Being a Non-Resident Mother – Lyndsey’s Story

Lynn Schreiber

When a couple split up, the divvying up of possessions starts. He gets the sofa, she gets the dining table and chairs. Neither of them really want the vase they got as a wedding present from Great Aunt Issy, and there is a short disagreement about the artwork they bought on honeymoon. Deciding who gets what is the easy part – where it gets really difficult, and often distressing is when it comes to the children.

In 90% of the cases, the children stay with their mother. Like it or not, our society is built on mothers being the main care-givers, regardless if they are doing this alone or with the support of a partner. What does it feel like to be one of the 10% – the non-resident mother. Lyndsey knows only too well, and has agreed to share her experiences with us.

Part One -

 How The Fuck Did It End Up Like This

I never imagined I would be a divorcee. It just wasn’t the world I had grown up in. I had had a reasonably privileged and comfortable upbringing as an only child with parents that had a great relationship. That was my role model. 

So how did I end up divorced, and as the non resident parent to my two wonderful daughters?

This is my prologue to becoming an NRP.

 I was a very loved only child when I was growing up,  my parents were extremely wrapped up in their careers. Now looking back, (and from dear friends being brutally honest with me) when I hit my twenties I was desperate to be in love. All around me people seemed to be in serious relationships. Getting someone to come out for a girls’ night with me usually meant being gooseberry to someone else. I was always trailing about after my friend and her BF and his friends. Trying to organise a girls’ holiday just wasn’t going to happen. So I did quite a bit of stuff on my own, which was ok. But pangs of loneliness would overcome me on occasion. I felt as if I was being left behind and I really couldn’t believe that anyone could ever love me.

Should I berate my 22 year old me for not valuing my singledom and having a greater opinion of myself?

So, I met the ex husband at work, he was nice enough, with public schooling and a good family. And I thought it would all be ok. I suppose though, when push comes to shove, I didn’t love him and I was always trying too hard to be the person he wanted me to be instead of being true to myself.

Should I tell my 23 year old me that my self esteem was trickling away and I should value myself?

I put my best friend from when I was 12 years to one side because, for him, she wasn’t upmarket enough, and I put the girls I lived with at university to one side because they weren’t the kinds of friends we had. One by one all my friends were shunted to the sidelines and our social circle consisted of his school friends and their wives. 

I didn’t have my own bank account.

 I didn’t have my own e-mail. 

I didn’t have a Facebook account. 

I thought that this was normal.

Should I tell my 29 year old me that I was losing my Me?

Then disaster started to strike. My mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer. For 5 years I supported her emotionally through her illness. My dad was not interested in the emotional side and he buried himself in his work. 

At some point during this time I had my first daughter. 

Then I had my second daughter.

I thought the girls would make everything better. They were the light of my life, but my marriage continued to creak towards breaking point. It was clear to me that I was not good enough for him. If the girls were ill it was my fault, if they hurt themselves it was my fault, if he didn’t get up in the morning, yep, it my fault. The house was never clean enough, I didn’t earn enough money the list of complaints was endless. He was dissatisfied with life and I tried desperately to make him happy. I took as my responsibility. Because I couldn’t make him happy, I was a failure.

Should I tell my 31, 32 and 33 year old me that having children doesn’t ease marital issues?

I ferried daughter number 2 from cancer ward to hospice, and back again. Sometimes having to hide her car seat behind the bed so no one could see her. 

I thought I was supposed to put a smile on my face and cope. Why would anyone want to listen to my troubles? Why would anyone be interested?

Should I tell my 34 year old me it is ok not to cope sometimes. It is ok to let your knees buckle and cry out “I can’t do this anymore.” That yes, people do want to listen.

Two rounds of counselling further proved that the constant creaks were beginning to lead to cracks.

 My mum died and the world was dark. After a year of trying to put my grief on hold so I could prop up my dad, and continuing to support my husbands dissatisfaction with life I couldn’t do it anymore. The GP prescribed me anti-depressants but I was scared to take them because of some family history. 

So I left instead. 

It was all I could do to leave on my own and initially I didn’t take the girls with me.

Should I tell my 35 year old me you were weak?

Most of my wages were still going into my husbands account, I hardly had any money because he convinced me he needed about 70% of my pay to live. I couldn’t afford a solicitor and I couldn’t afford to fight for my daughters. 

It was terrifying. 

Subsequently we sorted out the girls coming to be with me at weekends and we sorted out the finances. I was still giving over considerable amounts but I could live.

Now I was left with making myself a different kind of mother, making every second of every weekend count. Making every second filled with love and trying to keep my heart from breaking every Sunday when I dropped them back.

I have spent the last 6 years tiptoeing back to strength. My current husband helped me put my Me back together, encouraged my independence and has given me space to create a self. There are moments when I turn to check if it’s ok to go to the bathroom or I worry if I have been slightly too long In Tesco. And then I remember I don’t have to do that anymore.

No, I wouldn’t berate my younger me about any of those things.

That is my life and that is what has made me the woman I am. I will however, be teaching my daughters to be independent, self sufficient, and overflowing with self worth.


Read Part Two of Lyndsey’s story here.

More information on where to find help, for non-resident mothers here.

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