Friday, March 4, 2011

A lack of unconditional love

One of the worst defenses of bad female behavior feminists ever came up with was this one: well, men do it too!

That phrase has been used to justify everything from female promiscuity to female power-hungry career pushing to female incursions into other female's marriages in order to abscond with other females' husbands. Everything feminists used to scream about as evidence of male piggishness suddenly became acceptable when women did it. Female skankiness, female irresponsibility, female brutishness--all of it got relabeled as "empowerment."

Which is probably what people will be calling this soon:
Rahna Reiko Rizzuto says that she never wanted to be a mother.

"I had this idea that motherhood was this really all-encompassing thing," she explained on the Today Show, where she was talking about her new memoir, "Hiroshima in the Morning." "I was afraid of being swallowed up by that."

Ten years ago, when her sons were 5 and 3, Rizzuto received a fellowship to spend six months in Japan, researching a book about the survivors of Hiroshima. Four months in, when her children came to visit, she had an epiphany: She didn't want to be a full-time mother anymore. When she returned to New York, she ended her 20-year marriage and chose not to be her kids' custodial parent. [...]

But when that 1950s mother she describes as ideal had to cope with parenthood 24/7, she didn't get to pick and choose which parts to be present for. The idea that a mother could love her children and still choose to leave them to pursue her own goals is the antithesis of being a 'Tiger Mother'—Amy Chua ignited a fiery debate with the release of her book about being a perfection-demanding Eastern-style parent, omnipresent in her daughters' lives. It also goes against our culture's definition of motherhood. But it shines a light on a glaring double standard: When a man chooses not to be a full-time parent, it's acceptable—or, at least, accepted. But when a woman decides to do so, it's abandonment. [Emphasis added: E.M.]
See? The argument is already being made: men get to abandon their children and tell the world they never wanted kids without any consequences, so why shouldn't women get to do the same?

The short answer is that men don't get to abandon their kids and tell the world they never wanted them without any consequences. The first consequence is that they usually ruin their relationship with their kids, who have this odd tendency to take being ditched and dissed by their parents rather seriously. The second is that the kids then tend to grow up devoid of any idea that love is supposed to be self-sacrificial and unconditional--which will probably come back to bite the selfish abandoning parents, male or female, in the hindquarters when they, the parents, are elderly and in need of their children's loving presence in their lives.

More and more I'm convinced that what our society suffers from the most is a total lack of unconditional love--of even the notion that loving someone means putting aside our own desires and egos and being there for the beloved. How many couples marry without any idea other than that they are supposed to be made happy by this arrangement--not, ever, that they are supposed to be making the other person happy? How many people become parents not because their mutual love makes the welcoming into their lives the living symbols of this love a joy and a blessing, but because they want a little mini-me to satisfy their own needs, whether for maternal emotions or paternal pride? How many children grow up to be selfish, spoiled adults because they never mature away from their childish view of themselves as the center of their parents' universes, but instead go on expecting and even demanding to be treated like royalty, without ever giving anything back?

No wonder Blessed Teresa of Calcutta called America poor. Our poverty is a poverty of the heart, and our dire lack is a lack of either the ability or the desire to love others unconditionally.


The Cottage Child said...

I read that earlier, it is heartbreaking. I keep wondering how it is she knows her kids are fine, she doesn't live with them. It makes me as sad for her as it does for them. Everyone loses.

L. said...

Two thoughts here -- first of all, I loved that article so much that I posted it on Facebook the day it came out and said, " I could have written most of it myself."

Like the "Tiger Mama" article, this one has an inflammatory headline that doesn't match up with the whole story.

Leaving one's children for six months is not "abandonment." Divorcing one's husband (for reasons not elaborated in the article) and moving "down the block" to remain in her children's lives -- that doesn't sound like abandonment to me, either.

I agree that it's WRONG when parents of either gender abandon their children -- but I don't think it's what the author of the Salon article did.

L. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
L. said...

Ooops, I mean, I posted Rizzuto's original Salon article on Facebook, not the one linked in the post above:

Red Cardigan said...

