Friday, March 4, 2011
Rahna Reiko Rizzuto - Selfish or Sensational?
When I get ready for work in the morning, I usually listen to The Today Show. This week, they had a guest, Rahna Reiko Rizzuto, who decided to spend six months in Japan having been awarded a grant that her husband encouraged her to apply for, only to discover in Japan that she not only wanted a divorce from her husband, but she also wanted to parent on a part-time basis.
It is very, very easy to pass quick, harsh judgment on this woman. Who in their right mind decides to have kids only to decide later on, (while her two boys are still in their young, formative years), that full-time motherhood really isn't for her - and that she really only had children because her husband wanted them?
Certainly my knee-jerk reaction would be to call this woman a compltely heartless, selfish bitch. I mean, who in their right mind has children and while they're still quite young, (3 and 5 years old), decides to up and leave them?
Well, fortunately, I did my homework here and came to discover that while this woman may not be the ideal mother as we define it societally, she is far from being evil - and in fact, may be on to something.
She met her former husband at the age of 17 and they were together for 20 years. While they didn't have children until she was in her 30s, their marriage had already lasted far longer than most - and they had been together for the vast majority of their ENTIRE lives.
Given my own experience, I am thrilled that I didn't marry too young. I feel that my cumulative experiences living independently overseas, going to school across the country, dating other people etc. eventually led me to the perfect person for me at precisely the right age for me to be ready. Clearly, Rahna didn't get to have experiences similar to my own. In fact, she had never even lived on her own until she decided to accept the grant in Japan at the age of 37!
She also never wanted to be a mother. Okay, this is where things get a little sticky and it is hard not to be a big judgmental, because if she never wanted kids, she never should've had them. This is exactly why I spend inordinate amounts of time thinking about whether or not I truly do or don't want children. Fortunately for me, that perfect man I married is very open-minded and ultimately will support whether I, (and thus we), decided to kid. That said, Rahna married the man she believed to be the love of her life - and he desperately wanted children. So much so, that he promised to "take care of everything..." and essentially be the primary caregiver. I believe that when you love someone, you want to give them everything/anything they want - and I think that is essentially what happened here. He probably begged and pleaded with her to have children for years - and finally got his way. While I don't think this was an ideal scenario to produce children, the bottom line is that it happened. They brought two boys into this world, and were/are responsible for them.
That being said, I think Rahna raises an interesting point in the article she wrote for salon.com that is best summarized with the following quotes:
"I was afraid of being swallowed up, of being exhausted, of opening my eyes one day, 20 (or 30!) years after they were born, and realizing I had lost myself and my life was over."
"My problem was not with my children, but with how we think about motherhood. About how a male full-time caretaker is a "saint," and how a female full-time caretaker is a "mother." It is an equation we do not question; in fact we insist on it. And we punish the very idea that there are other ways to be a mother."
Rahna had children - and hadn't fully considered or realized the ramifications of doing so until after the fact. Would it have been better for her to have thought these things through beforehand? Sure. But does this make her a bad mother now? Not necessarily. She feels that her relationship with her children has improved since she's become a part-time mom, and gets to be that idyllic mother of the 50s with fresh baked cookies at the ready when her kids come over to visit.
Ultimately, I think Rahna made the right choice. Should she have had children to begin with? Probably not, but things don't always go according to plan. My own mother believed she wanted children, and had my brother and I - and not too many months ago after a glass of champagne, confided in me that maybe she wasn't cut out to be a mother after all. This is NOT to say she doesn't love my brother and I... she just did what was expected... got married, had kids... called it a day. Had she been born a few decades later, I don't think she would've had us! Obviously, I'm happy to be here, but certainly, all of this makes you think... or at least it makes me think... even more than I already am.