Why Women Leave

It didn't occur to us, when we decided to become mothers, that the day may come when we might feel an intense urge to bolt. Not just to leave for a day or two, but to take off on a full-fledged sprint, away from the life we know and the role of motherhood that consumes our waking moments. It shocks us when we feel this way and it fills us with fear and guilt. I suspect that this is the best-kept secret of mothers everywhere; that this role has left us disillusioned on many occasions. It is something we keep to ourselves under layers of tightly constructed smiles. We don't admit out loud - not even to ourselves in the whispers of our own minds - that this open road often beckons us. It calls us to get in touch with a place we have forgotten, a place where we matter, a place where our "beingness" is validated and our love is appreciated. 

Now, that is not to be meant to be maudlin or to solicit a request for an all-out pity party. This post is meant to help those of us that feel alone in these thoughts, to let us know it is more common than we like to admit, to let us know it is normal.  

We certainly knew going in that there would be sleepless nights and consistent sacrifices of time and money. We read What to Expect When You're Expecting and we pored over parenting blogs. We fully understood the importance of our role and why our choices mattered. And motherhood does have many wonderful moments like the times we receive hand-made cards peppered with sparkles and dried macaroni or when we are covered with wet, sloppy kisses. The times we hear our teenage children make admirable decisions or when they stick up for another child who needs an ally. Or those times we witness our adult children parenting their own children in an amazing way. These moments get us through the other times when we feel like sobbing in the shower.

Let's be real. There are disappointments as well, like when your child is not who you want them to be. When they have a full-blown tantrum in that really, really long supermarket check-out line or when they have received a diagnosis of ADHD on steroids or when they have an illness with no cure. When they always struggle in school or when they are a fully-committed bookworm and you totally wanted to be sitting in the stands of that football field. How about when they become teenagers who have made eye-rolling into an Olympic sport? Or when they become adults whom you do not even pretend to slightly understand. There comes a time when trying to fix everything and everyone becomes too much, and when fixing yourself feels like a matter of survival. These are the moments when the open road beckons, when your life before motherhood looks really attractive and when you have moments  of thinking, "What if...?" 

The mothers that leave, whether physically or emotionally,  do so because of an intense need for self-preservation. I am not saying that is the best or only choice however, I do understand the need behind it. These women have lost who they are and have not taken time to acknowledge those feelings, the events that led up to them or the other choices available to them and the only way to know they matter is to get away from everyone they have given themselves up for. It is when they look around the dinner table and say, "Where am I?" that things have gone too far and have gotten out of control. They feel that same need that we have when we bring our children to day-care on our day off. When we take solace in our friend's parenting dilemmas knowing that they mirror our own unspoken thoughts. When we distance ourselves emotionally from our adult child's poor choices. When we look in the mirror and don't recognize who is looking back. 

Women from all walks of life need support, acknowledgment and appreciation for the all that they do, all that they give and all that they bring to the table, literally and figuratively and we so need to shout this from the rooftops. We deserve to feel appreciated and loved and if we do not, we need to set more boundaries and yes, give less to others and more to ourselves. That is the key. We can be great parents, even better ones, when we practice self-care early in our parenting journey so that the open road does not look like our only option. So that our children know that we respect ourselves and we also expect their respect. So we take responsibility for our feelings and our lives.

We need to make our needs known and not feel guilty for having them - even if there are many, many of them, including the intense, difficult ones, including the times when they are inconvenient to others, including when they are complicated and messy. We need to practice acceptance of ourselves along the way and acceptance of others in our lives when life does not go as planned, which is more often the case. The open road is fun to travel down at times to rediscover ourselves while having an adventure. However, it does not have to become a permanent choice if we make a choice to love and honor ourselves, first and always, and ask for what we need without apology, while we graciously let the others in our lives travel down the open road of their own choosing.