When I left my ex ten years ago, for many reason's I also chose to leave my 5 & 8 year with him.
I've been a mom since I was 20 years old and it was the only thing I've ever known, but I was in love with another man (now DH) and alot of it was guilt - I promised my ex when the children were born, that I'd never be one of those mom's that take the kids away. Also he was really depressed and I felt it would help him with the kids there. They had also gone to the same schools and it was the only home my DD knew.
Anyways, it was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life!!! I think only a mother can understand the pain of having to leave her children. The world does look at you different, the ex can play games.
Even my dad looked at me like I was abandoning my children. I had to fight tooth and nail to see my kids - even though I CHOSE to leave them, my ex was trying to punish me.
There was absolutely no support groups or other people who I knew of who were mother's without custody.