Rahna Reiko Rizzuto teaches at Goodard College in Vermont. She’s also an author of several bestselling books and the recipient of numerous awards. In some ways, she’s lived the life of a typical artist – highly creative and energetic, climbing the ladder in a difficult industry, hoping to strike lightning and publish a bestseller. And by most every measure she’s done it. She recently wrote an article in Salon to talk about it, but from my perspective, what she had to say was extremely disturbing.
Just over ten years ago Ms. Rizzuto accepted a research fellowship in Japan. At the time she was working on a book about the survivors of Hiroshima. In order to get the work done, she left her two sons, then 5 and 3, with her husband in the United States. The boys came to visit four months into her trip.
A happy ending? Not quite.
By the time the young boys left, Ms. Rizzuto had decided she no longer wanted to be a full-time mother.
“I had this idea that motherhood was this really all-encompassing thing,” she said last week on the Today Show, and “I was afraid of being swallowed up by that.”
She filed for divorce after 20 years of marriage and gave her husband full custody of the kids.
“I had to leave my children to find them,” she wrote. “In my part-time motherhood, I get concentrated blocks of time when I can be that 1950s mother we idealize who was waiting in an apron with fresh cookies when we got off the school bus and wasn’t too busy for anything we needed until we went to bed. I go to every parent-teacher conference; I am there for performances and baseball games.”
If you find such a statement shocking, good. It should shock – and sadden. To leave your own child in order to find yourself is the epitome of selfishness and narcissism.
Ms. Rizzuto chose to cite the “1950s mother” as the model she found impossible to emulate. The fact is, every mother falls short by that measure.
Because the “50s mother” was a myth.
Motherhood has always been difficult. It has always required sacrifice and selflessness. Since time began mothers have always struggled and juggled any number of challenges. Today’s mom is no more enlightened than yesterdays.
As I acknowledged last week, parenting is not easy. Anyone who’s ever had children will resonate with the fatigue and failures that accompany the fun. But what a privilege to raise the next generation and, for Christians, introduce them to Jesus Christ. Everything else pales in comparison!
To those who might be struggling to find your identity, as a mother or father, you would be wise to remember Christ’s words in the Gospel of Matthew: