Runaway Moms: Could You Be Next?


egret bird
Photo by Sheri Reed

Thankfully, runaway mom and wife Tiffany Tehan, who everyone thought had been abducted in Ohio last weekend, was found safe and sound -- in a car outside a hotel in Florida with her boyfriend.

Wow, what kind of mother worries about the day when her own needs will finally become more important than those of her children? What kind of mother worries about the day she might run away from home and never come back?

(Raises hand.)

While my escapist fantasies don't include Miami Beach or a guy with a mullet and a goatee -- or any guy, for that matter -- nor do they include faking my own abduction and scaring the crap out of my husband, kids, family, and friends -- they do exist.

It's hard as hell to admit it but: I worry (and dream) about becoming the next runaway mother.

I remember in college, before I was a mom, reading the book Rich in Love, in which the mother of the teenage protagonist decides one day to leave her husband and her family. She's out running errands with her family one afternoon and she catches a glimpse of the water's edge.

"I saw the water, the way it sparkles," she tells her daughter, "and I thought to myself, I would like to live a completely different existence." She continues, "Then at home I couldn't get it out of my head. Everything at home seemed foreign. Worse than foreign, it seemed ... sickening. It wasn't mine. I wanted to start a new life."

Back then and even now, I'm horrified by the thought of a mother up and leaving her family, just deciding overnight that she chose the wrong path for herself. However, I'm mostly horrified because even on a good day, I find the constraints of motherhood difficult, and I wonder if some day, in an ordinary moment, the mother who suddenly realizes she feels this way about her life will be me.

Of course, it's not the 1950s or anything; it's not even the 1980s anymore. I have plenty of freedom from family life, and I take advantage of that freedom even more than most of my mom peers do. With my husband's blessing and support, I take overnight getaways to and with girlfriends, pursue my creative interests, and jump at the chance to travel for work. Not every weekend but regularly. My husband has even been teased by more traditional thinkers for giving me "long leash" (eye roll).

However, while I do take off now and again, I'm also dedicated to my family, trying to spend a little time at both boys' schools atop my busy work schedule, hardly ever missing my oldest son's baseball games or dinner with my family. But do I sometimes make myself insane trying to uphold this dedication? Oh yeah.

So why do I always feel so guilty for doing what I need to do to stay happy, fulfilled, and sane? And why do I feel like I'm always in a panic, trying to reign my own life back before it gets away from me?

Lisen Stromberg"Goodbye Helicopters: The Rise of Humvee Parenting"If the 1950s woman was trapped behind her man, is the 2010 woman trapped behind her steering wheel in an effort to support her kids?"

Oh wow, sometimes I do feel trapped. And we're just at the cusp of the activities to come for our kids. If I keep my boys in sports and other activities, even under my "one activity at a time" rule, I can see my own life getting away from me once both of them are involved in things.

Sure, I want it all for my boys. I want them to learn and enjoy as much as they can in their lifetimes. Some afternoons I'll even catch myself fantasizing about all the things I'd like to see them do (wait, are those my dreams or their dreams?). But I have just as many, if not more, fantasies about my own life too. Do I have to put them on hold? Is that what I chose to do when I had children?

I completely relate when Stromberg says, "I’d like to take up soccer. I miss playing tennis. The 15 or more hours I spend each week sitting in the bleachers, on the sidelines, along the court, could be spent learning a new language, reviving my long lost love of piano, taking that photography class I’ve always said I would. As I rush around to prepare for my children’s future, my present is evaporating."

That's right, our present is evaporating ... and the constant nagging of this fact has me stuck between feeling self-centered and feeling like a gigantic martyr. I do take time for myself. But I always feel guilty. I feel weird even, especially because most of the mothers I know don't "run away" as much as I do -- whether they feel they can't or they don't feel the need to, I'm not sure ...