Well, L., someday her children will be able to point to all the things she wrote about not wanting children and hating to be a mom as their reasons never to call, write, or visit.

I wonder if your children will, too? I suppose you really couldn't blame them.

L. said...

Well, that's my point -- she didn't say at all that she hates to be a mom, she just hates the way mothers aren't supposed to be selfish once they have kids.

I haven't read her book (but plan to), so I don't know the details of why her marriage ended -- but moving down the street from her kids doesn't sound like abandonment to me.

Anyway, I am hogging your comm box, so I will go post about this on my own blog instead.

Archaeology cat said...

Red, I agree that these arguments of "men are doing it so we will" are silly. Instead of trying to hold everyone to higher standard, this is lowering the standard for everyone. :-(

rdcobb said...

"she just hates the way mothers aren't supposed to be selfish once they have kids"

That's the whole point. We AREN'T supposed to be selfish, whether male or female, with kids or without, but especially with kids.

It sounds like this woman enjoyed being completely on her own to do whatever she wanted to do when she wanted to do it for six months and then didn't want to have give up her "freedom" when she came home. And her kids will ask one day why they don't live with mom, and someone will tell them the truth that Mommy chose to be a part-time mom so that she could indulge her own desires.

I've seen mothers who gave up full custody because they felt it was in the best interest of the children. But I think that if I were a child of divorce and one of my parents didn't even try at all to get full custody of me I would seriously question how much that parent really cared about me.

Anonymous said...

My wife told our children I did not love them because I did not fight for them.

She neglected to tell them that her millionaire parents had told her she had a blank check and the most cut throat, scumbag attorney in the state, who
would do anything to win.

Now, twenty one years later and a lifetime of immense pain that never ends later, I was told yesterday by my youngest daughter(now 25) that when I was texting her and one of her older sisters the other day, their littlest sister(about 14 or 15) who is the youner of two born from adultery, said she wished her father would "talk to her" the way I spoke to them. He never has the time or the interest. She is a sad young girl.


Our kids have always known of the sacrificing my family and I have borne to keep them loved.

They know well of the selfishness that separated them from me. They see it till this day and they see its fruit in their two younger sisters, who were both conceived to "send the message to me" that our marriage was over.

So much for my very "pro-life" adulteress wife, to conceive a pair of children in deliberate grave sin to mock our marriage upheld by the Roman Rota.

Awful for all the children though.

I agree about unconditional love, but God's kind, not the false charity, obscene, adultery encouraging kind that the Catholic pastoral method is synonymous with. The Church is paying and will continue to until losers like Benedict are replaced with men who understand the correct complimentarity of mercy and justice. What we have now are a terrible lot, yes including Burke, Chaput.....and the rest of them....losers all.

They would not know love if they had fallen into it.

LarryD said...

The argument is already being made: men get to abandon their children and tell the world they never wanted kids without any consequences, so why shouldn't women get to do the same?

I thought that was already going on - isn't that a defense of abortion?

Rob said...
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freddy said...

There's a big difference between a mother doing what she needs to do to care for herself, including having hobbies or interests outside the family circle, and selfishness. This woman is not only selfish, she's stupidly self-centered and cruel.

By remaining in close proximity to her old family she gets to sell it to herself and her friends that she's "caring" and "there for them," and her children will be forced, day after day, to eat that lie.

But day after day her children will see the evidence that their mother doesn't love them enough to want them as more than temporary guests in her home. Their resentment will grow far beyond any resentment of motherhood she now has.

Stupid woman. God help her.

L. said...

"By remaining in close proximity to her old family she gets to sell it to herself and her friends that she's 'caring' and 'there for them, and her children will be forced, day after day, to eat that lie." -->

Wait, you're criticzing her for remaining in her children's lives? So, it would be better if she gave up her joint custody and moved 3,000 miles away? That strikes me as a great example of "damned if you do, damned if you don't."

But what do I know, I'm a "stupid woman" myself, who forces my children to "eat that lie," too.

freddy said...

Yeah, "L." I do think it would be better for that woman to move 3000 miles away. At least then her kids could deal with the reality and move on.

