Friday, September 16, 2011


It's a dilemma. Sometimes Mom wants to leave the shelter but her kids don't.
How could that be, you're probably asking? Don't they want to live in their own place instead of in one room? Do they want to go home because they miss Dad? Are they afraid they'll never see people they've come to love after they leave?
Yup, any or all of the above.

Some women cannot take the lack of privacy in the shelter. Their own room is their personal space, but they have to share it with their children or another woman. Some are anxious to rent an apartment and live independently from their batterer. They work hard, save money, find a place and leave. Some of them will come back for group meetings and bring the children. Many won't ever return.

Going to a domestic shelter or any shelter is an admission of helplessness, failure, and fear. It takes an overwhelming need to enter one and incredible courage to stay long enough to establish a new life away from the batterer.

For some children, the shelter becomes the first place they've ever felt safe. They often have to change schools, leave clothes, pets, and their favorite possessions behind. But they find other kids in the same boat. They begin to make friends, soon feel like siblings, and know which mothers will nurture them when theirs cannot.

They may wish they had their own room again. They may miss a more secure lifestyle and the people, including the batterer that they left. But when Mom starts talking about leaving, their initial reaction is more often fear, sadness, or confusion than the "Yay!" you might expect.

Leaving the shelter is for many children a huge loss. If they're returning to the batterer, they may have much to fear. If they're returning to their old schools, they will probably have to explain or lie about their absence.

Even when they see their new home, it is rarely as nice or in as good a neighborhood as the one they left. Yet when some return to the shelter for group, there is a relaxation in the mother and children; a normalization, a brow no longer furrowed with wrinkles or a frown.

Moving on is painful until it becomes home, especially when their "safe home" (the shelter) is still available for visits. How wise these kids are and how courageous their mothers.

There are a lot of them out there, more than you know. And I bet every single one is stronger than I would be in their situation.

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