When the daffodil trumpets start to open up, it’s time to think about Mother’s Day again. For many families, this is a day when children make cards and dads remember to take them shopping for presents.
For separated families, it can be a day that is as complicated as Christmas or birthdays. A special day that requires all the planning of a military campaign. For separated mothers who live apart from their children, Mother’s Day can be another painful reminder of what has been taken away, of what has been lost, of time passing by.
Mothers who do not live with their children after divorce or separation all share something in common; the trauma of loss and the silence surrounding their status. Some of that silence comes from mothers themselves, unable to talk about their situation for fear of judgement, but most of it comes from the society in which we all live. A society that conspires to believe that a mother who is not the main carer for her children is somehow not really a mother at all.
Just like non resident fathers, non resident mothers feel isolation, a lack of status and a deep unhappiness at the erosion of their relationship with their children. Unlike non resident fathers, however, mothers face the further pain of society’s disapproval, the unspoken question that hangs in the air. For, if a mother is not living with her children, she must have done something to cause that, mustn’t she?
But mothers who do not have any contact with their children, are just as deserving of their children’s cards, presents and love on Mothering Sunday – perhaps even more so. Mothers living apart from their children are often doing so because of incredibly difficult circumstances in which their choices about relationships with their children were taken away from them. Just like fathers who are alienated from their children after family separation, mothers living apart from their children are living with the dual grief of their loss and the knowledge that their children are unlikely to want to see them even if it were possible.
As we approach another Mothering Sunday, I would like to wish every separated mother a happy day. If you are lucky enough to be a separated mother with care of your children, spend a minute on Sunday to think about those mums and dads who are deprived of that role.
If you are a separated dad and it’s your time to be with your children, give up an hour or two of that precious time and help your children make their mother’s day. You may not love her anymore, but your children certainly do and will love you all the more for making it easy for them to show her that. Hopefully, when it comes to Fathers Day, she will remember and respect your efforts and help your children to do the same for you.
And if you are a mum who does not live with her children or who will not see her children on Mother’s Day for whatever reason, remember that there are people in our society who do not immediately assume the worst, people who understand the complexities of situations like yours, people who will be celebrating your motherhood with you.