Oracle ✥ Artist ✥ Author ✥ Time Traveler

Talyaa’s on TV! ABC 20/20 June 14, 2013

20:20More than two years ago, ABC 20/20 contacted me. Can we talk to you about being a non-custodial mother? they said. Um, sure, I said, and do you want a side of DUH with that?

On the summer solstice of 2008 I got in my car, packed to the gills with everything I owned, and drove away. Away from my three kids. Away from never-ending conflict with their dad. Away from Not Living My Purpose. I drove toward the Pacific Northwest. Toward my soulmate. Toward breaking new ground as a different kind of mother, one who mothers from 3000 miles away.

It was not a journey for the fainthearted. I faced bucketloads of judgment, mostly mine. How could you leave your kids? was a question people asked me. How could I, indeed? They were everything to me. Still are. My heart hurt a lot. I didn’t know who I was. I had been a stay at home mom for 12 years. I got up in the mornings and made oatmeal and omelets and packed lunches and greeted them at the door when they got home from school. I knitted toys and read stories I had written and stirred applesauce. Those mother-things we all understand. What mother-things does a mother do when she’s 3000 miles away from the beating of her heart?

We got through it. Not only did we get through it, we thrived. My children are amazing, strong beings. Me leaving them was a good thing in many ways. They figured things out on their own. They will be independent, capable adults. I think my leaving gave them that. I was a good mom when I lived with them but I was also a freakish helicopter parent. No more.

So this is a story that interests people. Mothers don’t do this kind of thing, do they? People think it’s weird, or wrong, or at least interesting, and so it’s a story and 20/20 is on it. In April 2012 they sent a film crew to my house in Seattle and filmed me and Kahuna sipping coffee and walking in the neighborhood. They flew me that month to New York to interview with Elizabeth Vargas, who makes crazypants off-camera faces. Everything was set for airing, and then they shelved the project. Until now. So they sent another film crew to Pennsylvania to interview Serena again and to follow her and Eric around, filming them brushing their teeth and stuff.

The piece is supposed to air Friday, June 14, 2013. I am one of three non-custodial mothers being profiled. Two of them wrote books. I expect many comments. Maybe people will find their way here (waving hi!).

A year ago, I thought the 20/20 story would help launch my career. It would air and people would flock to my website, I thought. All that controversy would lead to things, I thought. Speaking gigs, Book deal. My thoughts went on and on. Then cancer happened and everything changed. I learned a lot about myself and my expectations for life. I still look for the meaning I can make from the things that happen to me, but all I can think of now is to just be open to whatever comes.

20/20 airs on ABC, Fridays at 10pm/9pm.



Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Melissa

    I hope I can watch this on the Internet (no TV here). Not being able to deal with that question “How could you leave your kids?” basically killed my sister. I’m happy you were conscious enough to “leave” them geographically and find a way to be there for them in other, more important ways; to not let the nay-sayers and their guilt stop you from living; to provide an example of being true to oneself rather than sacrificing health/happiness/everything. for one’s kids. Peace.

  2. Karen

    I too, am a Mother who moved to make a better life for my Children and me. It was a hard thing to do, leave my Children behind, but it wasn’t as hard as losing my oldest Son to suicide. Two years ago My Son died by suicide a year before that, divorce of 12 years etc… Where I was living, Northern Wisconsin no good jobs, I decided to move but wasn’t going to move without my Children. Was waiting to find a job online and wait for school to get out for the summer. Well I couldn’t wait that long, move March 2013 and now I have a good paying job. I am not forcing my Children to move but will fight for them if they decide to do so. I love my Children and I have to be happy to be a great Mother. Don’t judge me till you get to know me.

  3. Julianna

    Waiving Hi- I did get here from the ABC special. No judgement here.We as mothers can lose ourselves in the role, and i think it takes a brave person to do what you did.I wish you well!

  4. Melissa

    I just watched the 20/20 episode and I’m sorry they were so biased against you. They presented the episode as if the underlying truth was that what you did was wrong. One of the moms on the program pointed out that if she were a man there would be no story here–and I agree. Just because it isn’t typical for women to not want to be traditional mothers doesn’t make it immoral.

    I am so heartbroken to hear of your cancer. My mother just passed away from Stage IV colon cancer in January. She was 51. I am 26. You seem to be tackling your disease with courage and I applaud you. I wish you all the success in the world with your treatment.

    Be well.

  5. DeeConstructed

    I found you! And I understand & support your parenting decision. I wrote a similar sentiment in a post a few months ago. I wish you the best in your cancer-free quest. I’ll be following from here out.

