Through all those years, Cathy says she faced a campaign of systematic alienation from Matt and Harry. “When I called to speak to them, I was usually greeted with coldness or anger, and often the boys weren’t brought to the phone. Then my ex sent letters warning me not to call them at home at all. Whenever the kids came to stay with me, they’d report, ‘Dad says you’re evil. He says you wrecked the marriage.’ ” Then he moved thousands of miles away, making it vastly more difficult for her to see her children.
As time has passed, the boys have increasingly pulled away. Matt, now grown and serving in the military, never speaks to Cathy. Thirteen-year-old Harry used to say, “Mommy, why can’t I stay with you? All the other kids I know live with their moms,” before leaving visits with her. Now he often appears detached from her and uninterested in Robby, whom he once adored. His friends at his new home think his stepmother is his mom, because that’s how she introduces herself. “She told me she would take my kids, and she did. The alienation is complete,” rues Cathy. “All I ever wanted was to be a mom.”