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Learning To Live Without My Children, A Mother’s Tale

Women usually get custody of the kids. But not always. One woman tells the story of losing her children, and how she's begun to piece her life and relationships back together.

Learning To Live Without My Children, A Mother’s Tale

MUNICH â€" Most of the time when parents separate, the mother gets custody of the children. But not always. Sometimes the children themselves choose to live with their father.

But where does that leave the mother? What goes through her head when she loses her children? What must she do to reconstruct her life? The following is just one person's account, the personal experience of a mother who has had to struggle with these very questions.

We all have our own, special relationships with our mothers. And every woman, who is a mother, knows of the unique connection she feels for the human being she carried in her womb for nine months. Even if their paths no longer cross any longer, even when the everyday ties are severed, mothers and children are still connected by an invisible bond.

I have been living in a village in the Black Forrest for two years now and for the first time in my life I feel at home and feel life coursing through me. I always wonder how exactly I came by this inner strength that is growing continuously. How did I manage to find myself again after having experienced so much pain, disappointment, contempt and humiliation?

I have been living without my children for five years now. Prior to that, my ex-husband and I managed a small company together for 14 years. During that time I gave birth to two children. For a long time, everything went well. We split our time between work and home. We must have seemed the perfect family. But then everything changed.

Work problems invaded our home and I decided to quit working with my husband in the company. But the problems still remained and we divorced a year later. The consequences, however, were unpredictable.

After our divorce I lived in our home with our children for another year-and-a-half while my husband moved to an apartment in the same town. Our children spent their weekends with him, and we all got used to the new routine, as so many other families must.

Seeing as I was unemployed and could not get work, I decided to move away with our children, who were nine and 12 at the time. I wanted to move back to the area I grew up in. To be fair towards my now very distant and aloof ex-husband, I told him of my plans six months in advance.

Everything seemed to go on normally until I noticed that my children were becoming more and more aggressive towards me. My ex-husband tried to influence them and win them over to prevent them from moving with me. I was insecure but felt unable to talk to them about it.

His actions seemed devious and vengeful. But they were also effective: little by little I was being estranged from my children. It seemed like an endless tug of war. In the end, the estrangement took its toll on me because I simply couldn't let go of my children, no matter how hard I tried.

The father of my children used that to portray me as mentally ill. And who wants to be with a mentally ill mother? It all culminated in court, and in the end, my husband received custody of the children seeing as "the children’s wellbeing" would be improved if they stayed in their familiar surroundings and did not move away with their mother.

Photo: Parker Knight

The court ruling was extremely distressing to me. He received custody and right of determination over our children. I broke down but no one cared. I felt that the court ruling questioned my credibility as a mother. I feared that because I did not get custody, they were implying that I had done something horrifying to my children. I felt stigmatized, empty, exhausted, alone, that I'd hit rock bottom â€" just as my husband had hoped. I'd lost everything. Forever. And I had to come to terms with that.

Before the court hearing, the children were asked by child services whom they preferred to live with. They chose their father instead of me. That was a very painful time. Still, I opted against exercising my right of appeal because I wanted to save my children and myself from having to go through more proceedings.

I looked for an apartment in the town where we had lived as a family. But after a while I realized that I'd never be able to rebuild my life there. I moved away, without my children, and found a job in my new home town.

The time without my children in the new, large apartment with readily furnished children’s rooms was horrendous. I slipped into a deep state of crisis and could not find a way out. I felt abandoned. I did have some friends and acquaintances, but my life seemed pointless without my children. I was even being denied my right of access to the children. I was told they didn't like visiting me, that they journey was too long, that they felt bored at my place.

I had less and less contact with my children. For a while I barely saw them at all: My husband limited access to about seven days per year. When we did meet, I could tell my children weren't happy to see me. The scars left by this experience will never heal fully.

So, I decided to change my life again and moved to the Black Forrest with my new partner. Since then I have come to terms with the decision my children made and accepted that my children only visit me if and when they want to. I decided to pull back from my children because I realized that they are able to find their own way and made it my task in life to be there for them whenever they need me.

I have undergone a metamorphosis in the past five years. I realized I had two choices: either I despair and continue to feel crushed by all I'd lost; or I lift myself up and move on. The latter path requires an enormous amount of strength, but the advantage of using that strength is that it can be incorporated into your new life. And it is this strength that enabled my children and me to grow from this.

My new home, job and partner have helped me become a changed woman and I now have regular contact with my children. I have come to terms with the situation. My son is 18 now and he tells me that he loves me. And I believe him and feel loved and understood. But we cannot change the fact that the years we lost are lost forever. My now daughter, 14, had a party a few weeks ago and wanted me to be there and, to my surprise, it was a lovely family fete.

I am proud that I endured. But I also hope that at the end of my life, my children will look back and say: "She was nothing to all the world, but she meant the world to us."

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Future

7 Ways The Pandemic May Change The Airline Industry For Good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

Ready for (a different kind of) takeoff?

Carl-Johan Karlsson

It's hard to overstate the damage the pandemic has had on the airline industry, with global revenues dropping by 40% in 2020 and dozens of airlines around the world filing for bankruptcy. One moment last year when the gravity became particularly apparent was when Asian carriers (in countries with low COVID-19 rates) began offering "flights to nowhere" — starting and ending at the same airport as a way to earn some cash from would-be travelers who missed the in-flight experience.

More than a year later today, experts believe that air traffic won't return to normal levels until 2024.


