A headline caught my eye last week about a mom who did the unspeakable — she left her daughter, apparently for her lover.
At first I was enraged; how could any woman leave her child purely for a romantic love affair? But when I looked closer, it seemed like the mom in question, Deri Robins, had actually done the decent thing.
She admits, “[I had] fallen desperately in love with a man I shouldn’t have fallen in love with, had an affair, and then divorced my husband Michael, the father of my three children.” Robins moved in with her new partner, leaving her then 11-year-old daughter to live with her dad, as she herself worked full-time. Two of her children had already left home and her ex-husband Michael had always been the “home-carer, meal-maker, and lift-giver.”
To me, this makes sense. If the dad had been the primary care-giver of the kids, then why uproot her daughter’s life and create even more drama, when frankly there was more than enough?
In the beginning, Robins lived five minutes away from her daughter, but soon her daughter and ex-husband moved a lot further away and Robins admits that the relationship with her tween began to drift. As her daughter moved into her teens, she had less time for her mom: her teenage friends became more important (as they often do as independence grows) and they slowly lost touch. Robins is now getting a second chance, though, because her daughter, now 17, is moving back in with her.
Do I understand why this mom left her child? I do, actually, because my mom did something similar to me.
When I was 11 years old, my mom moved in with her partner, giving me my own bedroom for the first time in my life. I moved to a neighborhood filled with kids whereas previously there had been none. To say I was happy and settled was an understatement. Then three years later, my mom’s relationship broke down and she moved out — but I didn’t want to. So from the ages of 14 to 23, I stayed every weekend with my mom’s ex and just lived with my mom during the week.
Yes, it was a strange family situation, but in many ways it worked. I was a mature teenager and I knew my own mind. I’m certain it’s this living arrangement that helped mend my fractious relationship with my mom by giving us much-needed space. It also gave me my own independence — something I cherished. To this day I think it has made me much better at coping with things on my own, making me incredibly self-sufficient.
But would I ever let this happen with my own kids, if God forbid my husband and I split up? No way.
Every day is better with my kids in it. I start my day with my kids bouncing into bed with me, followed by a huge family hug before we all eat breakfast together. It’s a guaranteed way of making each day start brilliantly. At dinner we talk about our favorite part of the day and the things we did. Often the highlight of my day is dinner itself: chewing the fat with my favorite people. I simply cannot imagine a time where I wouldn’t want my kids around me every single day, but then again, I haven’t experienced the teen years yet …
This story also brings to light the stereotypes of mothers and fathers. Too often when couples divorce, there is an expectation that the kids will remain with their mother, seeing dads on the weekends. So why are women vilified if they become weekend moms?
Why shouldn’t a woman let her kids live with their father if their home and usual routine is with a stay-at-home dad? Or even if it isn’t? Are women not allowed to have their own lives, too? Must we always be mothers first and women second? Personally, I feel that yes, I am a mom first — it’s my ultimate priority. But it is closely followed by being me — a wife, friend, daughter, colleague, niece, gym-goer, and film junkie. I need to water all elements of me — not just the mother gene.
But while all of this is true, the thing I can’t get past in Robins’ case is that she let her relationship with her daughter drift apart until they were no longer even in contact. It’s wonderful that she’s now being given another chance. While she can’t relive those magical years she lost with her daughter, at least she’s trying now.
Someone once told me that you have your children for such a short time, you need to cherish it. I couldn’t agree more.More On