Let’s Talk: is a mother deserting her children ever forgivable? 67

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Recently I reviewed a wonderfully written book, The Other Side of the World, the second novel by the very talented Stephanie Bishop.

Now I know “Let’s Talk” is not usually about books, but one aspect of this novel niggled at me.

Firstly a brief precis – The Other Side of the World tells the story of Charlotte and Henry a young couple transplanted from the gentle English countryside to the blazing skies and dry earth of Perth. Henry made the decision to come to Australia, although, in his version, it was mutually agreed between them. With them are their two young daughters, who are dearly loved by both parents.

Despite trying to make the best of their new country, they long in their hearts for the familiarity of home. Charlotte even fears she hasn’t enough love to give to the old and the new countries. Sadly communication breaks down “neither of them believes the other’s story, the other’s version of historical truth …There is something impoverishing about this mutual mistrust, this mutual suspicion – something mean, and they do not know how to rise above it.”

Charlotte leaves Australia and she does so without her children.

So Let’s Talk:

  • Are there any circumstances where a mother leaving her children can be justified/forgiven?
  • Do we judge women who leave their children more harshly than men who do?
  • Are some women just not meant to be Mothers?
  • Is one happy contented parent, father or mother, the best solution for the child?


The Other Side of the World, by Stephanie Bishop, was released in June 2015 by Hachette Australia. Click here to buy from Dymocks.

Karen O'Brien-Hall

I've had many careers in my life and loved each one! My new career blossomed when I retired and become an OAP. I am passionate about childhood literacy, books in general and my garden. I love Ballet, Opera, Concerts, Theatre, (both professional and community) and Movies. I tend to have opinions on most things and enjoy a good debate about the topic, not the person. In my thirties, I married my GOM (Gorgeous or Grumpy Old Man) the love of my life.

  1. hmm, well my thoughts are that it would depend. perhaps the children are better off with the father and in Aus (happier, healthier, better opportunities, better care). I think sometimes that can just happen. Guess I will have to read the book and discover the circumstances behind.

  2. I cannot imagine ANY circumstance that would make me leave my children, but that is just me. I don’t think that we can judge other mothers who are in situations that make them feel that they have no other option….it surely must be heartbreaking to be in such a position. If it is NOT heartbreaking for them , then they are seriously lacking as mothers and the children are probably better off without them.

  3. I could not do it..even tho it was tempting at times.. (6 children )but if the Mother has a mental breakdown because she cannot cope things would be much worse for everyone..The very least she can do is keep in touch, but sometimes that is impossible if the other party feels affronted.

    4 REPLY
    • You deserve a medal Beverley, I struggled with 2 children. Haha. But any woman that leaves her children would have some issue!

    • Yes my sister and i both said once we learnt to drive sometimes it was tempting to keep going. We were in a generation where there was little in the way of labour saving devices.. I did not get a washing machine until no 4 was on the way.

    • Yes Beverley Jackson I washed by hand no running water and an abusive partner as I drove home with the kids I would imagine just keep on driving but not without my kids. Don’t know how people do either very selfish or very broken either way sad for all.

    • It was hard in those days..no easy way out..women did stay in bad relationships because they had little choice..when she walked out when the children were old enough, he would go into shock..Why ??

  4. I could never have left my children. One of my daughters best friends in high school had her mother walk out on her , her sister and father. Mum set up house in a single pad and bought herself a sports car. She eventually married again and had another child. The 2 girls remained with their father. He had to remove them from their private school as their mother refused to pay half the fees. These 2 girls were very traumatised. When she was 18 the youngest one was murdered by her live in much older boyfriend. Apparently he was supposed to kill her and then kill himself. He killed her but not himself. Very sad. My son was home on leave at the time and he knew this girl from primary school and had always admired her. He expressed an interest in going to her funeral however when the day came he could not. I went to the funeral and it was one of the saddest funerals I have ever been to. I often think – what if.

    1 REPLY
  5. Fathers walk away from children and family all the time, feel that is a bit of a double standard when a woman does. Not all women are natural nurturers think that in itself is a bit of a myth. Whatever works for the individual and family at large is best. I would not judge.

  6. Unless there is mental illness I find it very very hard to understand. I was in boarding school at six because my parents both wanted careers. I had the most terrible time there and never forgave my Mother. When my daughter was six I used to pick her up from school each day and just revel in the fact she could come home and could be with me. It made me a very different mother and now my granddaughter is six I look at her the same way. I think I always felt that I must be really bad for my Mother not to have wanted to be with me. I know that is not true but I think I grew up feeling that way. I would give my life for my children and my grandchildren. They are so precious and I make sure they know it too.

    3 REPLY
    • I find it interesting that you never mention your father? I feel he is just as responsible for your unhappy childhood as your mother! Saying this, I could never have left my children!

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