Fortunately, unlike Tiffany Tehan, I haven't woken up so desperately wanting a new life that I led the nation on a missing persons hunt. Luckily, unlike the mom in Rich in Love, I don't feel that I want a "completely different existence." My home life doesn't feel "foreign" to me -- although I can entirely understand how that can happen. 

However, as hard as it is to write this, I'm pretty sure I haven't woken up feeling this way because I do take time away -- because I need it and I know I need it. My most fulfilling weeks aren't those spent entirely with my kids. My favorite weeks are those spent with a good balance of work, kid time, husband time, friend time, and me time. The days that are spent entirely with my kids are made bearable to me because I do leave them behind sometimes.

I guess I wonder how other mothers feel about this. I know not everyone feels like I do (which makes me feel scared and strange!). While I completely believe every mother needs time away from her family sometimes, I know not every mother needs or wants time away on a very regular basis.

So tell me, how do you nurture yourself and your kids at the same time? Can you feel it when your life is getting off-kilter? Do the runaway dreams start then?

emotional health, stress, time for you


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lovin... lovinangels

We all need to learn a little word. Starts with N, ends with O. Say it with me, NNNNOOOOOO. Your child will NOT fail at life, if he hasn't made it to all the extra curriculars..

I have three children. Three. I am not physically able to be at all their activities, since some days, they overlap. We allow one extra curricular per year. At the beginning of the year, we discuss that we will NOT attend every game, and rotate shuffling the kids with other parents. I will attend NO MORE than two events in a week, unless it's play offs or something like that. Why? because ALL of my children need my attention, and I need to eat, sleep, shower, work out, snuggle, love, cook, do laundry, love my kids. When did we become so focused on going?

nonmember avatar Kim

I cannot tell you how relieved I feel to know that I am not the only one who has wondered if my life is supposed to disappear or if it wasa conscience choice to make it disappear.   I have made the choice to parent but I have not made the choice to disregard my own soul for it!  My nurturing comes in the same forms as yours.  I take the time to just go in my bedroom (which I love) to read or watch TV for a few hours, NO ONE allowed in.  I take time to meet with my friends, take a weekend away, or just hang out with other friends AND their kids.  It is vital to my existence to have time away from being mom and to become woman, daughter, and friend. 

nonmember avatar April

Thank you for writing this! Who knows what made Tiffany Tehan feel she needed to take drastic action in order to procure a new life for herself. We may never know. But what I do know is that no one told me motherhood would also include moments of wishing I had done something different. No one told me that being a mom would sometimes mean wishing I had never been married or had children. No one told me I would long to escape, go back to school, and do something more about my career. I don't take much time away from my kids, probably not as much as I need to, but some moms just feel as though they can't. Whether it be self-induced guilt, hormonal reactions, or unsupportive family members, some women don't feel they can get away EVER. Perhaps Tiffany was in this boat. Perhaps she didn't have her own blessing to make sure she lived a balanced life. Who knows? But I agree with you 100% that Tiffany is/was not alone in her desires to break free. Time is limited and our culture tells us we can have it all - successful careers, good husbands, lots of kids. We can have most/all of those things, but not always at the same time. I've had to wait on my career while my kids are little, and at first this caused me a great deal of sadness. I have come to accept it and embrace it now, but I know not every mom comes to the same feeling of peace about putting a piece of herself on the backburner.

Thank you for the courage to post this. I think other moms need to know they are not alone.

Pishyah Pishyah

Oh, yes...  The Runaway stuff.  I had a fabulous dream last night.  It included running away.  I didn't lie to people or hide it but I took off.  I never thought I'd have those thoughts but I do.  I love my children and my husband more than anything in the world but I have lost myself and I OFTEN dream about being free.  In most of my dreams it isn't that they suffer because I'm gone but more like they (including my husband) are put on pause, they just freeze.  I go off, relax, enjoy life, have my own farm, and then I can come back when I'm ready.  It is worse when I haven't had an hour to myself in months, I'll admit.  Of course, I dream about being you, too.  Having breaks, enjoying life AND being a mom.  ::jealous sigh::  I do love my family, though. 

