After finishing school in Europe, Paul Petit, now 48, moved to the U.S.A. upon accepting a job offer in New York City. During the next 20 years he moved back and forth between Europe and the States, staying long enough to eventually earn his American citizenship. It was during his last few years in America that Paul became a dad to adorable twins Alban and Jeanne, born through surrogacy in September 2013.
“I was with a partner for many years and we planned to create a family: 2 parents + 1 kid (a triangle). Well, he freaked out when we started the process and we broke up. I continued the journey alone and my surrogate got pregnant with twins. So I got my triangle, it’s just configured a little differently: 1 parent + 2 kids!” Paul explained when asked how he became a single dad.
On his Move Back to Paris
Paul tells us that his decision to return to Paris recently was not an easy one. He loved his life in New York City, where he had made many good friends. Had he met someone he likely would have remained, but for various reasons romance didn't work out.
Paul explained that raising children in the U.S.A was challenging, especially as a single parent. His entire family lived in Paris, so it soon became clear that moving back to live in Paris would provide him with much needed support.
Another deciding factor had to do with school. The twins were getting ready for pre-K, and Paul wanted them to be raised with French (or more precisely, European) values. Plus, good schools are free in Paris, as is healthcare, making the move financially beneficial as well!
Paul's family in France
He plans to raise his kids bi-culturally so that they always feel prepared to return to the States to study or live as adults.
Paul does share that surrogacy is illegal in France, and it took him two years to obtain his children's French citizenship following a protracted legal battle. The French are not quite so open-minded about gay families, and this does concern him. Especially when contrasted with his experiences of being a gay dad, even a single one, in New York City. There he says he received only strong support and admiration by his American friends and the people around him, noting that there was a larger community of gay dads (singled and coupled) that left him feeling a different kind of support.
Regardless of where he lives, Paul is determined that he will never lie to his children, and he plans to explain with very simple words how they came to life and why he wanted so badly to have them in his life.
Paul started the journey with his former partner, another European who had moved to the U.S. with him. Although they had agreed they both wanted to be parents and that surrogacy would be their path, once things got started his partner got really scared. Soon he refused to be involved and decided that he was, in fact, not ready to parent. But Paul knew more than anything that being a parent was how his life was meant to play out, so even at the risk of breaking up, he continued with the process.
Through the break-up Paul retained a great relationship with the agencies and his gestational carrier, and hopes she will always be a part of their lives.
His Biggest Challenges
Paul presumes his biggest challenges are around having twins, but like other dads of twins we've featured on Gays With Kids, he cannot say for sure as he doesn't know what it's like to have just one baby. Also, like most dads, Paul shares that there are times where he is simply exhausted, but his twins still require his attention and he feels close to a breakdown, but the feeling passes quickly.
He does admit that sometimes he feels lonely and he wishes that he could find someone to share all these tremendous emotions with, especially since he's been in relationships most of his adult life prior to being a dad, so he knows how nice it is to have someone to share the emotions with.
With a Little Help From His Friends
In New York City, Paul used to have a nanny. "I have a lucky star and this is the only reason I've survived these past 3 years: I have had the same amazing nanny since the day they were born. She is just fantastic, so loving and very responsive, She really teaches great values to the kids. They adored her and I must say that leaving NYC this week was really emotional for the 3 of us."
"I also have a fantastic group of friends from all over and a great family. When the smurfs were born, I basically reached out to most of my closest six or seven friends and asked for help for the first 12 weeks. All of them came, from London, Paris, Madrid, even Singapore and spent each one week experiencing the night baby feedings, the crying, the exhaustion. It is a unique experience and these special moments with them will always be in our memories. I also have a fantastic family and despite the fact that they all live in Paris, they come very regularly to help and to babysit for me to go on holidays. Again, I am a very lucky guy and I remind myself this everyday."
Career and Dating
Paul used to travel extensively for his job, between the United States, Europe and Latin America. He used to be away almost every week, and the only time he would really spend with his kids would be on weekends.
He has been dating and met some really nice guys that way. He met someone in particular with whom he had a really strong connection and the kids loved him and vice versa, but to make it short, it was complicated, and they could not make it work. Nonetheless, Paul believes it will happen. "I have this crazy (and most likely unrealistic) dream to have a third one with the one to bring a little sibling to the smurfs."
Unfortunately, Paul doesn't feel he has enough time, and it was one of the reasons he decided to leave his job, move back to France, and do something that would give him more free time.
His philosophy is that happy parents make happy kids. One of his close friends is really a role model for him. So, despite the limited time, he would still go out at night with his friends, to go see a movie or a play.
"Most of my friends do not have kids and we would talk about other topics, life, projects, ….. I love it. Most of my friends keep saying to me that they feel that I am one of the few of their friends who still go out, laugh, drink, keep laughing at silly things despite being a parent and do not spend hours talking about diapers!"
"Since the kids were born, I have taken holidays twice a year without them with close friends. It was a great opportunity for them to spend some time with their grandparents or uncle or aunts without me and for me to disconnect and be Paul (and not only Papa Paul). I know that I will be spending more and more time with my kids but I will always try to keep some time for myself in order to give them the best quality time when I am with them."
The Perfect Day
"Wake up, hugs, breakfast, a couple of hours at the park playing, running around. The “siesta” after lunch is critical for me to do all the things that I had not had the chance to do and as a single dad, you do not have a second for yourself. (This is the perfect day, but it is not always like that! There are days during which they scream so much, sometimes I want to cry of despair and don't know what to do.) When they wake up, I would take them to a museum, watch them holding hands on the street and stopping in front of an art piece and say, "Whoooa!" with their eyes wide open."
Answers were edited for clarity.
Want to see more single gay dads doin’ it for themselves? Read their stories here.