We had the film “Kramer vs. Kramer” (and the Avery Corman novel upon which it was based) in which Meryl Streep walked out on her adorable son and husband, Dustin Hoffman, to “find herself.” You young parents have the more shocking Hiroshima in the Morning. More shocking because it’s true.
I somehow missed hearing about this book until last week. I have not yet read it I but understand, from the reviews I have read, and an interview with author Rahna Reiko Rizzuto which I caught on TV, that it describes the mother of two young sons (age 3 and 5) going off to Japan for several months for a professional assignment with her husband’s blessing. While there she comes to terms with the feeling that she never wanted children and does not want to be a wife and mother. She ends up divorcing, moving out of the family home but living close by, leaving the children with, she assures us, her most competent husband.
First of all, the guy must be a saint.
Second of all, it seems a little late for her to wake up and realize she didn’t want kids.
Third of all, I bet there’s not a mother in the world who hasn’t felt like fleeing marriage and motherhood at least once in her life. I still feel like that occasionally and my kids are married!
I do think that if a mother is not happy, her kids won’t be happy. Which is why I think every woman must, for herself, figure out the best balance of home and work and should consider very, very carefully, if and when she wants to be a mother.
It seems reasonable to take at least as much time deciding if you want kids before you have them, as you do deciding which college to attend, whether and where to study abroad, which profession to pursue and which man to marry.
But one wonders how many people actually think about whether to have children, and if so, how many children. Do they consider what a child needs from her/his parent and if the parent is able to provide that, especially while dedicating a lot of time to a satisfying profession or anything else which requires physical and emotional energy? And despite the pressure in society (and Jewish society in particular) to have children, the expectation that it’s just what one does after getting married, some people just should not have kids.
It seems to me that Rizzuto was pretty slow figuring out what she wanted. And there is not a doubt in my mind that her abdication of her family makes her kids unhappy. I don’t believe her when she insists that they “were not traumatized.” (And I would say the same thing if I was talking about the father in the family.) Especially because, no matter how much she loves them, those kids, now teenagers, know that their mom feels she would have been happier without them. Not only do the kids know it, but their friends and acquaintances, not to mention the rest of us, now know it, too.
In my opinion, Rizzutto should not have written this book. It’s one thing to get divorced. It’s another thing to let your kids, and the world, know that you think you would have been better off without them and you didn’t want to be a mother.
For her children’s sake, I really think she should have kept those little details a deep, dark secret.
Check out what Kveller blogger Carla Naumburg has to say about the book.