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Although we know it happens every year, seeing Mother’s Day cards and gifts for sale in the shops can kick start what is called a frequency illusion, also known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. This phenomenon happens when you notice something and then start seeing it everywhere. When we have strong feelings about something, the frequency illusion is bound to be heightened. For example, mothers living apart from their children might notice the date on which Mother’s Day falls, which can then lead to observing local florists and restaurants advertising the event with painful regularity.

Frequency illusion is a passive experience, in other words, our brain seeks out information that resonates with us, making us believe that there is an actual increase in the frequency of these occurrences. This being so, perhaps a more conscious, rational approach to Mothers Day will be helpful.

Are other people doing something?

So who is doing what on Mother’s Day? I’ve just searched the internet with the following ‘Mothers Day 2015’ and found there are over 35,100,000 results. If we’re not consciously aware of our own wellbeing, we could be blindsided by a bad case of FOMO at this time of year. In case you’ve not heard of FOMO before, new technology, particularly social media has coined this phrase. ‘FOMO’ stands for ‘Fear Of Missing Out’. If you let them, happy family photos and messages on social media could leave you feeling hurt – you don’t even have to physically walk past Mother’s Day cards, flowers, chocolates, pink bubbly in the supermarket to feel excluded or envious. We can’t control whether or not our children will acknowledge us on Mother’s Day but we can take care of ourselves. Could the day be an opportunity for you to relax, create, take some exercise, book a trip, find a class, read a book? Whatever it is, do what feels right for you, never mind what others are doing or what they think.

Are you doing something?

Whether you’ve planned something pleasurable or spend the day doing something you’ve been meaning to crack on with, just do it – no matter how you feel. Instead of taking your lead from blue feelings and then giving up, practice watching your emotions come and go without trying to change them or push them away. This is what Buddhists call non-attachment. It doesn’t mean being like a stone. Watching rather than buying into our feelings becomes possible when we understanding them as passing and temporary. Upset comes upon us and it leaves and it can help if we don’t judge ourselves. In other words, we don’t regard our feelings or ourselves as either negative or positive. Try allowing feelings to rise, soften and fall away, rather than feeding and fuelling the drama of what we tell ourselves about our circumstances. So, even if you’re feeling unmotivated or resistance towards Mothering Sunday, allow the feeling and at the same time, start doing whatever it is you have decided to do on the day. Even though it’s not the aim, you might surprise yourself and find that you have a good time.

What thing are you not going to do?

Hot on the heels of doing something just for you on Mother’s Day, how about reconsidering what you currently do routinely? Maybe there are things in your life that you no longer have the time or energy for, such as a club or a class and you just don’t want to let others down by moving on. Perhaps it’s a belief or a behaviour that has had its day and you fear you’d risk losing part of your identity if you gave up on it. This might be the expectation of meaningful contact with your child at this point in time. It might also be the notion of taking off the hair shirt that we can inadvertently pull on when we live apart from children – ‘I should have done more or less, earlier or later, held my tongue or have spoken my mind or fill in the blank……’ –  leg traps all! If this resonates with you, there is no need to do this to yourself. It serves no one, least of all you. Make it top of your ‘no longer going to do’ list.

Whether you have contact or not with your children, whether they appreciate your love at this time or not, do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself this Mother’s Day. Do the thing you think you cannot do, especially if this thing is treating yourself with gentleness and compassion.

It might be considered the season to be jolly, but it is jolly hard being jovial when your Christmas is marred by difficult, little or no time with your children. In the run up to the holiday break it’s not easy to avoid the mass merriment of Christmas songs and cards, turkeys and tinsel to remind us how things ‘ought’ to be.

The busiest shopping day of the year (Cyber Monday) has already been and gone, but how can we hold fast through the commercial pressure and festivities when life is not the way we want it?

Trying to ignore the fact that the big day will soon be upon us can be just as energy sapping as striving to make sure it’s a happy one. Instead, why not aim for a ‘good enough’ Christmas and end to the year? Maybe if we pace ourselves, lower our expectations over the next few weeks, we can find some peace of mind.

Here are my suggestions for a conscious, ‘good enough’ Christmas time.

