In her book Hiroshima in the Morning, author Rahna Reiko Rizzuto discusses the fact that she opted out of being a full-time mother. After accepting and completing a six-month fellowship for a writing position in Japan, she decided that full-time mothering was not for her. Upon returning Stateside, she divorced, and gave up custodial rights to her 5- and 3-year-old children to pursue her own interests.
Suggesting that this decision was anything less than admirable likely will earn me the labels of antiquated, old fashioned, conservative, and unsupportive of women. In reality, there is scientific evidence that supports the idea that children who are abandoned by either parent will suffer from long-term effects.
While I have to trust that this decision was somehow right for the Rizzuto family, I fear that it will create a backlash for unsuspecting women. Overwhelmed mothers who also feel the all-encompassing nature of child rearing, might begin to resent their families because they choose to stay in spite of strong desires to fully reconnect with Self. Particularly given that it is repeatedly suggested that it is not possible to value self when actively mothering, because valuing your self through mothering is weak and unacceptable. And also because we have not taken the time to appreciate this important role, or be open about how lonely and challenging it is.
Even in spite of these messages, we continue to stay with our children. And it is not only time, sanity, and full sense of self that we sometimes sacrifice. When many of us gave up our incomes, we also knowingly gave up family vacations, the coolest gadgets, and more spacious and impressive homes. And though sometimes we may envy a friend who has those things, we continue to make the same choice day after day.
Rizzuto has done a significant disservice to those of us who choose every day to continue mothering our children. By drawing on a comparison that many of us are working hard to eliminate (that of the apron-wearing 1950’s housewife offering freshly baked cookies, who is available to meet each whim of her children until they go to bed at night), she has insulted us. This message suggests that those of us who continue to parent our children value ourselves less. That somehow, we possess less confidence, intellect and potentially valuable contributions to society; that we are either an apron-wearing housewife (designation coming from caring for one’s children) or interesting.
This comparison suggests that the more we parent our children, the less we value ourselves, or that this role of parenting must be “all” that we are capable of. I am unashamed that my children are not my only, but my primary interest.
Bio: Jennifer Andersen is excited to be involved with a project like M.O.M that will bring some visibility to the realities that mothers face. Then we may be able to start to define it, making it demanding of respect and awe.
Jennifer lives outside of Boston, with her two children ages 1 and 3. You can find more of her musings and suggestions for making life easier at www.ponderingjane.com, Honest Musing on Family Living.