But beyond the financial woes, the unprecedented slowdown in air travel may bring some silver linings as key aspects of the industry are bound to change once back in full spin, with some longer-term effects on aviation already emerging. Here are some major transformations to expect in the coming years:

Cleaner aviation fuel

The U.S. administration of President Joe Biden and the airline industry recently agreed to the ambitious goal of replacing all jet fuel with sustainable alternatives by 2050. Already in a decade, the U.S. aims to produce three billion gallons of sustainable fuel — about one-tenth of current total use — from waste, plants and other organic matter.

While greening the world's road transport has long been at the top of the climate agenda, aviation is not even included under the Paris Agreement. But with air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel.

Fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund.

In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials. Energy is supplied through wind turbines from the surrounding area, while the fuel's main ingredients are water and waste-generated CO2 coming from a nearby biogas plant.

Farther north, Norwegian Air Shuttle has recently submitted a recommendation to the government that fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund aimed at developing cleaner aviation fuel, according to Norwegian news site E24. The airline also suggested that the government significantly reduce the tax burden on the industry over a longer period to allow airlines to recover from the pandemic.

Black-and-white photo of an ariplane shot from below flying across the sky and leaving condensation trails

High-flying ambitions for the sector

Joel & Jasmin Førestbird

Hydrogen and electrification

Some airline manufacturers are betting on hydrogen, with research suggesting that the abundant resource has the potential to match the flight distances and payload of a current fossil-fuel aircraft. If derived from renewable resources like sun and wind power, hydrogen — with an energy-density almost three times that of gasoline or diesel — could work as a fully sustainable aviation fuel that emits only water.

One example comes out of California, where fuel-cell specialist HyPoint has entered a partnership with Pennsylvania-based Piasecki Aircraft Corporation to manufacture 650-kilowatt hydrogen fuel cell systems for aircrafts. According to HyPoint, the system — scheduled for commercial availability product by 2025 — will have four times the energy density of existing lithium-ion batteries and double the specific power of existing hydrogen fuel-cell systems.

Meanwhile, Rolls-Royce is looking to smash the speed record of electrical flights with a newly designed 23-foot-long model. Christened the Spirit of Innovation, the small plane took off for the first time earlier this month and successfully managed a 15-minute long test flight. However, the company has announced plans to fly the machine faster than 300 mph (480 km/h) before the year is out, and also to sell similar propulsion systems to companies developing electrical air taxis or small commuter planes.

New aircraft designs

Airlines are also upgrading aircraft design to become more eco-friendly. Air France just received its first upgrade of a single-aisle, medium-haul aircraft in 33 years. Fleet director Nicolas Bertrand told French daily Les Echos that the new A220 — that will replace the old A320 model — will reduce operating costs by 10%, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 20% and noise footprint by 34%.

International first class will be very nearly a thing of the past.

The pandemic has also ushered in a new era of consumer demand where privacy and personal space is put above luxury. The retirement of older aircraft caused by COVID-19 means that international first class — already in steady decline over the last decades — will be very nearly a thing of the past. Instead, airplane manufacturers around the world (including Delta, China Eastern, JetBlue, British Airways and Shanghai Airlines) are betting on a new generation of super-business minisuites where passengers have a privacy door. The idea, which was introduced by Qatar Airways in 2017, is to offer more personal space than in regular business class but without the lavishness of first class.

Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airport

Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airport

commons.wikimedia.org

Hygiene rankings  

Rome's Fiumicino Airport has become the first in the world to earn "the COVID-19 5-Star Airport Rating" from Skytrax, an international airline and airport review and ranking site, Italian daily La Repubblica reports. Skytrax, which publishes a yearly annual ranking of the world's best airports and issues the World Airport Awards, this year created a second list to specifically call out airports with the best health and hygiene standards.

Smoother check-in

​The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.

Data privacy issues

​However, as pointed out in Canadian publication The Lawyer's Daily, increased use of AI and biometrics also means increased privacy concerns. For example, health and hygiene measures like digital vaccine passports also mean that airports can collect data on who has been vaccinated and the type of vaccine used.

Photo of planes at Auckland airport, New Zealand

Auckland Airport, New Zealand

Douglas Bagg

The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less?

At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel in particular is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.

Trying to forecast the future, experts point to the years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks as at least a partial blueprint for what a recovery might look like in the years ahead. Twenty years ago, as passenger enthusiasm for flying waned amid security fears following the attacks, airlines were forced to cancel flights and put planes into storage.

40% of Swedes intend to travel less

According to McKinsey, leisure trips and visits to family and friends rebounded faster than business flights, which took four years to return to pre-crisis levels in the UK. This time too, business travel is expected to lag, with the consulting firm estimating only 80% recovery of pre-pandemic levels by 2024.

But the COVID-19 crisis also came at a time when passengers were already rethinking their travel habits due to climate concerns, while worldwide lockdowns have ushered in a new era of remote working. In Sweden, a survey by the country's largest research company shows that 40% of the population intend to travel less even after the pandemic ends. Similarly in the UK, nearly 60% of adults said during the spring they intended to fly less after being vaccinated against COVID-19 — with climate change cited as a top reason for people wanting to reduce their number of flights, according to research by the University of Bristol.

At the same time, major companies are increasingly forced to face the music of the environmental movement, with several corporations rolling out climate targets over the last few years. Today, five of the 10 biggest buyers of corporate air travel in the US are technology companies: Amazon, IBM, Google, Apple and Microsoft, according to Taipei Times, all of which have set individual targets for environmental stewardship. As such, the era of flying across the Atlantic for a two-hour executive meeting is likely in its dying days.

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