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 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.



  1. I wonder if this kind of thinking is a lot more common that we know - and that she is one of the only people brave enough to speak out about it. I'm in my early 30s, and watching a little skeptically as one after another of my friends gets pregnant. . .I think a lot of people have kids because it is What Adults Do. I haven't figured it out yet myself.

  2. I tend to agree with Anonymous.

    You also asked "Who in their right mind decides to have kids only to decide later on, that full-time motherhood really isn't for her?" If you change parenthood to motherhood, you could answer "most men."

  3. I think it is far more common than we know. Like I said, my own mother kinda suspects that she probably wasn't meant to be a mother. Lucky for me, she's been a good one, but she is far from typical mother material...

    What I would LOVE is for people who think similarly to Rahna to somehow find this blog and tell me... anonymously or not! After all, the point of this blog is to overthink virtually every aspect of having, or not having kids... until I finally make a decision one way or the other. I don't feel like I'm getting very far decision-wise as of yet. It's fairly annoying!

  4. So what if her husband had died a year after she left? Would she put them in foster care so she could live a "full" life? A lot of people think they shouldn't have been parents. You do the best you can and love your children through the good times and bad. Anybody who thinks differently is just plain selfish. Parenthood is not a choice. It's a responsibility. You know what responsibility means, right? It's doing what you're supposed to do even when you don't want to do it!

  5. Brian - Thanks for your comment. I agree with you as well, in many respects. It would be great if there was some magical way to know for sure as to whether or not you should be a parent. Unfortunately there isn't - and, regardless of your choice, to kid or not to kid, there are always "what-ifs?" I think that Rahna is a good enough person that godforbid her husband died tomorrow, she would gladly and willingly resume the full responsibility of parenthood. Fortunately for her, she isn't faced with that dilemma right now. As she said in her piece, she truly feels she is now a better mom than she was prior. I'm just asking people to entertain the notion of a different type of parenthood, which she is clearly able to pull off. Would I do the same thing? I highly doubt it. If and/or when I have kids, I will want to be immersed in their lives completely and will likely be very self-sacrificing, which is something I'm not quite yet ready to do. I fully admit that I am still far too selfish to just dive into the kid thing. My husband and I never got a honeymoon - and we are dead set on going to Europe prior to having children, which is still something we can't yet afford to do. Additionally, we did the marriage thing, bought the house - and thought it would be a great place to raise kids, only to find ourselves starting over in a one bedroom apartment thanks to a series of rather daunting financial burdens we could never, ever have anticipated. Fortunately, we've recently upgraded to a two bedroom - and are ecstatic. Anyway - I'm going on tangents here... my point is, that I see yours, but I think this is a very multi-faceted issue worth further consideration/discussion.