The media reports of Rebecca Minnock who has gone into hiding with her son are sure to make chilling reading for mothers living apart from their children. I am wondering what the outcome of this story will be – will Rebecca and Ethan be separated from one another in the end? And if they are – was that the outcome Rebecca feared in the long term that contributed to her running away? Many mothers apart will undoubtedly have considered running away with their child(ren) at some point rather than risk their child going to live with a parent who they suspect of abusing/harming their child – or risk their child being alienated from them and losing their protective mother.
Few mothers take the step that Rebecca Minnock has taken. Most will comply with court orders and stand by helplessly as professionals disbelieve and ignore their concerns about abuse and hand their child over to their abuser. Mothers apart may be condemned to a life of wondering what they could have done to protect their child – rehearsing each step of the process of becoming separated from their child over and over. They might fantasise about what would have happened if they had just run away with their child and imagine living somewhere else in the world where the concerns of mothers are valued and the mother-child relationship protected. The tension between listening to the maternal instinct to protect our young and listening to the authorities who tell mothers to hand over their children is enough to make some mothers run for the hills – but most do not not.
Most mothers take a deep breath, put on a brave face for their children, try to stay calm for the sake of their children and do what they are told. Most mothers apart struggle to maintain contact when an abusive ex opposes and sabotages their contact but they stay committed to doing what they can within the restrictions imposed upon them. Many mothers withdraw from children’s proceedings because they can see it is damaging their child even when they know that the decision of the court is not in the best interest of their child. Being separated from each other when there has been abuse can affect mothers and children profoundly and for a lifetime. Many mothers apart watch from a distance as their child grows up without them and sometimes they see their worst fears for their child’s well-being realised. Then the fantasies return and they wonder how things might have been different.