Rahna Reiko Rizzuto says that she never wanted to be a full-time mother.
She came to this discovery after leaving her family behind to pursue a six month fellowship in Japan. When her children came to visit, she says she realized that she had never really wanted to be a mother at all. She adds that she was “afraid of being swallowed up” by motherhood.
And so after ending her 20 year long marriage, she gave full-time custody of her 5 and 3 year old to her husband.
Another mother, Talyaa Liera, says leaving her children behind wasn’t an easy decision to make. After attachment parenting, breastfeeding through toddlerhood, and the family bed, she says that, “I realized that by being so nurturing, I was in some ways keeping my children from growing to their potential.” So after months of preparation, she left her then 13, 9, and 5 year old and set out on her own.
Both mothers explain that they felt overwhelmed my motherhood; swallowed up by its’ responsibilities to the point where they felt there situation was harmful to their children and themselves. Neither mother, however, was ever abusive to her children, either physically or emotionally.
So the question remains: is it okay for a mother to leave her children? Somehow leaving your children behind is considered more acceptable for fathers, or at least understood. But I think that most people who look at these mothers would see their choices as purely selfish.
It’s easy for me to feel sympathetic for a mother who feels she must give up her children to keep them safe. But giving up your children in order to find yourself? Or them? Was there no middle ground?
I also wonder if the second mother, Talyaa Liera, didn’t overdo things with her committment to her children. It sounds a lot like she felt the way she raised her children was the only way. Perhaps she really did believe that she was raising her children in the best way possible for them. But it doesn’t sound like she stopped to consider that her needs come first.
Many parents nowadays feel they have to do everything for their children, regardless of whether it is right for them or for their families. They feel pressured by friends, extended family, society in general.
But it’s critical that parents remember that you come first. Remember the safety instructions on the airplane? You mask up first not because you’re selfish, but because that’s the only way you can help your child.
Parenting from the inside-out is the same way. You do what is best for your children, not based on what society thinks is best for your children, but based on the values you and your partner have chosen after careful consideration.
And like giving yourself a mask before your child, it’s your responsibility to make sure you take care of yourself too. Because parenting is not at all about losing yourself; it’s about using the challenges, joy, and frustration that parenting brings to make you a better individual.