Here are some tips from MATCH Special Adviser and Counsellor Sarah Hart to help mothers living apart from their children.
- You have the right to feel good about yourself
Whether you’re a part-time mum or haven’t had contact with your child for years, it’s possible to let go of any unnecessary guilt or shame you might feel. Please don’t punish yourself and find help if you need it.
- Don’t compete for your child’s love
As non-resident mothers, whether we have regular contact with our children or not, we imagine that their father, his new partner or someone else is going to ‘own’ them more than we do, and use up our quota of allocated love. You can learn to reduce the struggle and urgency inside you by centring on your potential for loving in a broader sense. There is no competition – you are and always will be your child’s mother.
- Let go of trying to be Supermother
Supermother – the perfect, always loving, always available mother who raises perfect children – is the arch-enemy of all women and is a particularly nasty bit of work where mothers apart are concerned. Make a conscious effort to banish her. Try writing down the positives to be gained from being ‘good enough’, rather than perfect. For example: ‘I’ll do that scuba diving course I always wanted to do, which will set a great example for my child on living a life to the full.’
- You can change how you feel about your ex!
Some mothers apart are susceptible to remaining psychologically bonded to their ex by outdated patterns of relating guilt and fear. Your quality of life after your divorce or separation is your choice. Whatever your circumstances, explore your part in the relationship and its downfall, dissolve your energetic connection with your ex and take stock of your emotions in order to truly separate and move on.
- Don’t make your new partner your therapist
Allowing your partner to slip into the role of your counsellor will put a strain on your relationship. As much as you love each other, the reality is that he or she isn’t a mother apart and will never understand exactly how you feel. If you are experiencing a lot of pain, confusion, anxiety or other strong feelings, please find additional support from someone outside your relationship.
- Be your child’s mother, not her friend
Let’s take discipline as an example. As mothers apart, we can hang our inability or decision not to discipline our children on a whole host of reasons – guilt, wanting to keep things ‘nice’, fear of rejection or an attack from our child: ‘What right do you have to …’or ‘Dad’s a much better parent than you, at least he understands …’. Separation means that your child needs consistency and containment now more than ever before. Know that without a doubt, loving your child also means saying ‘No’.
- Remember, another person’s judgement of you is not ‘the truth’
Remind yourself of this every time you think someone is critical of your situation or you feel bad after reading yet another article about ‘unfit’ or ‘abandoning’ mothers.
- Never give up hope, especially if you don’t have contact with your child
You never know what’s around the corner – stories abound of children’s natural curiosity to find out about the parent they’ve been separated from. Live as well and as fully as you can, respecting your child’s right to learn about life in their own time and pace. If it’s appropriate, send letters, text messages or try to phone. Wait patiently and lovingly, and take extremely good care of yourself. If you live apart from your child, please find the support you need. Create an understanding support team around you – your friends, family and, should you need one, a counsellor.