Zoe Gadon-Thompson
Sep 11 · 4 min read

I had my daughter when I was 20. Her father (33 at the time) and I (19 at the time) got pregnant just over 1 month into a casual-ish relationship, and we tried our hardest to make it work. At 20, no-one has a clear picture of what they want their life to be. We were both working for minimum wage in a call center, and we hated it. After maternity leave, I returned to work and he didn’t seem to want to keep a job. I decided to study so there would at least be some guarantee of a stable income.

Anyone who has met me, or read my content, probably knows that I’m not in tech for the money anymore (admittedly, it does help). I’ve found an actual purpose in an industry that, for all its flaws, I love. Passion and enthusiasm make up for my lack of inherent skill. Emphasis on ‘lack’.

There is a huge contrast between who I was when I became a mum, and who I am now. I owe who I am to my daughter’s father, who sacrificed whatever love he had for me for my own personal growth. He gave me space to become myself, while caring for our daughter. Yes, I was working and earning for our family, but I had given up on the relationship long ago. It took roughly 3 years for me to realize that I don’t want what I did when I was 20 years old. However, we both did the very best we could in the situation (ignoring the things we could have done differently/better).

A really important aspect of a relationship is supporting each other equally, and growing as people together. We did both of those, just in completely different ways, and this led to me pulling away. But we both love our daughter.

When I broke it off, things were tough and there were obviously unpleasant encounters which I won’t go into detail about. Fast forward a short time; I let him have sole parental responsibility for our child. ‘Let’ is the wrong word, since it implies it is easy for me to allow this to happen. I know that’s how it looks from the outside, especially to other parents who would do absolutely anything for their children.

I let opinions get into my head, and I don’t believe I am the right person to care for her. I “worked too much”, and when I wasn’t working I still wasn’t home. I pulled away from an unhappy relationship to the point where my daughter no longer needed me, and I justified it by saying it was for ‘my career and personal growth’. The benefit of that is very selfish, because I know who I am, but I lost the family I had.

It sounds a lot like I blame myself for all this. I do. I know what I could have done differently, but I don’t regret what I did. Everyone has to figure out who they are, right?

Anyway, the decision to relinquish custody was not easy. It broke me, and I don’t see myself ever being okay again. I’ve been told I get to ‘start over’, ‘move on’, and I finally have ‘an out’. Kind of funny that my self loathing and parenting doubts were interpreted as me ‘wanting an out’. How can a person ever move on from their child? I have not made a decision to leave her behind and go on with my life, but she deserves the best chance at happiness. A custody battle will not give her this. I could fight for her, but he will also fight. I came from a broken home where my mum thought going through family court was the best thing, and I still feel the impact of that. I don’t know what she was going through at the time, and I don’t begrudge her for any of her choices, but I’m doing what she did — the best thing for my beautiful daughter. If I won, her father and I wouldn’t fit in the same room along with our hatred for each other. She won’t have 2 families, she would have a broken mess of a life that I would carry the guilt for causing. I’m holding just about all the guilt that I can right now.

I always had a scenario in my head for what would happen if her dad and I split up, and it involved us becoming friends and co-parenting equally. Spending time together, making decisions with equal authority, and letting her grow up with two people that are still a family. Naive, right? At least I understand now that there is no chance of that life, and I can admit that for how badly I fucked up, it’s not solely my fault things are irreparable.

After all of this, I’ve decided I need to have control over something. My home is no longer a place I am welcome, and Belfast is just a source of pain now. I feel empty without my daughter, and everything I’ve been working towards seems meaningless now. When I think about how much I miss her, it’s just pain. I would do absolutely anything to keep her safe and happy, and I wholeheartedly believe what I’m doing is the right thing for her. When she sees me, I’m not going to be the same person I was. Distance and time will do its damage, and I can make the most of it when I do see her, but there’s no way for me to fix what has happened. I don’t feel like a parent anymore, and it hurts so much I can’t even put it into words. I could try and justify this all by saying I’m going through this to spare her from the emotional suffering the alternative will cause her.

People expected me to burn out, but I never anticipated it would be like this.

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