And, yeah, "L." it *is* "damned if you do, damned if you don't." The only way she, and any parent, moms or dads, won't be "damned" in their kids eyes is if those parents *grow up* and don't bail on their marriages and kids.

Bathilda said...

I will have to read the article to understand it completely, but I do think that this woman is extraordinarily ignorant, selfish, or both. (thanks, L. for the link and I'm glad to see you back) If she's working on books, and traveling the world, she's likely educated. How could she NOT know that once you have kids, your life changes drastically. that you now have others to consider if not before yourself, at least alongside yourself... I wonder if her position would change should her now ex-husband die? Would she put them in foster care and continue to check in every other weekend? I know that there are legitimate reasons for divorce, and I also appreciate women who can continue to work a career and try to balance motherhood. I hope that in this situation, the father is a better parent than the mother. He might be. This isn't any different than a typical divorce situation with the roles reversed. Because of my own feelings about motherhood, and my own children, though, I can't help but be shocked and judgemental about this woman's choices. (I'm ashamed to say it, I don't like feeling like this)

Carrie said...

I think others have said it quite well. It's an excuse for selfishness. NO ONE, man or woman, is supposed to be selfish. My goodness, that's the huge problem with the world today. Imagine if people sincerely tried to be selfLESS, how much better off the world would be. Motherhood, at least for me, has been a beautiful exercise in the fact that, hey, I CAN'T be selfish anymore, for the sake of my child. Sure, when I want to get back to my painting or practice my singing or go shopping whenever I want or sit back and relax on the couch, but CAN'T because I have a baby who needs me, it might be annoying. But it makes me grow up. And the love I have for my child makes me realize that I will give up anything, SACRIFICE anything, for the well-being of this little one who depends completely on me, his mother. If that means I can't paint, or sing, or shop, or relax, fine. I'm willing. No, it probably won't mean that. But I wouldn't hesitate for a second to give it all up for the sake of my child if it were necessary.

If you want to be selfish, don't have kids, period. If you don't want to work on your marriage and stick to it through thick and thin, even when it might get HARD, don't get married. Ok, maybe cases of abuse or severe mental illness are the exception - a situation you may need to leave for the safety of yourself or your children. But let's face it, most marriages don't "fail" because of that. They fail because one or both spouses just give up because it gets "too hard."

People today have no idea what true love is because they aren't willing to make sacrifices. It's a crying shame. Kids know when they aren't truly loved (and a parent who isn't willing to make sacrifices for their children, even big ones, doesn't truly love them). I know it because I was one of those children, who was left behind by a selfish father. Sure, he was "close by." Sure he tried to be "part of our lives." But he wasn't fooling anyone, and he certainly wasn't fooling us.

Like Bathilda said, maybe I'm being too judgmental of this woman because of my own feelings of motherhood, and even my own feelings of abandonment from my father. But her story really smacks of complete selfishness to me, and it seems like she's trying to make excuses for her selfishness. "I'm not a bad mom." "My relationship with my kids is even BETTER now." (Really?) "Oh, and hey, I never really wanted to be a mom anyway, it's all my husband's fault." Way to place the blame on anyone but herself.

L. said...

Well, I just ordered her book -- I should probably stop heaping praise on Rizzuto before I read her full story.

Something really struck a chord with me.

I think the most amazing part is not the criticism she's facing for leaving her husband -- the reasons for divorce are usually complicated, and people who don't believe in the concept of divorce at all are going to have a problem with it. But I am amazed that people everywhere are saying how awful she is for leaving her kids in the care of her spouse for a few months, during which they were even able to visit her -- lots of people, both men and women, do this for their jobs all the time.

L. said...

By the way, Freddy, your opinion is common here in Japan, that it's better for one parent to cut off all contact with his/her kids a divorce, so the kids can deal with the reality and move on. My husband is Japanese, and has let me know that if I ever leave him, I will never see his kids again, and the law backs him up on this.

Bathilda said...