Your guiding star

Who, what or where is your guiding star? Who gives you sustenance, what has meaning for you and how can you draw on this over the holiday period? Whether your guiding star is your religious or spiritual belief, time to meditate, a world famous icon, a true friend or family member, or a book or poem that reaches your heart – keep them or it within your sights. Give yourself permission and space to reflect, read, talk and connect as one year ends and another begins.

Goodwill to all

Everyone has a place, everybody has value and you are no exception. If you are feeling redundant or lonely, let the season of goodwill begin with you. Have compassion for yourself – you are worthy of this. Compassion for ourselves allows us to feel compassion for others. Despite any injustice against towards you, aim for kindness and goodwill. Even just a smile, a hello and thank you to a stranger can bring you the warmth and nourishment to be gained from a small act of human decency.   

You are a wise woman

It might be the time for wise men but you can trust you inner wise woman. After estrangement or a hostile divorce, some of us have trouble believing that we can make good, healthy decisions. You don’t need to be perfect nor do you need to provide a perfect Christmas for your children. Be your lovely self – that way your inner wise woman will be at hand. If you make mistakes, take responsibility for them. That’s part of what we do as human beings. That’s how we learn, develop and become wiser still. 

‘Tis the season to be merry

Putting a brave face on things can cause us to lose touch with what we need and lead us to eat or drink too much. This is especially true at a time when so much is on offer – whether this be the office drinks party or the half price tin on chocolates. Taking care of ourselves means that we consider our actions. If we are feeling blue, would it help to limit quantities or time at events? Poor nutrition and too much alcohol will affect our mood. A lack of sleep or exercise will impact on our physical wellbeing. I like to use the twelve step fellowship acronym HALT to check in with myself. Am I Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired? If I am, I need to remedy it.

Don’t let your Christmas past betray your Christmas present or future

Make this very moment count then move on to the next. Don’t spoil today by ruminating or projecting yourself into another time or place. Be mindful of the phone, email, photographs or music taking you away from being with yourself and others in the present. If the present is painful, remind yourself that this too shall pass. Be in the here and now and nurture yourself in healthy ways.

I wish you ease and comfort this Christmas. A peaceful 2014 to you.

Until next time, take good care of yourself.



This Sunday, 11 May, is Mother’s Day in 62 countries around the world.  Millions of moms will be given cards, treated to breakfast in bed or taken out for lunch.  They will be hugged, kissed, thanked and told how special they are.


But for mothers whose children live elsewhere, Mother’s Day is usually the most painful day of the year. 


More women than most people realise live apart from their children.  Even today, when amicable separations occur, mothers who don’t live with their children are regarded as at best an oddity – and at worst, unnatural and selfish.  Whatever the reason for separation, living apart from a child can be devastatingly painful. 


Mothers apart experience a double whammy. They face the judgement of the outside world, usually the actual responses from the people they come into contact with and what they read and hear in some of the media, and they are also judged by their ‘inner’ world – the negative things they tell themselves.  Negative inner judgement erodes self-esteem and destroys confidence. In particular, mothers apart from their children face the challenge of:

  • The loss of everyday motherhood
  • Stress, if they are battling with an ex-partner and trying to help children torn between two worlds.
  • Guilt, tormenting themselves by taking on too much responsibility.
  • Shame if they’ve lost custody – some mothers apart keep their status as a mother a secret to avoid probing questions and possible criticism. 
  • Social stigma – it’s still more socially acceptable for men to live apart from their children.

A message for you if you’re a non-custodial mother…


Although it might feel like it, know that you’re not alone and it is possible to live a full and happy life and be a loving mother, living apart from your child.  Don’t allow guilt to get in the way of your relationship with your child, a new partner or indeed having another child.  Let go of trying to be a superwoman.   Maintain as much contact with your child as possible, perhaps through a third party.  If you have contact, listen well to your children and be as honest as possible – this is the way to build trust and increase your chances of a good relationship in the long term. 


Find the support you need.  Create an understanding support team around you – your friends, family and, should you need one, a counsellor who understands the loss experienced by women separated from their children (see  Read and do the exercises in my book, ‘A Mother Apart:  How to let go of guilt and find happiness living apart from your child’.


