3rd Edition, May 18th, 2020 Common Threads Collective

Mothers Apart


The Common Threads Collective works collaboratively to encourage reflection and inform policies affecting mothers living apart from their children or at risk of separation. Based within WomenCentre in Kirklees, the collective grew from the Mothers Living Apart from their Children project and is made up of women who have been part of the service and Siobhan Beckwith (Learning and Development Trainer).

The Mothers Living Apart from their Children project began in 2008, pioneering a local response to the distinct and personal experiences of mothers coping with separation from their children, for whatever reason, whether temporary or permanent. In 2014 the group produced In Our Hearts, a beautiful and sensitive book that brings together the stories and wisdom of more than 50 women involved in the project.

For the past ten years we have co-created thoughtful and engaging workshops within social work teaching, adoption preparation and safeguarding training; we are always keen to develop new ways to find common threads and collaborate. The Common Threads Collective draws from Women Centred Working, building on mothers’ assets, lived experiences and skills, in order to be a part of, and actively shape, local and national dialogue about the issues affecting mothers apart. 

Lockdown is something most have never known, yet isolation isn’t new for many. Some of us know about staying home, being alone is familiar for good reasons and bad. This lockdown, like other isolations, leaves us with time on our hands, thinking and wondering of those not with us and those we don’t get to hear about.

Below is a collective snapshot of some of the lives of mothers apart from children during this global crisis, lives being lived differently and with many things in common…..

Final adoption hearings by Skype

Struggling alone with technology and a learning disability

Little space for emotion and justice

Reminded of times past

The isolation of detention on a psychiatric ward against our will

Managing feelings and emotions  

To convince others of our sanity and right to freedom  

Memories of not being allowed out by an abusive partner

Adult daughters alienated, not ready to see us

Grandchildren we never got to meet.

Adopters sent word that our child is ok

Still we wonder

Are they ok tomorrow and next week?

Will this year’s letter still come?

Going for walks and fresh air at night

When we don’t see people’s faces

Buying a child a laptop so she can write her life story

from the files she got just before lockdown.

Returning to the comfort of an abusive partner

Fear of being alone

Now is a bad time to leave  

Better the devil we know  

Looking at old photographs of our children

Are they wondering too?

In our hearts,

under the same sky

Tetris championships to keep us going

Cross stitch all day while watching TV

Unable to see the adult child with symptoms because of lockdown

Hesitating to phone a CPN when we struggling

What does ‘really needing’ support mean? What’s a good enough reason to reach out?  

What can they do anyway?

What’s essential?

Clapping for the NHS, key workers…

Who will survive?

Phoning chemists about prescription deliveries  

Receiving government food parcel if we are on the ‘vulnerable’ group

Posting comforting positive messages in Instagram

Sharing videos to make people laugh

Adult colouring books to distract

Cleaning –  there is only so much you can do

Speaking to a child with the foster carer on Skype

Shielding at home with a partner with a higher sex drive than us

On a psychiatric ward, away from all that we know

Allowing ourselves to be supported

Being alone, spacing out TV programmes to manage boredom

Being with others we know too well

Families weren’t designed for this

People weren’t designed for this.

Common Threads Collective, WomenCentre Calderdale and Kirklees