The more established I became however the more reluctant she appeared to be. Dates that were made, were often broken and I could never be sure even around Christmas as to if and when I would see my son. She is incapable of sticking to dates or organising ahead.
I have paid his school and canteen always despite my earnings being so low. Oisín has always had enough clothes, toys, and food in his home with me, and I have often received him in shoes or trousers that are ripped and torn.
I have in the past 5 years, managed to hold down a full time job, to learn French and although I can speak well I wouldn’t consider myself fluent, certainly I am bilingual. I have also obtained my full driving licence, although driving on the other side of the road was a challenge for a while. I have continued to teach Oisín to communicate, to use English, to guide him as best I can. I quit smoking again for him in order to be there when he is older. I learned to swim correctly and I have become fit, all for my son.
I am now settled and I am a father again, one year after trying to get a divorce in the first instance. Finally Oisín has a sister and he is very proud and very loving toward her. I have succeeded despite my ex wife. Whatever issue she may or may not have with me, she has no right to use our son to gain leverage of any sort.
I have had no wish to engage in a fight or to disturb my son. My strategy in not asking for full garde was to be fair. My wish was to engage maturely as the good parents that we are. But this social inquest and my difficulties with the first lawyer, a friend of my ex’s father, who threatened me with prison, signal that the boy's mother and her family are willing to play politics with him.
Now there is the question of his sister who will grow up knowing her brother is 2kms away but she can’t see him and how do we explain that to both children?
I am not going away. I live in this country for my son, and now for the rest our family. I am the father of my son. I am doing my job. I am there for him. I will never let him down no matter how much other people may wish me to disappear. I am asking the French state and legal system to understand that in our case some form of shared care must be established. Every second weekend is not enough. I am open to suggestions, to innovations, to compromises and this I know in my heart is the way forward.
But whatever happens he will always be loved and soon it will be time to just get on and move forward.
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