  6. S D Weaver

    The 20/20 airing of your story upset me tremendously! I would love to talk to 20/20, as well, because I share a very different story and point of view as to the reason I have two children in two different states, in which one of them lives with me. I feel that many mothers who are custodial or non-custodial parents feel trapped and do not feel that they can parent from a distance as a result of guilt. Our judicial system certainly does not help divorce today and the individual circumstances each mother has. It’s based on “Wade vs. Wade”…..cut me a break….My life is so very different that what happened to her and life is different today as is mothering!!!! Mothers who have careers more than often surpass opportunities to succeed professionally to do what “mothers should do”, which is to raise children and most often more than not…..mothers remain in the same state as the ex to raise those children and continue to struggle rather than do what may be best for support, finances, emotions, and spirit. In doing so, the conflicts between parents continue and the tension and stress endures the children. I understand this stress. I used to live in Pennsylvania too and could no longer endure the conflicts with my ex, the constant arguments and immature behaviors, how it was affecting my children, a career I worked so hard to build, how it killed my spirit, my livelihood, and my optimism. Therefore, I chose to move to Texas in 2010. It took 2.5 years to get my daughter back and I continue to still fight to gain custody of my son, who is developmentally delayed, while struggling financially. However, men continually walk or move away and society accepts this as a norm, but as portrayed in 20/20 this evening it is “non-custodial mothering” and comes across as very negative and questions it and the integrity of mothers who are noncustodial parents. Please pass this information on to the 20/20 program for me I would love to further discuss this topic with them. Thank you.

  7. Brooke

    My first reaction was … you’re nuts! And then my feminist self kicked in and realized NO ONE would ask this of a divorced father leaving for their own best reasons. Follow your bliss, Talyaa, and good luck in your fight for your health and happiness.

  8. Yvonne

    Taylaa, I not only understand you but I can relate to your situation. I must say I am saddened and appalled at the angle 20/20 gave to your style of parenting. Society is quick to put women in a cookie cutter of expectations. Tv has portrayed women to be the rock in the family and everyone else leans on her. Reality doesn’t allow every person or woman to carry that kind of weight and pressure. I believe we all should love ourselves with our strengths and our limitations and be ok with the human we are in that. I intend to write 20/20 about my disappointment regarding the way they portrayed you and how they chose to support the stigma regarding mother’s and their roles as parents. As it was stated, men make this choice and parent this way all the time and yet it is completely acceptable. The scrutiny of you and mothers like you is simply sexist. Kudos to you in your search for happiness and peace.

  9. Kim

    First off Talyaa, God bless you in your fight against Cancer. My father is an Oncologist so I’ve seen a lot of healing and a lot of loss. My fathers approach is to treat the patient and the family first, then the disease.

    Now onto your piece, sooo many emotions last night. The first was, as you and the others said, if you were a man you would not been having that conversation with the host. I made the very, very difficult decision when my marriage ended to stay in Pennsylvania near my son and his father instead of heading for the love and support of my family in Atlanta. I wanted my son to have both of us so I sacrificed there and that’s where it ended.

    My son lives with his dad, his step mother and his 9 month old baby brother. He is with me six nights a month. They have a single family home, two dogs, and an extended family I could not offer. At nine, this is what is best for my son, period.

    I relied on my maternal instincts when I made this decision and my gut knows I did the right thing. I’ve been called a bad mother more times than I can count, but, like you I am a better mother because of my decision. I wish the world would understand that having a womb does no make you a better parent.

    Thank you. Thank you for your story. You inspire me in many ways. Love to you, your soulmate, and your beautiful children.

  10. Brooke

    I too am a mother who left my two children, then 9&12, to move 3,000 miles away from Florida to San Francisco. Thank you for speaking on behalf of mothers such as ourselves…it’s a brave path and yes, we are better mothers for being better to ourselves:)

  11. Sarah Zucker

    I just watched 20/20. I came to your site just because I was curious, but then I saw your cancer story. I felt like it was kind of strange for them not to even mention that. I know it’s not what it was about, but it seems notwerthy that you are going through this struggle. Did they know when they came back and did the follow-up? I wish you the best and hope you thrive.

  12. Melissa Perez

    Hi Talyaa, I also watched your 20/20 episode and it brought me to your website. I felt they were extrememly biased towards your decision and I support you in your pursuits to live your life in a way that makes you happy. Learning that you are also living with cancer was a shock because they did not mention it, and really think they should have. I love how you said that being in touch with who you are makes you a better mom. I am currently trying to reconnect with myself after being a stay at home mom for 6 years and my little boy is finally off to school. Being a parent means loving your children the best that you can and I could see how much you love your children. When Elizabeth Vargus said…”how is that better for them” or that “you chose to be a mother” I was so upset! I think many kids would be raised better if more mothers took a stand and would do what they need to for themselves. My undergrad was family studies and in many circumstances the traditional 2 parenthousehold doesn’t work best, especially because our society and world is so different than it was 50 years ago. Its just ridiculous how men can leave families without notice or not want to have anything to do with their kids and its essentially OK with everybody. Where’s the 20/20 episode on that.

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