The Rise of Walk-Away Moms


Have you ever had one of those days when you just felt like leaving? Running away from everything – kids, husband, partner, housework, cooking, job, cleaning, pets…everything. I sometimes have moments of fight or flight, moments when I look at everyone and everything around me and think, WTF? Do I stand there and keep pushing through? Or do I run for the hills, never to look back? The thoughts of running last only seconds before I’m back taking care of business, but that’s not always the case with women, especially those with children. In fact, recent studies have shown that the number of moms who are running away from it all, now dubbed walk-away moms, is on the rise. It’s a scary trend, but if we take take a moment and step back, I think it’s a reality we can all relate to on some level. We’ve all wanted to run away. If you’re a mom and you’re shaking your head “No way! Not me!”, your nose is growing like Pinocchio. As perfectly described by Peggy Drexler, author of Our Fathers, Ourselves: Daughters, Fathers, and the Changing American Family and Raising Boys Without Men”:

“Most mothers are familiar with the feeling — for some it’s more fleeting than for others — of total exhaustion, frustration, a sense of being overwhelmed by duty and the responsibility of raising children. Maybe some indulge in a momentary fantasy of running away.”

Although there are no solid statistics, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of single fathers has been rising steadily, from more than 600,000 in 1982 to more than 2 million in 2011. More walk-away moms are also coming forward to tell their stories – explaining why they felt the need to leave their families behind. Many experts cite the growing “me-first” world we now live in as the problem – clinical narcissism – which has grown by 30% over the past 20 years. We now live in a world where we are strongly encouraged to think of ourselves and focus on our individuality. Other studies indicate that the stress levels are so high, some women are simply unable to cope with parenthood. They were not prepared for the life altering changes and never become accustomed to being a mom.

You might scorn these women, label them as “bad mothers.” But are they really so horrible? Did they do more harm than good by walking away? Is it better for a person to stay in a situation where they increasingly become hostile, neglectful and possibly abusive? Is that reality better for children? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, no. I personally know of families where children were raised or are being raised in single-father homes. In several situations, the mothers were simply unfit to parent – heavy alcohol or drug abusers. Another situation, the mother did not want the responsibility of kids or marriage. She left her family for a high profile career. Although she still speaks with her children several times a year, she is and will always be an absent parent. The children were 2 and 5 when she made the decision to walk away. There were difficulties at first, but their father raised them well. Today, they are well-adjusted, productive members of society.

I’m not going to lie – a part of me believes she ditched her responsibilities and completely abandoned her children. There is also a part of me that feels they were better off without her and that she did the right thing by walking away. She is too self-centered and selfish to truly place anyone before herself. When you’re a mom, nothing comes before your children. I don’t care what the so-called geniuses say about individuality and focusing on our own needs. Kids NEED direction, support and love in order to grow and flourish. As parents, we understand and accept this as a normal part of parenthood. Sure, we make time for ourselves but never at the expense of our children.

What do you think of this growing trend? Do you think mothers should stick out parenting no matter what?

Posted on by Crystal in Parenting

19 Responses to The Rise of Walk-Away Moms

  1. Tamara Camera

    I’ve been told often to take time for myself, often, because otherwise the stress can just build. Right now my husband is out out of commission for an injury for awhile and he literally can’t do anything, at least for a week or two. And all four of my in-laws are away. It’s definitely stressful, to say the least.

    No, I’ll never understand the walk-away moms and absent parents, at least not directly. Perhaps a part of me can see how it happens although I never would do the same, I imagine.
    Tamara Camera recently posted..Might As Well Jump.

  2. Michelle

    There was just a story on the news about a woman that walked away without telling anyone where she was going or what she was doing and the dad was under suspicion for a long time. I think that is horrible. Kids are only young once…that time passes so quickly. I guess I don’t understand it. Our society has become too much of a “me” society in my opinion. We no longer think of others before ourselves.
    Michelle recently posted..5 Digital Photo Organizing Tips to Help You Take Control of Your Digital Life

  3. The Dose of Reality

    We think if a parent (mother or father)purposefully walks away from their children only to have limited contact with them a few times of year that is the definition of poor parenting. It doesn’t matter if it’s a mom or a dad. Hopefully the parent left behind with the child is nurturing and will try to make up for the abandonment the child has experienced. Hopefully that child will be okay. But, what that parent actually did was unacceptable in terms of parenting. That’s not how parenting works. Once you have the gig it’s your responsibility. You owe that to your child.

