It's the job opportunity of a lifetime. Your spouse thinks you should take it. You want it. The only catch? It means six months in Japan ... without your kids.
What would you do?
Writer Rahna Reiko Rizzuto explains her choice on TODAY, as well as in a provocative Salon article, "Why I left my children." As the title implies, she took the opportunity in Japan. Her absence led her to redefine her identity as a mother and her relationship with her children -- in what she depicts as a good way.
The question I am always asked is, "How could you leave your children?" How could you be the mother who walks away? As if my children were embedded inside me, even years after birth, and had to be surgically removed? As if I abandoned them on a desert island, amid flaming airplane debris and got into the lifeboat alone?
As it turns out, being reunited with her children seemed to raise more issues for Rizzuto than did their separation. This is the part in the piece where she discloses that she never wanted to be a mother. Wonder how her children, now teens, will feel when they read that? Still, she says her half-year in Japan, and the "mommy shock" that ensued when she returned to the hands-on, daily work of being a mother, transformed her. (It transformed her marriage, too, as it turns out: They got divorced.)
I went from being uncertain, ambivalent, loving but overwhelmed, to being a damned good mother. My marriage failed, and I gave primary physical custody to my husband. But I kept joint custody, and I did not take the house in Hawaii and jump a plane into the sunset. I moved down the block and began the long, hard work of proving to my children, and myself, that I am here.
...I had to leave my children to find them. In my part-time motherhood, I get concentrated blocks of time when I can be that 1950s mother we idealize who was waiting in an apron with fresh cookies when we got off the school bus and wasn't too busy for anything we needed until we went to bed. I go to every parent-teacher conference; I am there for performances and baseball games.
Rizzuto, of course, had the luxury of choice. Around the world, many moms have to leave their children in order to provide for their families economically. What do you think of Rizzuto's article, and what would you have done in her situation? Regardless of how it ended, do you judge this mom for leaving her kids for six months? Would you feel the same way about a father who did the same?