What Life is Like as a Former Mother

by Kelly Reising
Originally Published: 

Most days I wake up having dreamed of them. My daughters. I’m not an empty nester, my children aren’t grown up yet. I didn’t lose them in some horrible accident or childhood illness. As far as I know, they are both alive and well.

Yet, they don’t live with me. I haven’t seen them for two and a half years now.

Am I still a mother? Can you still be a mother to children you aren’t allowed to see or talk to? Or take to school everyday? Or wipe away tears, kiss them goodnight, make their birthday cakes, witness their day to day growing up. The list of ways I can’t participate in their childhood is endless. I’m not part of any of that anymore. I guess you could call me a “former mother”.

When people ask me if I have children, I don’t know what to say anymore. Most of the time I just answer yes and pretend like I’m a typical mom. No one would want to hear the real story. I am certainly not going to tell strangers that I lost custody over two years ago because of a stupid fight with their dad, my ex-husband. (Just for the record, I have never laid a hand on my ex-husband, or my daughters, or anyone.)

Prior to the downfall, we always had joint custody. I was actively involved in all aspects of my children’s lives. PTA, Girl Scouts, school functions, and their day to day activities and routines. I loved it. I thrived in being their mother…

In a couple of months, they will turn 13 and 10. Big ages. I’ll finally have a teenager, and my baby will be in the double digits. And I will miss these next milestones, like I have missed the last two years of milestones. Their stepmom bought my oldest her first bra. She has her period now, and is probably taller than me. My youngest got braces, and has started to play the violin. I get periodic updates, and rare photos, when my mom comes to see them twice a year. It’s helpful to see the photos, and hear the updates, but it’s not enough. I want to be their mom again. Not their former mother.

The dreams I have every night take on the same form really, usually I encounter them in some location desperately trying to get their attention, even if I know that I am going to get in trouble. Briefly, I hug them and touch their sweet faces. Sometimes they are their same age now, sometimes younger. Sometimes they are babies again. I love dreaming about them. Even if I wake up alone in bed to my empty house without them.

I saw them across a parking lot about a month ago. Complete happenstance. My fiance and I were at the local middle school, on a Saturday, to see his son play basketball. There wasn’t any reason that the girls should have been there, but there they were walking next to each other towards the parking lot. My heart jumped into my throat when I saw them. My first natural instinct was to run to them, like in my dreams, grab them up into my arms and hug them for dear life. As I went to grab the door handle to get out of the car, my fiance grabbed me. “You can’t do that,” he said as he held me back. So, I sat their craning my neck as I watched them walk out of my sight.

I sat their for a few minutes. Shaking, and devastated. “They were right there,” I said to him. “I know…” was all he could reply. That was the closest I had been to them in two years, and it was from across a busy parking lot.

They didn’t see me. I don’t know what they would have thought if they had. I fantasize about running into them in public, maybe at Target or the grocery store. But we don’t go to the same grocery store anymore, and I don’t go to Target that often.

The only thing I ever wanted to be in life was a mother. Some girls dream of being doctors, or artists or dancers, but I dreamed of being a mom.

I am engaged now to a wonderful man. I think about starting over and having children with him. I had my oldest when I was 25. I’m 38 now, and I feel like it’s probably too late for me to start motherhood over. Plus, how can I bring additional children into the world when I don’t even get to see the two I have? I don’t think that’s right either. But I miss being a mom. I miss my girls. Being a former mother is horrible. I feel empty, alone, heartbroken, and sad all of the time. I wish there was something I could do to change that. All I have now are my dreams.

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