Absorbing the weight of the headline "Why I left my children" caused me to involuntarily sit up straight and become stiff with disapproval of what I was about to read. Because as a mom, I can't even understand divorced parents willingly giving up custody, and hearing a mother defending the act of abandoning her children was sure to be painful, and somewhat rage-inducing.
So imagine my surprise when after reading Rahna Reiko Rizzuto's essay about working in a foreign country, far away from her two children, and her subsequent divorce, I found myself completely relating to the mother of two.
While I could never do what Rizzuto did -- move across the world and work while my family stayed behind -- I applaud her rejection of traditional motherhood. And believe that the more of us that follow her lead, the happier everyone will be. Including the kids.
Like Rizzuto, I never really planned on having children. After I met the man that would become my husband, I did start considering it, however. He was even more enthusiastic about the venture, which was when I started to realize that it's easy to be excited about something when you aren't the one who carries the burden.
He wouldn't be pregnant for nine months, then expected to breastfeed, essentially giving your body over to another human being for another three, six, or twenty-four months. He would only take a few vacation days, then be back in the office with zero rips in his nether-regions or baby weight to lose. But more importantly, as Rizzuto points out, men are not expected to be the self-denying martyr that is a mother. Her own realization, even after her husband agreed to take on the caretaker role, was this:
My problem was not with my children, but with how we think about motherhood. About how a male full-time caretaker is a "saint," and how a female full-time caretaker is a "mother." It is an equation we do not question; in fact we insist on it. And we punish the very idea that there are other ways to be a mother.
Rizzuto rejected this, and now says she's a better mother for it. I also insisted on equal parenting, and that my husband's previous life in a jet-setting job that would make me a single parent at least part of every month would not be a part of our future. Something that is quite difficult when the man of the house is making a heck of a lot more money than you are.
But we made it work, and I know my husband is far more satisfied at being a fully involved co-parent to his two children. Rather than setting us up in traditional, and outdated, roles that say I take care of the home life, and he pats the kids on the head every night before pouring himself a scotch (not that we both don't do that occasionally as well). And I'm a much happier wife and mother, one who doesn't feel burdened by my beautiful, amazing family, but instead blessed. The kids know that both parents love them, and both parents are available for school pick-up and drop-off, bedtime stories, and secret sharing.
Saying no to traditional motherhood has resulted in a truly happy home for all of us. Balancing crazy schedules, dealing with financial challenges, sick days, and all the rest is much less contentious when one person isn't feeling dumped on. We don't give resentment a chance to build and damage our marriage or our kids. And I can't imagine living any other way.
Are you a traditional mom?
Image via emilywjones/Flickr