- When Nicola Prentice became pregnant, she was enjoying life in Spain while her partner lived in London.
- They decided to raise a family in Spain, but having a baby made life there less enjoyable.
- They have separated, but she is not legally allowed to move the children to the UK, where she has family.
I got pregnant three months after dating the man I thought was the one. The fact that we were living in two different countries at the time felt like an adventure. He was in London and I was in Madrid. Since I was 24 years old he has lived in 7 countries but finally settled in Spain with no plans to leave. This was a first for me.
For the first time, I found my tribe within a community of writers. I wasn’t just putting another pin on a map, I was creating a home. I realized that Spain is the place where I live life to the fullest. I joined writing clubs and open mics, participated in 48-hour film projects, and went to see friends’ plays.
I loved the lifestyle and, yes, the sunny weather. Planning was always spontaneous. Be it a cheap 3-course menu, our famous long Spanish lunch with unlimited wine, a night out or a weekend getaway to the countryside.
It was very different from my home in England. In the UK, I had to book my friends weeks in advance when traveling, and rain often ruined my plans. Spain also has long days. Shops and cafes are open until 9pm, so 8pm is considered too early to make dinner reservations. Even if you work all day long, you still have plenty of time left for a social life. I was rarely at home and didn’t have a TV.
My new partner happily moved to Spain
Luckily for me, or so I thought, one of the many reasons why my new boyfriend became “that one” is that he loves to travel and his work often takes him to New York, Europe, and Asia. That’s what they did. Above all, his lifelong dream was for him to return to Spain after spending his early twenties teaching English in Barcelona.
He was fluent in Spanish, could make great paella, and loved Spanish wine. There was no real question of where we would live, but he quickly found a larger apartment for us in the trendy La Latina barrio.
I returned to the UK with him for the third trimester and birth, but we were both keen to start family life in Spain. Spaniards love children, especially babies, so it was easy and fun to take the baby for lunch or tapas on the sunny terrace or late into the evening.
Having a baby made it difficult to enjoy life in Spain.
However, as the baby became an active toddler and my partner continued to work overseas, I spent a lot of time alone. It has become increasingly difficult to meet friends and engage in writing activities. It’s been a long day in Spain.
When I decided to move to Girona, a seven-hour drive away on the other side of Spain, it would have been unthinkable to me just a few years ago, but it felt like I was saying goodbye to my old life anyway. . I didn’t think it mattered that I didn’t have any friends there or that my partner was out up to 80% of the time.
A year after moving, I gave birth to my second child. 10 days after giving birth, my partner returned to work abroad.
It turns out that not having friends is important.
When we separated, moving to the UK to be closer to my sister and niece seemed like the answer to fully surviving life as a single mother.
If I wanted to be with my children, I had to stay in Spain.
That’s when I learned about the Hague Convention, which is an international agreement between a majority of countries. According to the Convention, custody of a child must be determined in the country of the child’s habitual residence. The type of custody agreement in place is determined by that country’s custody norms, not your home country.
The important thing is that neither parent can bring the children back home (or abroad) without the other parent’s permission. When I returned to my hometown, I learned that it would legally be considered a child abduction and a British court would send me back to Girona.
My ex-boyfriend, a lover of Spain, had no intention of ever returning to England, and neither could I – at least not if I wanted to be with my children.
Advantages of raising children in Spain
Raising children in Spain had its advantages. Her childcare, which is paid for by the government, actually begins at the age of three when she attends an infant school. Kids can enjoy a healthy three-course lunch for less than 5 euros ($5.40) per day. On weekends, you’ll find lush nature within a 5-minute walk from your city apartment, and multiple beaches within a 45-minute drive.
Spain has a communal attitude towards raising children, where children are welcome in almost every bar and restaurant, and strangers on the bus become part of the extended family, watching your child grow up. Her sons, now aged 6 and 9, are trilingual in English, Spanish and Catalan and will be eligible for EU passports even after Brexit.
Despite this, I often wish I had stayed in the UK where my family support was closer. My ex only hangs out with the boys every other weekend and one night a week. Girona is lovely, but it lacks the vibrant international community of Madrid. My ex won’t leave, so the joint custody agreement binds me here as well.
Are you counting down the years until you can quit? Yes, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy them while I’m here.
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