What if runaway mom didn’t want to be found?

April 29, 2010|By Susan Reimer

Ohio mom Tiffany Tehan ran away from her husband and her year-old baby with a handyman and, after a televised search, was found five days later in a Miami motel room with him. She had "wanted a new life," authorities said.

When she returned, television cameras were waiting. Reporters shouted questions, demanding to know what was next for the couple.

And Elizabeth Vargas of "Good Morning America" was on the air passing judgment: "It is one thing to walk out on your husband. It's a whole ‘nother thing to walk out on your daughter. I think a lot of mothers in this country have a hard time understanding that."

Well, it is clear Elizabeth Vargas doesn't get it, but I bet there are plenty of depressed, distraught or just plain frazzled mothers who have daydreamed about running away and starting over. And I bet they don't have a hard time understanding Tiffany Tehan.

My best friend's mother used to run away all the time.

She had five kids and a husband who traveled for work, and every now and again she would just get in the car and drive from Pittsburgh to, like, West Virginia or Ohio. No place in particular. She would just drive all night, be gone for a couple of days and then show up at home again.

We didn't think much about it, and nobody called police or the local television station. There were no Amber Alerts or the equivalent. No family spokesperson. No prayer vigils. No rewards for information. No surveillance cameras. No FBI searches.

And she didn't face a bill for police overtime when she returned.

She just went back in the kitchen and started cleaning up the mess left by her five daughters and her husband while she was gone.

My mother did just the opposite. She'd send us away.

Four kids in five years, a husband who traveled for work and returned only every other weekend. No car and only one paycheck a month.

And a couple of times, she packed the four of us into a cab in what seemed like the middle of the night and sent us across town to her mother's house and told the cabbie that Grammy would pay him.

We never thought much about that, either.

Of course, that was back in the " Mad Men" days, when two martinis and a valium didn't always get it done, and mothers spent a lot of time on the edge. We have playgroups and Prozac now. A new mother's tedium and the isolation have been relieved, and the meds are better.

But that's not the only difference.

Today, these family dramas play themselves out in front of a national television audience, and there is no refuge, only nationwide shame, for the half-crazy mother who just couldn't keep it together anymore. The whole world is watching Tiffany Tehan, and ABC's Elizabeth Vargas and CNN's Nancy Grace and Jane Velez-Mitchell are judging her on television.

I've run away a couple of times and so have a few of my fellow mothers. I didn't go to West Virginia, but I stayed at the mall long enough to make the point that the family doormat doesn't lay down for everybody, every time.

I don't have any idea what was troubling Tiffany Tehan, but after watching her pastor father and her eerily calm husband, and hearing her described as a "church mom," I can make a couple of guesses.

And I am not sure her husband's pledge to forgive her and take her back is good news for Tiffany Tehan, or if she just heard the cage door slam shut behind her.

Television and national publicity helped authorities find her and relieve her worried family, who had found her SUV with the keys in the ignition and thought the worse.

Tonight, Tiffany Tehan, and the man she left town with, will be on "Inside Edition." We might hear why she left. Or whether she wanted to be found.

That's the other difference. Our mothers didn't have to go on national TV to explain their strange behavior. No one ever bothered to ask them what was wrong.

susan.reimer@baltsun.com

Twitter.com/susanreimer

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