with Talyaa Liera
I'm Talyaa, the poster child for the concept that there's no one right way to be a parent. I went from stay-at-home attachment-parenting mom of four to being the non-custodial parent, working as a professional writer and channel-psychic. Let's talk about throwing away the parenting manual and exploding the myths and mystique of motherhood!
Check out my personal blog at Juxtapositioning.
Hi there. I am a non custodial mother. What does that mean? It means I don’t live with my kids. I don’t make their grilled cheese sandwiches. I don’t sign off on their homework. I don’t tuck them in at night. And I chose — willingly — to move 3000 miles away from them and let their dad be the primary parent-in-residence.
Who would do such a thing?
Last month I sat in a chair opposite ABC 20/20’s Elizabeth Vargas and she asked me that very question. Why would a mother leave her children? Elizabeth is a lovely woman. She is a mother. She fussed over flyaways in her hair before the cameras rolled. She wore a royal blue slim sheath no bigger around than a curvy pencil and charmingly commented on how skinny *I* was when we stood up after the interview. She seemed like many women I know and I liked her very much. But when she put on her Interviewer Face, I think she spoke for people who cannot fathom why a mother would stand back from her children without a gun to her head.
Sitting there opposite Elizabeth, I felt defensive. Angry. Misunderstood. I was there to defend my choice and make people understand what had happened to me: I left an emotionally abusive marriage and after struggling with joint custody for two years I moved away from my kids. And why? Because I thought it was the best thing for them. Period.
That right there should be good enough. I am my children’s mother and I looked in my heart and was shocked by what I found there — that leaving my children, who I had fought to stay near throughout a horrific custody battle that raged for two years, involved two states, and cost me over $100,000 — was the best thing for them. And for me.
I am still talking about this, so I must still feel something. Shame? Loss? Fear? Anger? Yep. All of those.
And I am not alone. There are 2.2 million mothers in the U.S. who do not live with their children. Most of them are NOT the drug addicts, alcoholics, deadbeats, and other loser types that I always thought a woman would have to be in order to be separated from her children. Most are women struggling to figure out what a mother is if she does not make the lunchtime grilled cheese sandwiches or tuck in her kids at night. Most of these women look like you and me. Most of them struggle with the same feelings I have — shame, loss, fear, and anger. Most of them, as I do, think of their children many times a day. Most of them are amazing mothers, who recognized that their children would have a better life living apart from them than with them.
These mothers have been described as selfless.
Not selfish. (Elizabeth Vargas used that word in our interview. I’ve heard it before.) No, not selfish. Selfless.
And these mothers know that they will always be the mother. Nothing can ever take that away from them, unless they give it away.
Next time you walk down the street, look at the faces of the women you see. One of them might wear one of the 2.2 million faces of non custodial motherhood.
- Katy Read wrote a wonderful essay about non custodial mothers for Brain, Child.
- Spiritual leader and humanitarian Sai Maa followed her heart into spiritual work when her children were teenagers, leaving her life as a mother behind.
- Famous non custodial mothers: Shirley Maclaine, Yoko Ono, Karen Silkwood, Sinead O’Connor.
- Famous children of non custodial mothers, who went on to have notable lives: Lady Diana, Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant, Tina Turner.
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