In a recent book that she has written, author Rhana Reiko Rizzuto discusses the fact that she opted out of mothering her children. After accepting and completing a six- month fellowship for a writing position in Japan, she decided that mothering was not for her.
Upon returning Stateside, she divorced, and gave up custodial rights to her five and three year old children to pursue her own interests.
Suggesting that this decision was anything less than admirable will likely earn me the labels of antiquated, old fashioned, conservative and unsupportive of women. In reality, there is scientific evidence that supports 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 stay at home 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. Mothers who do all that they can to successfully balance work, family life and time with their children might wonder if they must continue.
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 stay at home mom’s 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 to continue mothering our children. Whether we work outside of the home, or solely at home.
By drawing on a comparison that many of us are trying 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 have less confidence, intellect and potentially valuable contributions to society; that we are either an apron -wearing housewife (designation coming from caring for ones 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 not ashamed that my children are not my only, but my primary interest.
There are many theories on why this role is rarely given the positive attention it deserves, and at some point I will write about a few of them, but not today. Today’s entry is simply a reminder. A reminder of how important and commendable our work is.
This message is not so much about one mothers decision to opt out. It is my acknowledgement to all of you that our work as parents is important and valuable.
No matter how you parent, what kind of parent you are and whether you stay at home or work full-time, this is a commendation for continuing to choose to parent every day. Because indeed, it does matter.