Carey... Carey2006

I'm an older mom....I sowed most of my wild oats LONG AGO....I have nothing that drives me to ever 'Runaway' from my child...he IS MY WORLD!!!!!  Now, my husband on the other hand.......LOL

Sure there are times when I get stressed but I try to keep things in check...even give myself a time out. If I feel like I'm losing it, I just grab my kid and hold him.....there's just something about holding my son that calms & centers me.

nonmember avatar Dreamer

I do a LOT of escapist daydreaming. Sometimes it's what gets me through the day.  Not because I'm dissatisfied as a mom, because I love being a mom.  But I have a disabled husband, who became that way recently, and it has put a lot of pressure on me.  Suddenly, I'm not only "mom" to my kids, but I'm "mom" to my husband, as well.

"Me time" that everyone advises me to take is nonexistent - I can't go running off for the weekend, because there's nobody around to fill my shoes.  (we live far from family)   It's up to me to not only do the housework, shopping and meals (which was "my job" when he was healthy, as mom and housewife), but now I'm responsible for all childcare (which used to be divided), all yard/outside work, vehicle maintenance, etc., and I have to work full-time, as well.

So, yeah, there are times I dream of being a Runaway Mom.  I'm way too responsible to actually do it, but I dream about it a lot.  Like I said, sometimes it's the only thing that keeps me going.

MzLoVe73 MzLoVe73

I could not see my life with out my kids or my husband for one God is the head of my life ,and gave me my family so why would i throw that back at him. I can make it through any thing with my Lord. The joy i feel oh my GOD the joy I feel I can't even put it in words. Not to say that all my days go with out problems  oh no, but I know were to go and that's the word of God. Putting God as the head of my family has made my life a joy to live because I now know that's it is not about me but what God wants for my life. It also makes my life a bit easy. I put all my trust and faith in God.

divin... divinlyled

It's about time somebody said this, how many times I have felt like a terrible person because of wanting ot escape not to leave them entirely but gosh I am a single mom and their dad is in jail and when he wasn't he was out running the streets. My family aren't real supportive or lets me have a dy to myself they always want paid for taking their niece or grandchild but there are those times that I don't have that much money because I am taking care of all the important things that we need. I feel like escaping going to some type of resort or just being alone for two whole weeks and I don't want to feel like I should not need this or I shouldn't be away for that long . Unlike you I don't have free time other than when they are in school. And right now I am struggling financially so it is kind of hard to just get up and go. Guess one day will be better. But thanks for helping me to see that we all need some me time amen.

nonmember avatar olivia necchi

I have only one regret, that I didn't run away when I should have. Now my ungrateful kid has a daughter that I love, but realize will end up like the jerk parents, I am ready to run away ........grandmother

nonmember avatar ddr

I often wonder if I made the right decision having a child.  Don't get me wrong; I love my child beyond belief, but I often feel that I just don't make the cut as a mother.  I'm a stay-at-home mom.  I anticipated morning the loss of my work life, but I did not anticipate the anxiety created within the stay-at-home mom world.  I often feel that I'm not doing enough for my child (who is only 2 by the way)... not taking him to enough classes, not going to enough play dates, not teaching him enough in one day...  You get the idea.  I would not trade my life in for another, but as a society I feel we are putting more and more pressure on moms (working and stay-at-home alike).  Tiffany Tehan is a prime example.  The media is condemning her for leaving her one year old.  Yeah, I wouldn't have done it, but I'm not living her life.  None of us know her true circumstances.  And then she is hung out to dry for all the country to see.   "What a horrible mother!"  And then all of us who have those deep hidden thoughts - thoughts that would never be acted upon - feel terribly guilty.  Am I a horrible mother too?  

But I still put my child to bed every night.  I still read him stories, finger paint with him and play with him in the backyard.  I am not Tiffany Tehan.  But we need to take the societal pressures off ourselves and support one another rather than judge and condemn. 


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