The Runaway Mom

When I first met “Sara” (not her real name) a decade ago I was struck by how beautiful she was, almost like a china doll on a store shelf. She had the willowy body of a dancer, ivory skin, and playful sapphire blue eyes behind long lashes. I loved her British accent, right out of the Little Princess, the product of years of schooling at one of England’s most prestigious boarding schools for girls.

By the time I met Sara, she was newly religious, living in a religious suburb of Jerusalem, and the mother of three teensy children. She had read one of my books at the Beit Hachlama, the Recovery House where many women go to rest up after their births, and had contacted me to see if we could get together to talk about birthing.

Despite her debutante upbringing, I saw right away that Sara was a very free spirit, a hippy at heart. She told me that she made a meager living decorating ketubot and dreamed of leaving behind the homogenous suburb where her husband learned in a yeshiva, and moving to a remote hilltop settlement where she could devote herself to her watercolor painting and set up her own natural birthing center. But her husband, she told me shaking her head, “Wasn’t that type of guy.”

Just yesterday, I saw Sara for the first time in several years on the street by my house. She looked the same, except for something I couldn’t put my finger on. I guess it was that she looked a bit strange. Like a flower that had been stepped on, maybe.

Sara looked happy to see me. She told me that she had just moved into a studio apartment on my street. My heart fell.

She had left her husband 9 months before, she told me with a nervous smile, and they had divorced. “I was stupid. I didn’t ask for anything in the divorce because I wanted to make sure that our separation wouldn’t damage our friendship. But now my husband doesn’t give me any money, and I can’t afford an apartment that is big enough for my children to live with me.”

“How many children do you have?”

“Eight,” Sara answered, looking down.

“I didn’t do the right thing,” Sara continued, “9 months ago, I left my husband and my children, and now he is remarried, and I don’t have a way to see my kids. His new wife doesn’t want me in their house, and now I can’t put my children to bed or wake up with them. What kind of mother can I be if I can’t do that? So I can only see them in the afternoon a few days a week, but it’s awkward and difficult.”

“I don’t know what I’m going to do…” Sara looked like a woman in crisis, like a woman in mourning. “Chana, please pray for me, OK?”

For the rest of the day, I couldn’t get Sara out of my mind. What a nightmare, I thought. A mother of 8 children had run away from home one day, and now had found the door leading back home had locked shut behind her.

The scariest part, I realized, it that there is a little bit of Sara in each of us.

What mom reading this hasn’t sometimes dreamt of running away- to do exactly what you want to do when you want to do it- far from the daily stresses of a difficult financial situation or a draining marriage or the endless challenges of raising a family and managing a home that is far too small and way too messy.

How crucial, I thought, for every mom to take time out to reflect on the aspects of life that are bringing her down, and to start repairing those areas of her life.

Every mother needs to ask herself every month, every week, every day:

-What aspects of my life do I hate?
-What daily activities/responsibilities sap me of energy and vitality?
-And, most importantly, what practical steps can I take to start improving and fixing those parts of my life so that I can feel happier and more satisfied as a wife and mother and human being?

Because it’s a tragedy to be living a life you wish you could run away from, and it’s even more of a tragedy to be the child of yet another long-suffering mom with a far-away look in her eyes.

Watch this video to learn how you too can improve your life and become a more joyful person.

Photo courtesy of user J-Cornelius


  1. chana jenny, your article was an eyeopener. i really think you are totally on the mark when you say “What mom reading this hasn’t sometimes dreamt of running away”, and that we all need to reflect on what could be changed. the part i disagree with is when you say:
    “Every mother needs to ask herself every month, every week, every day: What aspects of my life do I hate?”
    everyone has challeges in life, and not everythiing can be ‘fixed’. it’s probably best not to sit and focus on the aspects of life that we hate, or we will end up in a rotten rut. granted we need to deal with issues of life and try to make things better, but to think every day what i hate about my life is probably really unhealthy. do you know what i mean?

    • JewishMom

      what I mean is to do cheshbon nefesh about what in your life needs work. To focus on fixing what’s wrong, rather than getting bogged down into negative patterns. I agree that if there are things you CANNOT fix for whatever reason, then it’s unhealthy to dwell on them.

  2. I think the key is “the ones you HATE.” Not the things you dislike, or find annoying. The things that are bothering you every single day and are the ones that are potential triggers of something drastic and irreversible…

    For those, there is always something to change.

    A house that is too small? It’s not too small, it’s too crowded. You may need to declutter or downsize certain things.

    A marriage in crisis? There are resources – free and paid – to help.

  3. I constantly think about fixing things that i “HATE”. It’s wonderful and extremely therapeutic. If only everyone would do this, people would be so much happier. And yes, most hardships CAN be fixed, and if they can’t, at least our outlook can – by reading the right books, talking to the right people, listening to the right shiurim…

  4. I’m so deeply saddened that someone can make such an awfully wrenching decision. I wonder if she had a mentor or some kind of guidance. I find it so heartwrenching that a mother can feel compelled to leave her own flesh and blood children, because of some vision she had. So sad.

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