*Kira turned to look at me for a moment from the passenger seat and gave a weary ‘I guess this is it’ anxious half-smile, her eyes were glistening with the tears she was trying so hard not to let out in front of her children. “Hurry up Mum!” Whined Kira’s 15yr old daughter *Taylah from the back seat, she and my Mr 15 were waiting to be dropped off at their friend’s place down the street and couldn’t understand what was taking us so long.
“Okay, sorry sweetheart, hang on” Kira said as she reached through the open widow to give another hug to her 10yr old daughter who was standing just outside the car. “You make sure you keep your phone charged, okay? I am going to text you and I want you to text back!” “Yep” her daughter replied, not really listening as she was preoccupied playing with my own daughter. “No, seriously, *Haley, make sure it’s on and has service. Promise me, okay? Now listen to your Dad and… remember how much I love you!” “Okay, love you too” said Haley skipping off to show Miss 9 her new baby lamb.
I looked at Kira, she had put her head down, her face mostly covered by her long black hair and she was biting her lip in an effort to stave off the tears for a few moments longer. “Just drive already!” Taylah cried from the backseat, “OMG you guys are SO SLOW” exclaimed Mr 15. “You ready?” I asked Kira knowing that the real answer was she would never, ever be ready for this moment; she looked up and me, took a deep breath and softly said, “Yes.”
I started my car and we headed down the driveway of their property, pausing momentarily for Kira to get out and shoo her old pet Cow out of the way who was standing stubbornly in the middle of the road chewing cud and pretending he couldn’t see us. We turned out onto the dusty road and drove for a while before reaching the kid’s friends place. Kira gave Taylah the same spiel about making sure her phone was on and was in a spot that had service. The teenagers scrambled out of the car and ran off to meet their friend, not a care in the world. Kira called out the window “I love you!” and Taylah yelled back “love ya too Mum” without even looking back, not understanding that this was the day her life was going to change forever.
You see today, Kira was leaving her husband. And for the foreseeable future, she was also leaving her children.
How could a mother voluntarily just leave her kids? It’s not exactly a common occurrence and I can hear everyone gasping and throwing down judgements from here. But you see, it’s really not that cut and dry, sometimes mothers have to make the excruciating decision to leave their children, for their children.
Kira’s marriage had been on the rocks for quite a while, she and Kev had been together a long time but the relationship had become very co-dependent. Kira’s mental health was sketchy at best, her first child had been born when she was just 15 and had been taken from her a few years later, the state put the child with her mother but as their relationship was bad, Kira wasn’t granted visitation. She moved onto an abusive partner from where she had to flee with just the clothes on her back and her new baby Taylah. Kira had spent time in jail for a traffic offence shortly after meeting Kev and Kev had stuck by her and even cared for Taylah, who was only a toddler, during that time.
After she got out of jail Kira had lost her drivers license for an epic 10years so she relied heavily on Kev who worked and took care of both of them, they moved to his parents bush block in our small country town and he drove Kira wherever she needed to go. Eventually they had baby Haley together but things were always very hard financially and emotionally. Kira had never received therapy or support for the abuse she had sustained as a child and had slowly become a severe alcoholic, she is also dependent on prescription pain medication and was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder somewhere along the way too. Other than Kev and a few mates that only came by to drink with her on weekends she had no support network and was lonely, isolated and understandably depressed.
Despite all that she has been through, Kira is a really lovely person, not a mean bone in her body and despite little education and years of substance abuse she is an intelligent, polite woman who cares deeply for her children and is desperate for them to have a better life than she did. So, you might ask, if her husband has been caring for her all these years and she loves her children so much, then why on earth is she leaving?
Like everything, there is no simple answer, Kira has been stuck, emotionally and physically isolated. She’s suffered every kind of imaginable Hell over the course of her life – neglect, abuse, teen pregnancy, poverty, having a child taken from her, mental illness, physical trauma and pain, time in jail as well as continuing addiction and she has never been given the opportunity to work through these things beyond the crisis care stage. Every now and then she becomes inspired and motivated to improve her life, she starts to work on cleaning up their disheveled home, it is perhaps on the back of a hypomania but she tries really hard to drink less and reduce the amount of substances she uses but quitting alcohol without medical supervision is dangerous for a person with her level of addiction and the temptation of self medication for the pain and isolation always tends to overthrow her deepest resolves.
Also, to Kira it seemed as though every time she began to try and improve her life Kev had been unconsciously trying to sabotage her efforts. She couldn’t understand why he became very snappy about her substance issues once she began to cut down and then angry about the messy state of their home after she had begun to clean it up. When she eventually got her drivers’ license back and had made a huge effort to limit her substance use so that she could safely drive. She felt he was road blocking her efforts to get a job and then he seemed happy when after one day they had had a fight and she made a very poor decision to drive under the influence and subsequently got caught losing her license once again. They seemed to end up getting into bigger fights the more Kira tried to improve herself and she would feel more alone than ever and turn back to old habits to numb the pain.
Perhaps he had been caring for her for so long that the possibility of her gaining independence frightened him, if she didn’t need him anymore, would she still want him? I don’t know, I’m not a shrink. But I did understand when Kira said to me that if she was ever going to make the important changes to her life that she needed to make for herself and her girls that she wasn’t able to live with Kev while she was doing it and as heartbreaking as it was, she knew she was not able to provide a stable, safe enough environment for the children and they needed to continue to live with Kev.
So, that fateful day we left Taylah and Mr 15 at their friends place and headed towards the city. We had a good talk and Kira cried and cried about how guilty she felt and what an awful mother she had been and all the bad decisions and horrible circumstances. I tried to reassure her that she was one of the most loving mothers I had ever met and to be able to make that heartbreaking decision of leaving them both with Kev because she knew it was in their best interests right now took a huge amount of strength. We discussed that this didn’t mean she would never be able to see her daughters again, there were no court orders involved and Kev was hurt and angry but not vindictive at all so she could call them every day. I told her that this was her time, now was her chance to find herself, to care and nurture that lost little girl inside her that had never been given a chance.
We hugged as I left her in the care of a friend in the city, he and his wife would take her in for a few days and help her find some more long-term accommodation. I headed back home and picked up the teenagers, Taylah knew her Mum was going away for a bit, Kira had sat her down the previous night and told her what was happening and asked her if she was okay to stay with Kev. But Taylah had shrugged it off saying “you’ll be back”. Taylah looked at me as she got back into the car “Did you drop her in town?” I nodded, “Who’s she staying with?” I told her and she looked relieved. She is all too aware of the negative influence of some of her mother’s friends.
We got back to Taylah’s farm and I thanked Kev for letting Miss 9 play. I was just about to leave when little Haley suddenly asked “hey, hang on, where’s Mum?” It broke my heart. Taylah and I looked at Kev and Kev sighed deeply “She’s visiting a friend in town…” “Oh okay, are you picking her up Kate?” she asked me innocently. “Come on inside Missy, it’s getting cold” Kev ushered Haley into the house and nodded goodbye to me with a sad smile knowing he about to have to have a very hard conversation.
I really hope Kira is able to tap into the amazing strength she doesn’t realise she has and finally work through her past so that she can create a better future for herself; she has made some bad choices, but she deserves hope and so do her girls.
*Names changed to protect privacy