Mothers Have Changed

Happy Mother’s Day! I used to belong to a very unusual church where everyone who ever birthed a creative idea, such as a song or a poem, a book or a painting, could claim a Mother’s Day flower. I like that idea, and hope you will all embrace the fact that being creative can be rather painful, so the least you deserve is a flower.

My own mother is an example of how mothers have changed. She divorced my father in the mid 1950s, and was the first of her family to have that stigma. Certainly she was not the last. She proudly told everyone that she raised her three children alone. That accomplishment defined her life. Mother hated going to school when she was young, left school and home at age 15 to become a nanny to a rich family in Chicago. After the divorce she worked as a housekeeper, nanny, or occasionally kitchen help in a donut shop. She never wanted to take up room in a class where someone who wanted to be educated could be.

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Today, many mothers have divorced two or three times. They raise their children with the help of grandparents, parents, and friends. They work in all manner of jobs and go back to school to improve their chances of getting a better opportunity at a career.

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In the Regency period, especially in England, divorce was almost unheard of. Not that women didn’t leave their husbands or families, but that the reason they left was hushed-up or lied about. Oh, wait, that’s all fiction! Divorce was costly (as in would bankrupt most people) and extremely public. Unlike Georgette Hyer’s family in Venetia, it would be unlikely that anyone would believe the divorced woman had died. This page provides some great first source research.

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I am honored to know Kristen Koster through RWA and trust her knowledge of Regency custom and laws. Her blog on the subject confirms how difficult divorce and annulment could be, and also brings out a little known custom in the “lower orders” of wife selling.

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Unlike today, those women who wanted out of their marriage had to be willing to leave their children behind and never see them again. This, on top of all the rest, is no doubt part of why the practice never caught on until the laws began to change. In the middle of the 20th century, the laws favored the mother. My mother had no doubt that she would have full custody of us, with Dad getting visitation and the opportunity to support us. His second wife, my beautiful step-mother, had custody of her two children and never expected otherwise.

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But these days single moms, divorced moms, and step-moms are dealing with a very different attitude in law. Fathers have rights, fathers can get sole custody, and nothing is taken for granted in determining a family. I have often wondered how my life would have worked out had my Dad gotten custody of us. He would have had to buy a bigger house, at the very least.

This post is dedicated to my mother, Lorraine, my mother-in-law, Kay, and my step-mom, Cecelia. Also my sister, Marian, who is my best memory of a mom, and all my nieces and great-nieces who keep the love going. Thanks for reading, I will be back on Thursday.


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