WASHINGTON- May 7, 2013- “There are still women who are not living their own lives but living through their men or their children.”- Kathleen Turner
Mothers leave their children for a variety of reasons, including going to prison, homelessness, drug addiction, mental illness, deployment in the military and other reasons where mothers have little to no control.
But what of mothers that simply abandon their children voluntarily?
In America, the number of single fathers has risen from 600,000 in 1982 to over 2 million in 2011, partially because of mothers leaving their families. In the UK, it is estimated mother are abandoning their children at a rate of 100,000 annually. This phenomenon is growing so rapidly that there are support groups for mothers that leave home.
Recent years have found women in careers and lifestyles that were previously the domain of men; astronauts, law enforcement, military, overseas reporters, traveling sales and many other careers. Long office hours, interests and pursuits take a mother out of the home. This absence can create a situation where mothers do not bond with their children as they did in years past when being a house wife was the rule of the day.
Mothers who abandon their children or their families seem to do so for reasons similar to fathers who, for many years in history, dominated this genre. The reasons given for leaving home are just as wide in variety as common in nature for fathers:
Freedom. They no longer wish the burden of responsibility.
They feel they are bad mothers and the father is more capable.
To pursue goals of self-interest.
Place their career over motherhood and family.
Overwhelmed by motherhood.
Lack of familial and husband support.
Self-preservation .They are fatigued, depressed and feel they cannot take it any longer.
Met another man and fled.
If single, feel men do not wish a so-called ‘ready-made family’.
Mothers may leave a child because the distaste they feel toward the father transfers to the child . Sometimes a child’s resemblance to the father is reason enough.
Quite simply, some women feel they are not ‘cut out’ for motherhood.
Regardless of the reason, mothers who leave their children or families are not playing on a level a field with fathers because they are harshly stigmatized by society, friends and family. When a mother leaves, the assumption may be something is mentally or morally amiss.
As courts are more frequently assigning father’s custody by determining, in some cases, fathers as most able and appropriate to raise children, fathers ducking fatherhood and child support payments is proverb.
Fathers have been siring children and leaving them with mothers since recorded history, and mothers are often left to chase fathers down for financial assistance quite often resorting to the legal system for relief.
However, according to Child Support Agency (CSA) as of 2009, there were 66,000 non-resident mothers paying child support to their children. Many fathers do not seek support when the family is abandoned. There may be a machismo factor in this thinking.
Mothers who leave their child or family may suffer grief, loss, shame and personal and public persecution for the results. Many mothers who leave their children permanently without attempting to maintain a relationship with their children quite often do not speak of them.
Regardless of reason, for a child or family to have an absentee or visiting mother, professional counseling may be very beneficial for everyone concerned. There are support groups for single fathers that may help.
For women who are not qualified, do not wish to be or simply not cut out to be mothers, counseling for remaining family members is highly suggested.
Paul Mountjoy is a Virginia based writer and a member of the American Psychology Association and the Association for Psychological Science.
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