When I relinquished custody of my three daughters last May, my mom tried to help ease the pain of that by telling this story: I was a great mom to my three adopted daughters for the four years I was living with them. I helped them learn American culture and loved them well for those four years. But now, because I was giving up physical custody, the story went, I could just be their great friend, like a super supportive aunt. I could be someone off on the side, who still loves them, but can't really be their mom anymore. Well. There was some comfort in that story. And maybe believing that story some is how I managed to not collapse when I actually moved out, it was how I survived the summer.
But it's not true. At all. Being someone's mom doesn't just change into being a nice person on the side. My feelings for them and their feelings for me, at the base of everything, are still all about mother-child love bonds. And telling a more true story, while super painful, is what all four of us need. We love each other fiercely and need those true and loving feelings to be welcomed back into our bruised hearts. There is real, and sometimes overwhelming pain in acknowledging that I'm separated from the beautiful people who are still my children. It aches the most when I come home to my empty apartment after dropping them off at their empty house. But there's also this joyful truth: they are still my children and I am still their mom. A different way of being a mom? Sure. Sure. But people get divorced all the time, and we just figure out how to still be the best parents we can for our children who deserve no less.