The Opposite of Tiger Mom: Moms Who Abandon their Children
I just read a profoundly disturbing article entitled “The opposite of a ‘Tiger Mother’: Leaving your Children Behind.”
The first mom featured in this article is Rahna Reiko Rizzuto, an author and writing professor who ten years ago divorced her husband of 20 years, and chose to give up custody of her two sons, ages three and five.
Rizzuto, reflecting on her decision to give up custody of her sons, explained, “I had this idea that motherhood was this really all-encompassing thing. I was afraid of being swallowed up by that.”
“I had to leave my children to find them,” she continues. “[Today], 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.”
The second mother profiled in this article is “spiritual adviser” Talyaa Liera who writes for Polaris Rising. In 2008, Liera divorced her husband and chose to move 3,000 miles away from her three younger children ages 15, 11, and 7 (she has a fourth child who is an adult).
Liera recalls: “At the time [of the divorce] I was a heavily involved, attachment-parenting Waldorf mom. I did the whole family bed, breastfeeding-into-toddlerhood, baby-wearing thing. I was at home with my children for 10 years before their father and I split up, and stayed at home after that, trying to create a writing career to support myself.”
When Liera left her children behind, she admits that she felt “very mixed” but also a distinct “sense of relief.” “Now [my children and I] stay in touch by phone, IM, Skype a few times a week,” she says. “I hear about their lives and give support.”
And here’s my 2 JewishMOM cents about these two tragic stories of two majorly confused mothers…
What I find so deeply upsetting about these women is that they think that raising children is something that mothers do because it is fun, or it is fulfilling, or it is pleasurable. And parenting CAN be those things. But first and foremost, we take care of our children because as moms, taking care of our children is our primary obligation.
Thou shalt not murder
Thou shalt not steal
Thou shalt not abandon your child
And I think also that these mothers have a second problem: they dream of becoming “Perfect Mothers,” but they are extremely confused about what it means to be a “Perfect Mother.”
Rizzuto defends her current part-time parenting lifestyle by explaining that today: “I get concentrated blocks of time when I can be that 1950s mother we idealize…”
And Lierra similarly brags that “At the time [of the divorce] I was a heavily involved, attachment-parenting Waldorf mom. I did the whole family bed, breastfeeding-into-toddlerhood, baby-wearing thing…”
I am reading between the lines here, but it sounds like maybe what drove these women away from their families was their mistaken belief that the “Perfect Mom” looks like June Cleaver spending her day waiting by the door with a plate of cookies and a glass of milk. Or, alternatively, the perfect mother looks like that neighbor who tandem nurses her 3-year-old and 5-year-old in her family bed.*
But setting unrealistic mothering standards is like trying to sprint the marathon. After a few years, mothers like that burn out, or in some rare cases even fly the coop, like Rizzuto and Liera.
For kids AND mothers to thrive long term, we moms need to learn how to pace ourselves for the long haul. That means that we need to be constantly fine-tuning the “Give to Myself/Give to Them” balance in our lives—in order to figure out what we need to give to ourselves in order to continue giving to our families.
And when we learn how to properly nurture ourselves, we will be able to nurture our families– not just for one year or for 10 years, but all the way to the finish line. With God’s help.
*I have nothing against June Cleaver moms or tandem nursing moms, as long as those mothers also make sure to stay in touch with what they need as people in order to thrive long-term.
Special thanks to Miriam Sherr for forwarding me this article!
Photo courtesy of Michael McClauslin