Why Mothers Leave their Children

In South Africa, only three out of every ten children live with both their parents. Three out of every ten children live with their mothers and one out of every ten live with their fathers. The rest live with family members or other care-givers.

Here is an interesting perspective from women who choose to leave their children:

In Australia, women are in the minority when it comes to parents who leave their children. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 81% of single parent families were also single mother families – meaning fathers were more likely to be the ones living away from their kids.

Both its rarity and a variety of social norms and expectations around motherhood have contributed to its persistence as a taboo of modern-day parenting. It is rare to hear the voices of women who choose to leave their children in the primary care of a partner or relative.

Is their decision to leave done out of selfishness, or selflessness? 

In 2012, Kristal Kinsela found herself in an irreparable marriage with her partner on the NSW north coast, with their two children. The couple split and shared care of the kids equally, but Kristal found her career stalled and life isolating in the coastal town. Career opportunities and her large, Indigenous family pulled her back towards Sydney, and she was conscious of the impact the back and forth between parents was having on her son and daughter.

“I couldn’t live in this limbo anymore,” she tells Insight‘s Jenny Brockie. “I felt like I [wasn’t] fulfilling my life. I’ve done something with myself, I’m being successful.  I’ve broken down the cycle of welfare dependency, I’m trying to do something with my life and you know … I’m trying to teach my kids the right way.”

She made the tough choice to leave the kids in the primary care of their father, believing that their presence between two parents in conflict was unhealthy.

“I want them to feel safe and secure and stable in one environment,” she says, “and I knew that they would have that with their dad.”

Melissa Collins similarly recognised stability in the home was more important for her children than herding them between places. She was unhappy in her relationship with the kids’ father, and felt that the country life they were living was not for her.

Also read Why Fathers Leave Their Children

“When I told him that I was leaving he begged me not to take them,” she says. “It had never occurred to me that I would ever go without them. And yet in that moment I thought, I could do this.”

Looking at the established life and structure her boys had with their father, and believing he was more capable of providing that, she left for Brisbane.

Looking back, she says the decision was, at times, “utterly debilitating”; she would yearn for the ‘everydayness’ of living alongside them. But she knows the kids are happy, and stands by the decision.

For Mazuin Claude, she knew her battle with mental health was no place for children. As her mental health deteriorated with bipolar disorder, she realised she could not be their carer and in 2012, she left.

“I felt like I was actually going to ruin their childhood if I had stayed with them any longer,” she says. “If I had been that kind of negative influence, because they were just so young.  I felt like I was going to pollute them and I didn’t want them turning out like me.”

“I was torn [with the decision], of course I was really torn … but I knew that I needed help.”

With that help, she is now able to see them once a week and foresees a future where she might live with them again, when older.

Were they judged for leaving?

“I feel like it’s like society that tells us … that you’re supposed to get married and have the house and do all that.  Well I did all that as well and that didn’t make me happy,” says Kristal.

“I think it’s powerful to be breaking down the stereotypes and the stigma of what [a woman’s] role as a mother is supposed to be or what it’s supposed to look like. Things are evolving.”

“It’s hell,” says Melissa Collins. “I’ve lost friends, I’ve had family members question my sanity, my ability to do it.”

“[But] it was the right thing to do. It was absolutely the right thing to do.”


Extract from an article by Madeleine King, which originally appeared on www.sbs.com.au, posted by Sinta Ebersohn (Creator of fairdivorce.co.za – Stellenbosch RSA)