Can parenthood prevent individuals from self-actualizing; from pursuing their true life goals? It can and it does. If you don’t believe us, ask Rahna Reiko Rizzuto, author of Hiroshima in the Morning,
What about a mother’s freedom to self-actualize? Can she be given the benefit of the doubt if she decides that continuing to parent full time will result in her being a ghost of her former self? The chances are slim that our American culture will ever approve of a mother leaving her children to “find” herself. Also, this decision will always carry consequences beyond a woman’s desire to grab a piece of the world for herself. The family she has already made will suffer to a greater or lesser degree. That’s one big reason why self-examination is so vitally important before deciding to make children. It’s a big part of thinking twice.
In Rizzuto’s book, as well as in her recent Salon.com essay (February 2, 2011), she tells of her decision to leave her two small boys with their father – her ex-husband – while she adventured out to live and work in Japan. Rizzuto had been awarded a six-month grant to interview survivors of the 1945 atom bomb blast. Her new life took a toll on her marriage, which resulted in divorce.
Four months into her Japan sojourn, and after her divorce, her two sons went to live with her. Their energetic presence brought up the real crux of the issue: Rahna never really wanted to be a mother. She had always been afraid of being swallowed up by maternal duties. She dreaded that years up the road she might have to face the fact that she had completely lost herself in motherhood. But her young husband wanted a family. He begged – a lot – and promised to do much more than his share if she would have his children. So, spousal pressure for a traditional family won out.
When Rahna returned to America, she claimed motherhood on her own terms. She moved a block away from her children, so she could be there for them in concentrated chunks of time. Although she gave primary physical custody to her husband, she kept joint custody. She became a part-time mother, and a “damned good” one, as Rizzuto told her interviewer.
“Everybody has her own choices, but my choice works for us,” she declared in an interview on the ABC television network’s gabfest, The View, “and I think it’s not so selfish for women to say ‘Okay, I would like to have my own priority. I would like to have something in my life. I would like to be able to do my job.’”
She went on to say that other women have shared their similar emotional conflicts with her.
In the time she shares with her children, she is the ideal 1950s mother, wearing an apron and baking cookies that her kids devour after school. The question of whether her personal journey caused hardship for her children is moot at present, although serious issues or hidden suffering may surface as they mature. Clearly though, Rahna, and many other women like her might have avoided lots of heartache if they had the gumption to think twice before making children.