Mom Abandons Kids; Press Applauds

On one level, this one’s easy (MomLogic, 3/3/11).  On another, not so much.

It’s the story of Rahna Reiko Rizzuto who, 10 years or so ago, got a six-month fellowship to spend time in Japan and write a book.  At the time she’d been married for 20 years and she and her husband had two sons ages three and five.

Her husband supported her desire to go to Japan, but, once she got there, she discovered that she liked the sense of freedom not being a mother brought her.  So she opted out.  She divorced her husband and apparently left her kids, although she now lives only blocks away from them and sees them regularly.

Part of what’s remarkable about the story is how much is left out.  In the brief article and the interview on MSNBC, we never learn how long she’s actually been apart from the boys.  Did she move near them ten years ago or ten days ago?  Somehow the interviewer didn’t think that was important, but you can bet it was to the kids.

Also, throughout her whole narrative of tossing aside her family to find herself and “grow,” the topic of child support is never raised.  Did she pay it?  Does she?  If not, why not?  What countless fathers discover is that life post-divorce without your kids is no bowl of cherries.  Often they find themselves paying to support children whom they love but aren’t much allowed to see.

Was that Rizzuto’s experience?  If so, she’s remarkably equable about it, far more so than most dads I’ve run into.

But, from her description, that’s seems not to have been what happened.  Although child support isn’t mentioned, her ex obviously doesn’t try to interfere in her relationship with her sons.

She’s converted her experience into a book that seems to have been well-received.  How much of the proceeds does she intend to pay to her ex-husband in spousal or child support?  Is he going to take her to court due to her changed circumstances?

Amazingly enough, in her appearance on MSNBC, she gets off very lightly.  The interview is a throwback to the 80s in which casting off the bonds of motherhood was a thing to be celebrated.  I thought we’d gotten past that.  I thought we understood that kids mattered and that parents should put them first.  Apparently I was wrong.

The “therapist” on the program with her exhibits no such awareness.  For her, a mom just can’t be a good mom if she perceives that the kids thwart her growth.  So, as I understand her theory, it’s actually better that Rizzuto dumped her kids because, in the long run, she ended up better, which, in some unexplained way makes her a better mother.

That might be true if the kids were adults and could understand such motivations, but when she left, they were three and five.  The “therapist’s” take on the matter betrays not a hint of understanding of what kids need at that and later ages.

One of the comments describes it much better:

As someone who grew up with Reactive Attachment Disorder due to abandonment as an infant, I can say with confidence, the damage that poor excuse for a human being (male or female) did to those boys will not be known for years, but what has been done is severe, deep, and lasting. I know, I live mine every day.

That viewpoint never got aired on MSNBC.

Another one is this: Rizzuto says she never wanted to have children, so why did she?  This goes entirely unexplored although the suggestion is that she was just blindly conforming to society’s expectations.  That of course doesn’t wash for an instant.  Ten years ago, her sons were three and five.  That means they were born in 1995 and 1997, approximately.  It is simply beyond belief that she didn’t believe she had a choice about having or not having children at that time. 

First, contraceptive methods for women were plentiful, inexpensive and effective.  Second, the concept of women pursuing careers rather than families had been a common and even predominant part of public discourse for 25 years.  Third, many women, especially those in Rizzuto’s educational and financial class, were doing just that.

Accepting that she didn’t want to be a full-time mother, why’d she opt out so completely from her kids’ lives?  Indeed, with such a supportive husband, why’d she even file for divorce?  If she’d wanted a different arrangement of parenting and non-parenting duties, why not tell him that and see what they could have arranged that would have satisfied her and still not deprived her kids of their mother?  Again, neither the article nor the interview broaches the topic.

In many ways, it’s a mysterious piece.  It’s a throwback to the bad old days of “do your own thing and who cares about others” certainly, but it’s more than that as well.  I’ll discuss that more later.

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