Writing a Book for Mothers Apart

This week I’ve started writing a book that has been many years in the making.

Before this week, I’ve been preparing to spend some time working out exactly what type of book it is that I want to write… a self-help book for mothers apart, a memoir, an autoethnography, a novel, a practitioner handbook?

No sooner had I retrieved my A1 flipchart paper, my felt pens and post-it notes to begin storyboarding (taught to me by the amazing Wendy Stainton-Rogers) my decision was made. I needed to go into my old uni email account for some information and there was an unread email from a friend of mother apart, Lisa Jenkins, who wrote to me last year to tell me about the circumstances of not being able to see her children. This is what Lisa’s friend’s email said:

You don’t know me but my friend, Lisa Jenkins, wrote to you last year asking for advice on how best to deal with the maternal alienation her partner was inflicting on her and her children.

Sadly Lisa was found dead, on the Isle of Man, last month.  I know she was grateful for your suggestions. 

Myself and some of her friends would like to do something around MA in her memory, if you have any suggestions we would be most grateful to you.

The news is devastating, tragic and so terribly sad.

There is currently an enquiry but if, as I suspect, Lisa found the pain of mother-child separation so unbearable that she ended her life, then the enquiry won’t record any such details. It will simply conclude there were no suspicious circumstances or third-party involvement in Lisa’s death, and this will be accepted by the court. End of story.

Reading Lisa’s friend’s email, I knew instantly the book I needed to write. I went back to Lisa’s email and it was all there – her story just like many other stories, including my own once upon a time: mother apart struggling to find a way back to her beloved children, desperately seeking advice and support from anyone who might be able to help.

So, I’ve started writing a book for mothers apart.

I’ll be sharing the draft as I go for feedback, so watch this space…

And Lisa, my heart goes out to you (and your children). You were a loving mother and a good friend to many.  Yes, I would like to do something around MA in your memory as your friend suggests. I would like to honour you in my book.

About Dr Laura Monk

I am a researcher and counselling tutor based at University of Nottingham. My doctoral research investigated how to improve professionals' responses to mothers who become separated from their children. I developed a training workshop for the professionals who mothers come into contact with - largely at the intersection of health and social care, the family courts and domestic abuse services. I am also a counsellor and psychotherapist and offer feminist therapy for survivors of domestic abuse - especially coercive control. I am a Women's Aid domestic violence prevention advocate.
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9 Responses to Writing a Book for Mothers Apart

  1. Michelle says:

    Heart braking my she rest in peace.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dawn Bayton says:

    So sad to read the tragic story of your friend Lisa. My heart also goes out to her and her children. A wonderful idea to honour a wonderful Mother in your book.
    All the very best in this new project for you Laura, I know you will tackle the subject matter with compassion, insight and depth. Lots of Mother’s are standing with you in this.

    Like

    • Thank you for your support and confidence in me, Dawn. I’ll work hard to do justice to all the mothers apart out there, especially those who gave their time so generously to this project.

      I didn’t know Lisa, personally, but she was a devoted mother who was desperately seeking help to get her children back. She wrote to me at great length and seemed incredibly brave, active and resourceful. I don’t know what happened – it’s really tragic.

      All best wishes, Laura

      Like

  3. Nina Farr says:

    thank you for your powerful work and courageous action in writing this book. It is so needed. I hear from mothers apart in my work too and will be delighted to finally have a resource to share with them. I will be following your work and happy to support any way I can.

    Like

    • Thanks for your comments, Nina, and thank you for offering support. I’d welcome any feedback if you return and read a bit of what I share here whilst writing a book and trying to get it published…

      I’ve just watched your Ted talk and it is really inspiring. Your book is also a resource that I can share with lone parents. Thanks for connecting 🙂

      Like

  4. Richard Burton says:

    As an alienated father I extend my empathy and deepest condolences to Lisa Jenkins’ family. One question, do you have commensurate feelings for alienated fathers, many of whom have perished under the same wrenching emotional onslaught? I feel that any father who takes his children away from their mother is acting under the same impulses that any mother who takes her children away from their father. I fear that a lot of the advice and links on these pages, in so much as it declines any scrutiny of a mother’s claims against her partner, too easily can facilitate the same dreadful crime that was committed against Lisa Jenkins and her kids, albeit against an innocent father and his kids. Psychological abuse by either parent against the other has lifelong ramifications for children, skewing crucial developmental stages. That is important enough reason to challenge claims of abuse by either parent that are being used to annihilate the other parent’s involvement in the nurturing of their kids, and indeed the entire extended family of that parent, including of course all the women. My alienated child is a daughter. She is the victim of chronic abuse by her mother. I know some men are capable of much the same behavior. Please don’t dismiss the reality that some mothers are too. Please communicate with the experts in this field such as Karen Woodall, Dr, Sue Whitcombe, and Linda Gottlieb. Thanks. RIP Lisa and the hundreds of others who endured this horror as much as they could.

    Like

    • Hi Richard
      I’m sorry to hear of your plight. Being an alienated parent – or child – is a harrowing experience for anyone no matter what their gender.
      I do not dismiss the alienating behaviours of mothers, nor the experiences of alienated fathers. I have clients who are great dads and I am no man hater. But I am a professional who is very aware of gender issues and my research focusses on the particularities of mothers in these situations.
      I am frequently contacted by men telling me what I should write about – ranging from mainsplaining to outright abuse – I do not approve the abusive comments but I have to put up with them it seems.
      I often add to my posts that my work comes from a desire to highlight the plight of mothers, which is relatively unknown. We all know about the fathers – it is embedded in the national psyche (thanks to the fathers’ rights groups) to the point that I have never been able to talk about my work in any public sphere without the majority of people responding to my research by dismissing it and demanding “what about the fathers?” Why? Why is that men and women can talk about alienated fathers without anyone demanding of them that they talk about mothers but not vice versa? This is a rhetorical question, so no need to answer as I know it.
      My research is underpinned by concepts and theories particular to motherhood, so it is gender-specific. I have the right to conduct this research and write about it. I have the right to use the term, mothers apart, because that’s what the women in my research call themselves, so it is out of respect. I shouldn’t have to keep explaining myself.
      I am well aware of the experts in the field, thank you, because I am one.
      Please don’t take offence at my message as I bear no malice towards you and wish you well in your recovery from whatever you are going through. I just get annoyed at keep having to explain myself and I am really, really busy dealing with the fallout of alienation myself – 14 years on, the profound and long-lasting effects on the children are almost a full-time job in themselves. I’m exhausted by it all and just want to go about my work in peace. But, I have found that, if I don’t explain myself, then messages by quite decent-sounding people are likely followed up by angry and/or abusive ones (from both men and women) – and I can’t stand it, so I reply.
      Regards, Laura

      Like

  5. G says:

    Hi Laura

    I applaud anyone willing and able to highlight the pains of the lady who sadly took her life after being so sadly treated by the children’s father, alienation from either gender is horrific for all but the perpetrators of the abuse.

    I would however kindly ask that you may entitle your book “parents apart” I am a dad currently going through the very same thing, my lad being 3 and so if I can stay around to fight long enough I face years in court.

    Please don’t be blinkered in your views that this is a female only issue, any healthy, loving caring can face this devastating cruelty after separation, I can point you in the direction of 24,000 other parents to aid your research and grand parents.

    Like

    • Hi G
      I’m sorry to hear of your plight. Being an alienated parent – or child – is a harrowing experience for anyone no matter what their gender.
      I do not dismiss the alienating behaviours of mothers, nor the experiences of alienated fathers. I have clients who are great dads and I am no man hater. But I am a professional who is very aware of gender issues and my research focusses on the particularities of mothers in these situations.
      I am frequently contacted by men telling me what I should write about – ranging from mainsplaining to outright abuse – I do not approve the abusive comments but I have to put up with them it seems.
      I often add to my posts that my work comes from a desire to highlight the plight of mothers, which is relatively unknown. We all know about the fathers – it is embedded in the national psyche (thanks to the fathers’ rights groups) to the point that I have never been able to talk about my work in any public sphere without the majority of people responding to my research by dismissing it and demanding “what about the fathers?” Why? Why is that men and women can talk about alienated fathers without anyone demanding of them that they talk about mothers but not vice versa? This is a rhetorical question, so no need to answer as I know it.
      My research is underpinned by concepts and theories particular to motherhood, so it is gender-specific. I have the right to conduct this research and write about it. I have the right to use the term, mothers apart, because that’s what the women in my research call themselves, so it is out of respect. I shouldn’t have to keep explaining myself.
      I am well aware of the experts in the field, thank you, because I am one.
      Please don’t take offence at my message as I bear no malice towards you and wish you well in your recovery from whatever you are going through. I just get annoyed at keep having to explain myself and I am really, really busy dealing with the fallout of alienation myself – 14 years on, the profound and long-lasting effects on the children are almost a full-time job in themselves. I’m exhausted by it all and just want to go about my work in peace. But, I have found that, if I don’t explain myself, then messages by quite decent-sounding people are likely followed up by angry and/or abusive ones (from both men and women) – and I can’t stand it, so I reply.
      Regards, Laura

      Like

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