Rahna Reiko Rizzuto has written a provocative memoir. Published by the Feminist Press, Hiroshima in the Morning recounts the struggle of survivors of the Hiroshima bomb while interweaving the author’s own struggle with motherhood.
In 2001, Rizzuto planned to leave her husband and two young sons for a six-month opportunity to do research for a book in Japan, but while there she made the defining choice to leave her family for good. Some are applauding her brave decision to “redefine motherhood,” while others think it is plain selfish.
In response to the criticism that she abandoned her children, Rizzuto claims she hasn’t abandoned them, but has “redefined motherhood.” But motherhood is characterized by giving.
I’m thankful for the many late-night vigils my mom held at my bedside when I was burning up with fever. I’m sure she needed the night’s sleep lost, but instead she gave. I’m thankful for the long hours she spent listening to me tell one of hundreds of lengthy stories (I’m never one to leave out many details!). I’m sure chatting on the phone with a girl friend would’ve been more interesting, but instead she gave.
When we were all grown and gone and Mom’s life was nearing the time for retirement travels and leisure, my father was diagnosed with a terminal illness. And although it had been nearly forty years since she changed her last child’s diapers, she soon learned to change my father’s. I’m sure it would’ve been easier to walk away, to run from the smothering confinement caregiving brings, but she didn’t. She gave.
In an interview on The Today Show last week, Rizzuto confessed she never wanted children and that motherhood caused struggles with being “true to herself.” She said she feared motherhood would become an all-encompassing thing and she was afraid of “being swallowed up” by it. She’s right, it is all-encompassing, and moms are kind of “swallowed up” when they give of themselves. It’s the principle we find in 1 John 3:16:
“We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
Rizzuto’s choice to “redefine motherhood” by leaving her husband and sons in order to “give myself more priority” is a type of “giving”—it’s just not the kind of giving we normally expect to see from mothers.
But she explained herself well in the final statements of the program. When asked what she thought would’ve happened if she’d never gone to Japan but stayed with her family, Rizzuto replied, “I think one day I’d say, ‘I did that thing that I didn’t want to do and that was to give up my life for someone else.’”
Yep, that’s motherhood. Giving up your life for someone else.
What about you? Do you ever feel like Rahna Reiko Rizzuto, worried that you'll be swallowed up by motherhood? What motivates you to give up your life for someone else?