Often, we hear of fathers losing child custody when a divorce occurs and society generally accepts the result as commonplace. While around 70 percent of divorces end with women getting child custody, progress is being made in fathers’ rights. At the same time that fathers fight for greater parental rights, there is a small segment of women who challenge traditional notions of motherhood and child custody. The small group of women purposefully give up their child custody rights to pursue a different life. In this post and the next we will examine two mothers who chose to be the non-primary parent in the lives of their children.
The first mother we will talk about was married for 15 years and lived in the suburbs of New Jersey, but after the tragic death of her 3-year-old daughter she realized that she would never accomplish her life’s goal of writing a bestselling book in the life she currently led. In an interview with Marie Claire magazine, the mother said her desire to be more than a mother started with restless nights thinking about writing and desiring to travel the world. Her marriage was also not perfect as her husband often criticized her on her skills as a mother and her housekeeping. Everything soon changed.
In 1994, the couple lost their 3-year-old daughter to kidney cancer. The death of their daughter brought the couple closer for a while and then the couple had a fourth child. Eventually, the couple started to wander apart and the thought of the woman’s daughter’s death made her realized life was too short not to accomplish her goals. She divorced her husband three years later.
The woman’s husband first suggested that he retain physical custody and the mother rebuked the idea asking him, “What kind of mother makes that decision?” As the woman considered the idea, she realized her fear of what others would think was keeping her from leading a happier life. Soon after, she gave up physical custody of her three children.
One year later she moved to San Francisco to pursue her goal of writing a book but promised she would see her children every other weekend. She kept her promise and used all of her savings to see her children, but she also met her goal. The mother wrote a book about the experience of losing her daughter and sold it to a publisher for $250,000. The success of the book has allowed her and her children to travel to the Bahamas, London and France. Now back in New Jersey, the mother sees her children every other weekend and all summer. She says she is happier because of the experiences she has been able to provide her children.
Source: Marie Claire, “What kind of mother leaves her kids?” Lea Goldman, 3/8/11