    This is very different from a person who abuses their family members and has to be kept away from them. It’s also different from someone who isn’t present in their children’s lives due to addiction. This sounds like a purposeful *choice* to abandon one’s kids because you’re just tired of parenting. We can’t think of how that can be perceived as anything but the antithesis of good parenting.

    This is also really different than the very normal feelings of being overwhelmed that we all feel sometimes. You sometimes need a girls night out or a break as you run to the store alone to regenerate–but that’s not abandonment.

    If these views sound judgemental toward parents who choose their own fulfillment over the welfare of their kids, we feel okay about that. –The Dose Girls
    The Dose of Reality recently posted..Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days Of Summer

    • R.C. Thompson

      Most of the comments on here seem to be from women. How about one from a man’s point of view. After a 20 yr marriage, two daughters and a grandchild my wife announced that she didn’t want to be wife or mother. I was floored – if some one would have said she would leave me – I would have said maybe but leave the girls…NEVER. Boy, was I wrong. Fast forward 1 yr she is gone and I have custody of our youngest daughter and a six pound malteese…wondering what happened. Her last words to me “This is my last change to do something you and the girls will be proud of–she hasn’t seem our daughter in over a year—not a word. My daughter and I have actually done very well. We have started many new routines as a way to distance ourselves from the past. We have joined a church, tend our flower garden, go bike riding, been to several city concerts, went to the rodeo and much more. I have even tried my hand at helping her color her hair(a BIG strech for me) and she and I even do a little shopping for her(also new for me). All that said when her mother left I was very upset. In the year + since my daughter and I have a 1000% stronger relationship than we would have. She has become a straight A student. Looking back I feel that this situation is the best thing my Ex could have done for both of us. DO NOT misunderstand I am not for parents leaving their children and feel that any parent who does is a big fat selfish COWARD.
      But to anyone who finds themselves in this place –all is not lost and God will make a way for you and your children.

  4. Angela

    I am like you, I have moments where I think “wtf?” and the temptation to disappear like a vapor trail and never return is there but it always disappears as fast as it arrived and truth be told I can’t really imagine not being in my children’s lives and seeing how they grow up and become adults of their own. I think the temptation is normal, I think acting on it isn’t but I can sympathize. I wonder, once they actually disappear are they ever sorry? Do they have regrets but don’t know how to return without facing consequences?
    Angela recently posted..Must Love Dogs…

  5. Kristen Daukas

    Well… there have been times I’ve wanted to choke my kids but managed to refrain from doing it 😉 Some people aren’t meant to be parents. They get pregnant by accident, do the “right thing” and then are “stuck” with a kid they don’t want. Do I think it’s right? No. But I don’t think the kid should have to suffer by being forced to live in a house where it’s apparent that mommy doesn’t love them, either. BUT! don’t walk away and then think you haven’t just set your fate in stone. I don’t know too many people who would welcome that parent back with any kind of arms, much less open ones.
    Kristen Daukas recently posted..Wordless Wednesday – From Cradle to Grave #iPPP

  6. Menopausalmother

    I think it’s so sad when I hear stories of mothers who just walk away–I can’t even begin to fathom that. But it’s hard to judge unless we stand in their shoes. Maybe they were never interested in having children in the first place but were pressured to do so? Or maybe they were not given any help or support from their spouse or any relatives. Either way, I think things must be really bad for a mom to just up and walk away from her family….I could never do it..but I also cannot judge them.
    Menopausalmother recently posted..Teenage Trials And A Trophy

  7. Andrea

    First, the picture for this post is hilarious! HA! Second, I sometimes wish I were deaf and invisible. I take time for myself and think it NECESSARY that all parents do the same. Before I was married with kid I was just me. I have to just be me in order for me to be a happy, even tempered person. Although it’s so difficult and sad for a child to be without his mother it is by no means as horrible as having a checked out, burnt out parent present but not parenting. Andrea
    Andrea recently posted..Kegel Exercises Won’t Prevent Infidelity

  8. Leslie

    Such an interesting topic, and not one I’ve read about much. I do agree that culture has gotten too driven by a “me, me, me” attitude. I’ve seen it both personally and professionally from young people in my life, and it’s a real turnoff.

