I Left My Children When My Mental Health Failed

Mia Hayes
6 min readJan 12, 2022

It was the safest thing for all of us, and I did it out of love

Photo by Anete Lusina from Pexels

The Lost Daughter, a new Netflix movie, has my friends buzzing. For those that don’t know the film:

The Lost Daughter | Official Trailer | Netflix https://youtube.com/Netflix

A woman’s quiet seaside vacation takes an unsettling turn when her fixation on a young mother staying at a nearby villa awakens memories from her past.

Promotional poster for The Lost Daughter, a film by Maggie Gyllenhaal

Some of my friends feel it’s too artsy; others that it’s a masterpiece. But universally, they all recoil at Leda leaving her children for three years to 1. focus on her career, and 2. have an affair. They don’t see her as a good mother, but rather a woman who was ill-equipped to be a mother at all. Time and again, viewers watch Leda struggle as she attempts to simultaneously care for her daughters and finish her work with little to no help from her husband, whose career comes first. It’s like distance learning that never ends — a nightmare situation most for most women I know.

My perspective is a bit different. I was both left by my mother, and I’ve been the mother leaving (I write about it in my memoir, Always Yours, Bee).

In my case, with my own children, I left not because I was overwhelmed by motherhood, but because I understood I was not able to care for them. After nearly two years of trying to be strong for my husband, James, as he dealt with a brain injury, depression, and PTSD, the discovery of his affair devastated me. Until the moment I made the decision to leave, I didn’t realize how precariously dangerous my own mental health had become, and I worried that if my children witnessed me completely and utterly falling apart — after watching it happen to their father — it would harm them more than me leaving.

For roughly 8 weeks over the summer, I left them with my parents. It wasn’t abnormal for my boys to spend extended vacations in Northern Michigan with my parents, but I had never been away from them for that long. Normally, they’d fly out a week or two ahead of me, and so I framed it as a vacation — like summer camp only longer.

Mia Hayes

40-something who 💯 doesn’t have it all figured out, but long story short, I survived. Love big. Love hard. Love you. www.miahayesauthor.com