“Moms, have you ever wanted to leave everything behind and start a new life?” Those were the words of a Facebook post that stopped me cold. I had a response on the tip of my fingers ready to type.
But my eyes fell on the comments before I began my own. There were nine comments and all of them admitted entertaining that fantasy. The woman who posed the question had lots of company. Maybe you would be among them. I write this post for you – with sympathy, but also with experience.
My mother walked away from our family when I was 7 years old. My sister (age 8) and I were the product of my mother’s second marriage. I also had 4 older siblings from her first marriage. So there were six of us altogether. My father, who she hoped would be her knight on a white horse after her divorce, turned out to be her alcoholic abuser instead. When she had enough, she simply disappeared.
Why Start A New Life?
There are only a few reasons a mother seriously considers walking away from her family.
- She’s involved in an extramarital affair and not thinking objectively.
- She’s tired, disappointed, and wants to correct her mistake before it’s too late.
- She has to enter the government’s witness protection program.
In my mother’s case, it turned out to be a combination of one and two. A few years after she left, I learned she had a new man and a new daughter. Life went on for her. Happily, it seemed.
That’s always the hope. There aren’t many stigmas society attaches to people anymore, but it’s still a bit stunning to hear a *mother has abandoned her kids. So if you’re going to subject your reputation to the gossip mill, it better be worth it. If you’re going to subject your reputation to the gossip mill, it better be worth it. Click To Tweet
The thing is, to measure worth there has to be scale. There has to be a measurement of cost vs benefit. If the mom contemplating leaving her life wants to know if it will be worth it, she has to consider the cost. Here are some costs.
Your kids will be traumatized.
You need to know it’s impossible for a child to explain to classmates at school, without utter humiliation, that their mother would rather leave them than stay with them. (I told classmates my mother died. Much more respectable.)
And an abusive spouse will not become a self-controlled adult with your departure. They’ll simply find a new target to vent their rage upon. Are you good with that?
Guilt will dog you.
You’ll never go far enough to escape your conscience. No matter how permissive and accepting our society becomes of self-indulgence, your conscience knows there are limits and you’ve exceeded them. Guilt will mar your hoped-for happiness.
Time doesn’t heal all wounds.
There is a permanent cost to walking out on your children even if you decide to walk back in at some later date. It will be too risky for them to completely trust you, even as adults. (I wrote about that here.) Wounds that look neatly scarred on the surface will still be infected by mistrust, and worse, underneath.
What DO You Do When You Want To Start A New Life?
It probably won’t surprise you to learn my mother’s happiness was short-lived. She hadn’t gotten any better at picking men and having another child must have reminded her of the ones she left behind. The guilt kicked in. My sister and I went to live with her when I was 10. (My other older half-siblings made their way to other relatives.) But it was strained. We both were changed.
What may surprise you to learn is that I, myself, struggled with the temptation to leave my children and start a new life. Never did. But there’s a powerful curiosity that stirs in the mind to know the allure of the thing that brought so much heartache. I knew what I experienced. I wanted to know what my mother experienced. But I didn’t want her consequences and that was enough to curb my curiosity.
Maybe that’s the reason you’re considering it. Someone left you, it hurt, and you want to know what’s so great that it could be worth what they put you through. To you I say, count the costs they didn’t. Reality rarely turns out like anyone’s fantasy.
Or maybe you’re in a physically abusive relationship and need to get out. Get out. But take those kids with you. There are so many social programs available there’s no excuse to leave children in danger.
Then again, maybe you’re in an extramarital love affair and want to stay in. If that’s the reason you’d abandon your children, hook up with someone in the witness protection program. That will be kindest to the children who are left to explain your choice.
Stay In The Life You Have
For the sake of the children you brought into the world, please don’t toy with the fantasy of leaving to start a new life without them. That doesn’t mean changes can’t be made. But face the challenges of your present life like the grown woman you are. Seek out help if you need it. Mother with faithfulness like your life depends on it. Because theirs does.
* It’s no less painful for a father to abandon his children. Here, I’m talking to mothers.