Mother’s Day tips for non-custodial moms…


Being such a money making occasion, Mother’s Day is difficult to avoid – but you can make things easier by preparing yourself emotionally. 


Please make a commitment to take outrageously good care of yourself on Mother’s Day.  In particular,


·         Remember, you are and always will be your child’s mother 365 days a year, no matter what has happen in the past, or what might happen in the future. 

·         Remind yourself that giving birth to a child is a huge achievement.  Sit quietly for a while and honour your status as a mother. 

·         Buy yourself some flowers.  Plan a special treat or, better still, ask your partner or a friend to take you out for a springtime walk, a health spa day, a delicious meal or whatever you love doing best!

·         Keep your heart and your door open, you never know what’s around the corner.

Today is International Parental Alienation Awareness Day.  Parental Alienation happens when a resident parent tries to manipulate a child into saying that they don’t want to have a relationship with their non resident parent.  The term Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) was coined by Dr Richard Gardner who described it as a disorder that happens solely in child-custody disputes in which a campaign of denigration is initiated by a resident parent, managing to turn the child against the non resident parent, resulting in the child’s apparent desire to end all contact with the parent they no longer live with. (Just to be clear, Parental Alienation doesn’t of course occur in cases were a parent abuses or neglects a child).  


Parents who discover that a once loving relationship with their child has changed, often quite suddenly into the complete opposite, understandably suffer acute pain and despair.  Their stories of rejection, character deformation and sometimes false allegations are heartbreaking. Two such courageous women share their experience of Parental Alienation in my book ‘A Mother Apart’. Their strength, tenacity and absolute commitment to remain in their children’s lives, is an inspiration.


Sadly, mothers and fathers who suffer as a result of severe parental alienation are usually faced with the long haul, sometimes waiting until children have grown into adults before any form of reconciliation can take place.  Sometimes becoming a parent themselves makes an adult child want to reconnect with and find out more about an alienated parent, and to ask questions about their past. However, we never know what’s around the corner so if you’re an alienated parent, try to keep your heart and door open, as circumstances can change at any time.


I hope the following tips will help you if you’re an alienated mother apart, today and everyday:


Maintain as much contact as possible with your child.  Find ways to stay in touch and let your child know that you love and miss them, without saying how upset you are.  Say that you look forward to the day when you can spend some time together. Sounds tricky in a highly emotional situation such as this, but finding good emotional support for yourself is essential to helping you contain feelings that might overwhelm your child. 


Be as imaginative as you can in coming up with ways to stay in touch. Phone, text, instant message, send e-cards, snail mail letters, cards, postcards.  Try and find out what her/his latest interest is and send collectables, magazines and cut out articles.  Send photos of you, your family, pets and friends she/he will remember.  Remind her/him of good times in the past and tell them about what is happening in your present. Maybe your attempts will reach your child, maybe they won’t but if they do, they’ll let your child know that you love and care for them.  Don’t give up.  Without a doubt, staying in contact, even if it feels like your efforts are going into a void, is the best way of increasing your chances of reconciliation in the future.  


Keep your focus on yourself, not you ex.  You are never going to be able to change your ex, so don’t waste your energy trying to convince him that he is out of order or treating the children unfairly by denying them contact with you.  Don’t hand your power over to your ex.  Try not to allow any fear you feel to influence your behaviour. Keeping yourself small or trying to keep him sweet won’t help.  Instead of allowing yourself to feel intimidated, set clear boundaries, calmly and assertively.  Develop these skills within yourself by having counselling or doing a course if you need to. When we choose how we behave instead of reacting to someone else’s behaviour, we feel more in control.  Think dignity and act calmly.  You will feel better for it, your ex will lose his power over you and your child will see you role modelling dignified, adult behaviour.


Take outrageously good care of yourself today.  Go well.




Sarah’s new self-help book: A Mother Apart

Support for women

Sarah specialises in counselling and training women. She helps non-resident mothers find inner peace by dealing with guilt, distress and other difficult feelings which can be experienced when living apart from their child. Her self-help book, 'A Mother Apart', published by Crown House, is available now. She also supports business women grow in confidence whilst growing their businesses. To find out more, please visit Sarah Hart's website

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