There’s Only One Thing Worse Than Leaving Your Kids

There’s only one thing worse than leaving your kids, and that’ s writing a book that encourages others to do the same.  Rahna Reiko Rizzuto may be a good writer, but her words, as eloquent as they may be, are bound to do far more harm than good.

Rahna Reiko Rizzuto left her home in New York and traveled to Hiroshima, Japan, in search of her war-torn heritage in June 2001. Rizzuto had received a fellowship to spend six months interviewing the few survivors of the atomic bomb.

Four months into her fellowship, Rizzuto received a visit from her husband and children, and she had a revelation: She didn’t want to be a mother.

In an essay for Salon, Rizzuto writes:

Without a strong marriage to support me, after four months alone and in a new country I had grown to love but was only just beginning to understand how to navigate, I had no idea what to do with these bouncing balls of energy. Even feeding them, finding them a bathroom, was a challenge.

Rizzuto realized that motherhood was an all-encompassing responsibility and she didn’t want to be swallowed up by it.

When Rizzuto returned to New York, she ended her marriage with her high school sweetheart and handed him the reins to the children. She gave him primary custody.

Her choice is out-of-the-ordinary; less than 4 percent of children live with their father only and in most cases its because a mother has passed away.

Rizzuto lost many friends who viewed her decision as selfish.

Her children were 3 and 5 years-old at the time.  Of course she was selfish!  But that isn’t what makes me so upset.  It’s the fact she feels this decision is so positive, that she wants to reach out to other mothers who are struggling with the same feeling of entrapment.

People are entitled to make bad decisions, and in my opinion Rizzuto has made a shocking decision.  But what disturbs me more is that she wants to encourage others to do the same.  When a man or woman decides to make a family they must choose to make their family their number one priority.  Is it selfish to leave your kids for no other reason than you are not enjoying the role of parent.

I heard her interviewed on The View this afternoon.  One of the panelists made the point that if Rizzuto was a man, this story wouldn’t have received so much publicity.  To that assertion I make the following points:

  1. Does that make it right.  No father should ever put the children they helped bring into this world second.  No father should ever tell their kids they don’t love being a father so they’ve decided to live down the street.  That is unacceptable and downright selfish!
  2. Rizzuto wants publicity.  She seems to be having the time of her life appearing on all kids of media and flogging her book.
  3. What if a man wrote a book encouraging other men to leave their children in favour of a more free lifestyle?  How do you think that will go down?


The following quotes from an article about her really upset me:

Today, Rizzuto is an author and faculty member at Goddard College in Vermont, and she’s creating her own sort of motherhood that challenges our culture’s definition of what a mother should be. She lives down the street from her ex-husband and her children. The boys are teenagers and come to her house for dinner but they always return to Dad’s house to sleep.

I don’t think it is “motherhood” she is creating.  Let’s not let a selfish decision gets confused with a new style of parenting.  And why can’t she have them over for the night?  Is it going to remind her for a fleeting moment that she is their mother?

She says that leaving her children improved rather than hurt her relationship with them. “I had to leave my children to find them,” she writes on Salon.

How can she assess that?  They were 5 and 3 when she left them!  Surely they were too young for a before and after comparison!  And this isn’t about how good her relationship is with them, it’s about the quality of care they get from their mother.  The fact that her kids have a good relationship is more of an indication of her children’s strength of character than it is a validation of her decision to leave them.
And that line,  “I had to leave my children to find them”, is just appalling.  This isn’t about you.  This is about your two kids under five that didn’t ask to be born and then left with their father because their mother didn’t want to look after them.
People make decisions.  Some of them are right and some wrong.  What I don’t approve of is turning a decision which affects children in a negative manner into a new movement claiming to be about choice and freedom.
I’d love to read her kids’ book one day.  Perhaps they wouldn’t endorse the “new style of parenting” as much as their mother does.

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8 Responses to “There’s Only One Thing Worse Than Leaving Your Kids”

  1. lessonNumberOne Says:

    oh my! How very sad that she so misunderstands what a mother is. To want to change the world is normal..to think motherhood isn’t changing the world is delusional.

  2. hakea Says:

    Working in the community, I sometimes see mothers overwhelmed by the role of motherhood and walk out on their children.

    It’s heartbreaking for everyone.

    I would also like to hear the children’s story, and the former husband/father’s story. Being a single parent is hard, being a single father has it’s own unique challenges.

    Thanks for posting this.

  3. Mike Says:

    “Does that make it right.  No father should ever put the children they helped bring into this world second.  No father should ever tell their kids they don’t love being a father so they’ve decided to live down the street.  That is unacceptable and downright selfish!”

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I was married and prior to our marriage my wife told me she couldn’t have children. She had two children and although I didn’t want them, I tried to love them but was not a good father to them – traveling for work to afford to live but physically not there and disconnected from them. They were good chldren and It was very, very difficult for me. I never physically harmed them but drank excessively as a coping mechanism and would absorb myself in work to avoid dealing with a life I didn’t want. I was angry, betrayed, unhappy and certainly not a good parent. This is not a positive influence for children either. They are smart and can see if you love them or not. I believe with out any doubt that my children are better off not living with me – you can call me selfish, but you did not live my life and probably did not encounter the abuse I did as a child. Just remember when you judge others you may be judged too!

    • Michael G. Says:

      I really appreciate your candidness. Feel free to keep reading and judging. I love reading comments from people that disagree with me. Sometimes I alter my viewpoint based on these comments.

      • Mike Says:

        No judgement from me – just another perspective. Everyone has their own life and on the outside it isn’t always easy to make sense of their decisions. Do know that motivations for theirvactions aren’t always driven by greed and selfishness. Empathy is the key.

      • Michael G. Says:

        In this case my empathy is with children. As I wrote in the post, it wasn’t the mother choosing a life away from her kids that bothered me, it was that she was enticing others to do the same by her book. The message of her book wasn’t about reluctant parents it was about how parents can choose to step away from parenting responsibilities if they don’t like it.

        That message is not a positive one for struggling parents, nor does it do wonders for vulnerable children.

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