I don't really judge her for leaving the family for an amazing career opportunity (I finally read the piece). Six months is long, but not out of the question. After all, my sister in law is in the military and had to take a year of deployment overseas missing her baby's first birthday and her first born's fourth. People felt sorry for her, and yes, they think that Dad is a Saint for being a single parent while she was gone. He, by the way, is also military, and I didn't hear one peep about how hard it was when SHE was the single parent with DAD overseas. Double Standard, pure and simple. She also made the choice to leave by choosing the Military as a career.
However, what astounds me is that the woman in the piece found that she didn't miss her children. she is fooling herself thinking that her children are not going to be adversely impacted by her choices. This just furthers my hope that all children born are wanted children. Her real selfishness came when she decided to have children that she didn't want just to keep her husband happy. She should've kicked him to the curb for putting that kind of pressure on her in the first place. His selfishness is also a factor, but this discussion is more about the Mother. Still, all told, these kids will be less damaged than kids surrounded by abuse or neglect or abject poverty and violence. It is better for her to be a part of their lives than to be completely absent, just as it is for Fathers to be present even though they may not be custodial.

L. said...

Is it really "selfishness" to decide to have children we don't initially want, just to keep our husbands happy? I'm not sure it is -- perhaps it's not the best reason for people like me to reproduce, but many like-minded folks have changed their minds when they fall in love with people who want families.

And it was after my kids were already here that I decided I just didn't want to be with them 24/7, so I put them in daycare and went back to work full-time -- I did this not out of dire economic necessity, and it was initially against my husband's wishes (since he always wanted his kids to have a full-time mom). But I have no doubt in retrospect that I did the right thing for both myself and the kids. I proudly consider myself a part-time mom, which is why Rizzuto's words meant to much to me. (And I should say, I don't mean "proud" as in "superior" -- I mean it as, I am not ashamed of who I am and how I think and act, though I understand and respect that others feel very differently.)

Bathilda said...

As a stay at home mom, I can fully relate that this job is not for everyone, and I don't mean that in a "you can't handle it" way. I know many moms who are better off for working just to have a life separated from home. I severely underestimated how hard it would be to not earn an income. My husband is very good about making it "our" money--as I earned all the money when he got graduate and law degrees. But still, it's hard to be cooped up at home, especially now that the kids are in school all day. Plus, I think that working moms give good examples to their kids about prioritizing, patience, making the most of time, etc.

But yes, if you had kids to maintain a relationship, I do think it's selfish. You did it to keep your man, presumably to keep yourself happy. I understand that others would see it as a sacrifice to make HIM happy, but I don't. Children shouldn't be used as pawns. period. Not to keep a marriage in tact and not to play against one another if the marriage dissolves.

Anonymous said...

I've not changed my opinion from my reply to questions about this piece written at another blog.

I continue to think there is great sadness in this author despite what is said that seems to the contrary. The 'arrangement' allows her to maintain a semblance of sane contact with the treasures of her children, (just not in a conventional manner), while avoiding suicide or exposing the young ones to the senseless arguments of unhappy people. Perhaps, the avoidance of conflict, then, might be unhealthy to her boys, but then they know something of their mother. They will hold their own opinions when they are older.

It seems this situation might be the result of a childhood of strongly opinionated parents, and not wanting to see how it can teardown the parent-child relationship in her own offspring.


L. said...

Yeah, Bathilda, at the time, I did see it as a sacrifice to make HIM happy. As for doing it to "keep your man, presumably to keep [my]self happy," it is very true that making him happy does make me happy, all the time. But having kids just to "keep" him didn't really occur to me -- it wasn't a condition of our marriage or anything like that. And I do love the kids now that they're here, and don't regret having them at all, so I can live with the consequences of my "selfish" decision!

Bathilda said...

L., you sound like a great mom to me. I don't know you, but having a job and loving your time away from your kids doesn't make you a bad mother. people can huff and puff all they want about feminism, etc. too bad. People make it work, and there isn't one way to do things. I don't doubt that the woman in the piece loves her children very much. Not every woman wants to be a traditional mother by virtue of her gender, and the same goes for men/fathers. There are so many things to be outraged about. Let's Leave this woman alone.