    That said, this whole topic is actually quite close to my heart. From the age of about ten I was primarily raised by my father. I’ll admit, it was heartbreaking; and it took a VERY long time to rebuild our relationship. Being raised by a man during what are formative years for a young girl had its positives and negatives. I had a lot of rough edges by the time I was in high school, and my stepmother really helped to take me from ‘girl’ to ‘lady’. But on the upside, I firmly believed that having a very involved father helped me think more like a man, and has had a wonderful impact on my marriage.

  9. Kim

    This is a very interesting topic, and one that hits close to home. My Father-in-law was abandoned by his Mother at the age of 2…she just put herself on a bus one day and never came back (they didn’t reconnect until he was in his 50’s). I have met her a few times and she seems like a lovely lady, but I can’t help but think of her as extremely selfish.

    It is not something one gets over easily (a ‘mother’ abandoning her children).

    Even my own Mother’s attempted suicide when I was young has left me feeling all my life – “Am I not enough for you?”.

    Yes, I have had quick thoughts of wanting to leave….but my ‘fight’ instincts always kick in.

    The Dose girls said it best above: “Once you have the gig it’s your responsibility. You owe that to your child”.

    So whether judgmental or not, only thinking of yourself and fleeing from your parental duties does not make a ‘good’ parent, in my opinion.
    Kim recently posted..Patience, oh patience wherefore art thou?

  10. Barb

    Kudos for being bold and sharing a topic that is in fact very ‘real’ for many. No doubt the sense of community that can now take place as a result of conversations like these will help moms realize they aren’t the only ones!
    ps. found you over at Joy of Motherhood: Mother’s Day Link. 🙂
    Barb recently posted..Comment on Mad Men and their Mothers by Barb

  11. Joi @ Rx Fitness Lady

    I’m not a Mother but it’s hard for me to justify a Mother leaving her children for any reason. I guess there are situations where the mother is unfit. Just leaving because you feel that you should be doing other stuff or with another man and all that jazz, I don’t think so. Judgmental maybe, it’s just how I feel!
    Joi @ Rx Fitness Lady recently posted..My Mother Took My BODYCOMBAT Class, Whoop Whoop

  12. GoodLooknOut

    I definitely think women should do their best to stick it out. I get these feelings too but then I think about what would happen to my children if I weren’t present. That feeling outweighs my own personal feelings. I read about all these children being molested and abuses and that will NOT be my children (not if I can help it).

    I do feel like the DEVIL is hard at work out here and this # is doubling out here because of him. This world is becoming more and more difficult to cope/deal. I can see how mothers can have these thoughts but you have to be as grounded as humanly possible…. especially if we want to make a better world. It starts with out children!
    GoodLooknOut recently posted..#Healthy Eating: Taking it Back To Basics

  13. Kimberly

    Having been overwhelmed to the point where I was tempted to leave, I get it. But there are lots of ways to manage stress with support — kids need their parents. My former husband hasn’t been an active part of my kids’ lives, and while they’ve adapted, I wonder what kind of long term effect that will have.
    Kimberly recently posted..Mother’s Day: Will they remember?

  14. OneMommy

    I have to say, I know a few who walked away,too. And, in those cases it was better for the kids.

  15. Kristen R.

    It’s sad to think that mothers can reject their children, but I think you make a good point. The kids would be happier with someone who loves and cares for them, not someone who resents them and acts out. Part of me wants to say they should suck it up and get help to deal with motherhood, but I think the problems go far deeper and would take years of therapy to resolve.
    Kristen R. recently posted..My Mom

  16. Kate

    The first thing I thought when reading those stats, is that I wasn’t surprised. I have had a fleeting moment, like the rest of you, but it was just fleeting. Here’s the thing, I rarely feel overwhelmed. I see MANY moms that do. I have to say that the reason I am not surprised, isn’t because of a “me first” generation, but the “have it all” generation. Moms are expected, to mother, work outside the home, be involved in school and extra curricular activities, and in many of the cases I have seen, handle all the house hold responsibilities as well. If that was my life, those moments if want to bail, might not be so fleeting.

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