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?
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