Over the past few days, I have been participating in a thread over on BlogFrog, in the S.I.F. community, regarding a woman named (Rahna) Reiki Rizzuto.
Wow, I am mentally tired from that particular cyber-conversation. It was very intense, and I think I will stay away from BlogFrog for tonight, because participating in that thread left me jittery and anxious, today. But, I do want to write this out here on my blog, not only because this woman's story is compelling but also because the BF conversation left me wanting to clarify my own thoughts about the concept of "motherhood". I'm not sure I can do that in one post...like I said, the conversation on BlogFrog became quite heated and more than a little complex.
Here is a link to the video of the interview with Ms. Rizzuto, which aired on March 3. The transcript of the interview is here. And, here is a link to an article from http://www.salon.com/, written by Ms. Rizzuto herself.
The story in a nutshell is this: Ten years ago, Ms. Rizzuto went to Japan for six months, to do research for a book. Her husband encouraged her to do this. They have two sons, who were at that time 3 and 5 years old. Prior to having children, it sounds like Ms. Rizzuto had not wanted to have children but her husband "begged her" and said all she had to do was have them, and he'd take care of everything. Well, after those six months in Japan (during which it became apparent to RR and her then husband that their marriage was in trouble), RR returned to the states, she and her husband divorced, and she agreed to her husband having primary physical custody of the boys, but they also agreed on a joint custody arrangement. She chose to find a house down the street from her ex-husband's house, she sees her children frequently throughout any given week...she ultimately feels she's a better mother now than she would have been otherwise.
There are scads of people ready to rip this woman apart, for the choices she made. She's been called a crappy mother, a poor excuse for a parent, a terrible person, a terrible woman, a money-grubbing author using her children - and her presumably awful decision to have their own father be the full-time parent (gasp!) - to make a buck.
I do not think that the choices she made mean she is a bad person, or a bad mother. She did not, as many are accusing, "abandon" her children. She ultimately spends about the same amount of time with them, over the course of 7 days, that many working fathers spend with their children. Her children seem to be living in a arrangement which, while different from the status quo, still leaves them supposedly well-cared for by their father, their step-mother, and their mother who lives down the street. I think the fact that a woman willingly gave up the primary caregiver responsibilities for her children is what has everyone gasping and condemning her. Because women aren't, I guess, supposed to want anything other than to have children and then lose their entire identity in those children. Because it is apparently unforgivable (even though her ex-husband begged her to have children, even though he obviously knew she wasn't the motherly "type") to expect that a child's father should ever have to do the day-in, day-out nitty gritties of parenting. It is apparently unforgivable to think that perhaps women might want what men have had lots and lots of, throughout history - the freedom to have children and then go back to their regularly-scheduled life.
Now, understand that I do know that parenting is a commitment. I do believe that the very moment a man and a woman decide to be intimate, let alone decide outright to have a baby, their first priority becomes the child if one is conceived. Even if they get divorced, that priority doesn't change. But I don't believe that becoming a parent nullifies who someone is as a person, or who they were before children. I believe women have value as humans first and foremost - whether or not they ever have children. I believe that if a woman has God-given talents and skills (and yes I do believe those come from God), she is required to explore those talents. I believe that parenting children - while one of the most important jobs God gave humans - was never meant to be a women-only pursuit, and I believe that both women and men can be wonderful primary caregivers.
I hope, if there's anyone reading this, that you will take the time to click on the links above. What you'll read and watch/hear tells at least some of her story, better than I can. Also, if you belong to BlogFrog, you can find the thread in the S.I.F. community, titled "Leaving the family she never wanted. Reiki Rizzuto".
Thank you for reading!