Momma’s Maybe

Rahna Reike Rizzuto

Rahna Reiko Rizzuto, author of "Hiroshima in the Morning."

Growing up, my mother used to say, “Momma’s baby; daddy’s maybe” as a warning of sorts for me to keep my legs closed. I got it, even as a hormone-ravaged teenager, that a man can, at anytime, on any whim, walk away. “Daddy’s maybe” was more than a question of paternity, but a more pointed question of responsibility.

See, I grew up in a single-parent home. Unfortunately, I know what the abandonment of one parent can do to the people they leave behind. My family and I developed our own coping mechanisms because of it; some good, some good and terrible. But thanks to a ton of grace and elbow grease, we’re productive and content and sane. 

Although, my brother and I had our gripes as kids (curfews and grades and expectations and stuff), these three things we knew to be true: (1) We were loved. (2) We were wanted. (3) Mommy wasn’t going anywhere.

We were raised to believe that you are responsible to the people you are responsible for. So, when I saw the story about Rahna Reiko Rizzuto, I found myself trying to understand what I believed to be unforgivable and trying not to judge behavior I abhor.

Ten years ago, Ms. Rizzuto, while on a fellowship in Japan, had an “epiphany” when her children came to visit her. She didn’t want to be a full-time mother anymore. Hell, she didn’t want children in the first place. After 20 years of marriage, she didn’t want that either. She just wanted to be…her.

I can understand that. As mothers, we all have moments when the sheer weight of mothering is crushing, like an elephant on your chest. It is enormously difficult to not let parenthood, marriage and domesticity overtake you. It’s a struggle to remember to take care of you while you take care of everyone else. In that sense, I get her because I’ve been there. But, the group hug ends there.

I’m all for self-fulfillment and finding the “U” in human, but at what point does that righteousness become self-righteous? Ms. Rizzuto seems to be worshipping at the altar of Ms. Rizzuto and I can’t applaud that kind of idiolatry. I can’t nod my head in agreement and somehow rationalize how parenting at your convenience (or part-time parenting, as she calls it) is ok. It’s not. She didn’t have an addiction or a mental disability or walking pneumonia. You know, something that would actually render her incapable. She. Just. Quit. Admittedly, I don’t have the mental breadth to fully take that in and appreciate it. I’m just not that sophisticated, I guess. Please excuse my naivety, but I’m not impressed by the ability of a mother to sacrifice her children for the sake of her ego, regardless of how eloquently her book is written (ahem, Meredith Viera). 

Ms. Rizzuto claims her children are “fine” and, for her sake, I hope they are. No child benefits from knowing they weren’t wanted. No child benefits from the whole country knowing it either. And there’s the rub. Why the book? It feels like insult to injury to me. Where is her sense of responsibility to her boys? Can’t a part-time parent, part-time care? In her case, the answer is always maybe.

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6 comments

  1. Johanna · March 7, 2011

    That is ridiculous! I’m not a parent yet, but there’s a reason for that. Once you become one there is no turning back. EVER! I am interested in learning more about this woman and what the heck she is thinking. Although challenging, I believe you CAN do it all. Find yourself, do things you enjoy, and be a good “full-time” parent.

  2. ManWifeDog · March 7, 2011

    Wow this is so well written. You had me at “My Mother used to say”. Wow! I’m not a mom, and this is still beyond appalling to me. What I can offer is that as a woman who isn’t yet sure she ever wants to be a mom, I completely understand how she felt. BUT, once she gave birth to two children she lost the right to ever feel that way — EVER. When I think about the reasons I don’t want children, I know they won’t make sense to everyone, especially mothers. But they’re real to me. They’re probably slightly selfish too, but honest and true feelings just the same. I don’t know if I want to make sacrifice right now, and sometimes I wonder if ever. HOWEVER, I’m 100 percent certain that if I ever do decide to become someone’s mother I will be more committed to that job than anything else I’ve ever taken on in this world. No ifs and or buts about it. Being a mother is a full time job and I think if you decide to sign on for it, that’s it you’re employed for life. If there’s even an ounce of your being that thinks you may one day wake up and feel that you no longer want the job then don’t become a mom at all. That’s my take…thanks for sharing the story. Totally controversial!

  3. W. Reid · March 8, 2011

    I think we idolize motherhood as if it’s just some wonderful experience where women don’t actually feel as if they want to walk away. She opted to let the Dad be the custodial parent not abandon her children altogether. He was the 24/7 parent and she had visitation. Consider that you can choose to be a mother feel stunted by the process of mothering. To the folks who have no children you have NO IDEA what having one will make you do or how it will make you feel. Alot of women especially 20 years ago become Mom’s because it is what they are suppose today, very few give actual thought to what they WANT to do.

  4. Lossidele · March 9, 2011

    As I mentioned in this post, motherhood IS challenging and all-consuming. I believe most women understand that, whether they are moms or not. Motherhood is often glamourless and thankless and you won’t find me saying otherwise. 🙂

    From what I understood from Ms. Rizzuto’s interview on Today, she did initially abandon her family and it took a little while before they came to the agreed upon terms of visitation.

    I’m not in the business of making excuses for adults and this is one of those times. I can’t condone her behavior anymore than I can condone the behavior of a man who “decides” to do the same. In my book, it is not excusable on either account. I don’t commend her “decision” and I won’t call it courage. It is cowardice and selfish.

  5. W. Reid · March 9, 2011

    what do you suggest some one suggest as Rizotto do if she felt motherhood stunted rather than encouraged her growth?

  6. W. Reid · March 9, 2011

    Lot’s of people part time parent even if they are in the home. In most cases one parent is typically the primary care giver/provider. I guess the less involved parent gets credit for just “being there” even if hectic work schedules or general lack of interest keeps them from being directly involved in their children’s lives. As stated in the today interview, parenting means different things for different people, what may work for you may not for another.

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