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Could You Walk Away from Motherhood for a Career?

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After a six-month fellowship in Japan, Rahna Reiko Rizzuto decided she "didn't want to be a mother," and left her husband and two young boys, ages 5 and 3, to pursue her career, making herself the priority. Is this woman selfish or is she a better for it?

In her controversial memoir, "Hiroshima in the Morning: A Mother's Struggle for Identity," Rizzuto writes candidly about her life-changing trip to Japan, and about deciding she no longer wanted to be a full-time mom. She divorced her husband of 20 years.

"When I got to Japan there was a space around me where I wasn't defined anymore in the way I would be in the US, where people had these expectations, and I grew in ways that I didn't expect, and then I had to realized what I wanted," Rizzuto explained on "Today."

Watch her full interview.

Now, ten years later, Rizzuto currently lives down the street from her boys, sharing joint custody with her ex-husband.

Momlogic wants to know -- do you think this mother was selfish to leave her family? Or is she a better mother now because she is her true self? Could you leave your family to reinvent yourself?

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54 comments so far | Post a comment now
Julie Taylor March 3, 2011, 10:02 AM

Totally selfish! I think it’s really sick! You can “find yourself” without leaving your kids high and dry.

Kelly March 3, 2011, 10:10 AM

Are you kidding me? How could anyone think that she is a “better mom”?? She obviously doesn’t love her children. She ABANDONED them!

Russell March 3, 2011, 10:11 AM

She was totally selfish. There is no excuse for her behavior.

Sinclair March 3, 2011, 10:14 AM

I could never find it in my heart to be that selfish, regardless if you wanted kids or not, you got them now and to looking into the eyes of a 3 and 5 year old children and tell them you no longer what to be their mother is beyond heartless. And make no mistake that is what they heard and felt when their mother left. Thank God for loving involved fathers!!!

Mark March 3, 2011, 10:17 AM

Is this really a question? Why did this get any publicity? Why give this chicken-hearted person any credit at all? I’m really angered by this person. If a parent walks away from family and a 20-year marriage, that parent doesn’t deserve a successful book deal! I pray poverty for her for the rest of her life.

beachlover1 March 3, 2011, 10:20 AM

I hate working in the summer, I hated getting up in the middle of the night when my children were small. But you know you have a responsibility-grow up and deal like everyone else. They asked Helen Hayes when she was in her 80s if she had any regrets. She said she did -she wished she had spent less time working and more time with her kids.

Jessica March 3, 2011, 10:20 AM

I hate this mom.

Donna March 3, 2011, 10:30 AM

Totally selfish. She made the choice to have children. A lot of us sacrifice after we have children. My life was on total hold. Now that my children are grown, I can re-invent myself if I choose. I will never read this book or any other book by her.

Anonymous March 3, 2011, 10:47 AM

Basically you’re a woman who got a divorce and has shared custody. Big whoop.

First you say you left your children, but then it turns out you didn’t. Then you say you’re judged as having abandoned them, but you didn’t, and the only one saying you abandoned them is you.

You are just a divorced mom with shared custody. But I guess that isn’t a salacious enough story. I guess it doesn’t satisfy your need to feel victimized, or it isn’t a huge enough story for you. So you go around writing that you abandoned your children. When, obviously you didn’t.

So here you go, if you want people to stop judging you for abandoning your children, don’t say you abandoned them. Tell the truth. You got a divorce and have shared custody.

Not hard is it?

Emily March 3, 2011, 10:48 AM

My first reaction was “Wow, she is selfish!” but then I read more on her and what transpired and honestly I don’t think she’s a bad mother - she’s a different type of mother.

With her husband and family’s blessing she did the 6 months in Japan and her marriage fell apart during that span. She came back and immediately moved a block away from the family and worked at being this new type of mom. Had the roles been reversed and wouldn’t the world be saying “what a devoted dad! moving a block away from the kids so even though they divorced it’s as close to “normal” as possible!”

Granted, could I do it? Absolutely not.

Angela March 3, 2011, 10:53 AM

I saw the interview and while I could have never leave my kids, I can understand how some may feel that parenthood isn’t what they expected etc. I know there are days that I feel that parenthood isn’t exactly as I had expected or hoped. But, life doesn’t give you a bowl full of cherries. It gives you lemons, limes and some cherries along the way. You take what comes in life and make the best of it.

I don’t want to hate this mom but I can never understand her reasoning. To say that she never wanted children is cruel. Those kids deserve to having loving parents. I think that I would find it hard to really love my parents and believe they loved me if I heard that they didn’t want me.

Just sad.

Charla Dailey March 3, 2011, 11:18 AM

Good side of this…she didn’t have an abortion and/or kill them.

Bad side of this…she looks depressed. Has anyone got this woman some help?

Worst side of this…children do feel abandoned by parents. Let’s just hope that they have an awesome dad.

scourge March 3, 2011, 11:38 AM

If she were a man, it would practically be “normal,” wouldn’t it? We hear about it all the time. Sure, he’s called a “jerk,” but it’s pretty much expected.

Women, on the other hand, put their entire lives on hold for their men and children. They follow men around the country and even the world. How often do men do that?

Yes, adults need to make sacrifices, but this reaction is a double standard. She is one of TWO parents who did what she felt she needed to do, and she’s doing everything she can to be involved.

The fact of the matter is, if she were a man she wouldn’t have had to leave to follow her dreams. She’d have a support system. But women don’t have that luxury.

Jenny March 3, 2011, 11:38 AM

I seriously thought about not dignifying this question with an answer because this woman does not deserve ANYTHING, but I decided to answer for her children. Selfish does not begin to describe what she did. Horrid is more like it. Children don’t ask to be born and what she did should cause her to be an outcast for the rest of her life. Shame on you Rizzuto! You better hope you don’t reap what you’ve sown!!

Denise March 3, 2011, 11:46 AM

Mid life crisis now lives down the street……okayyyyy???????

Abandoned  March 3, 2011, 11:53 AM

As someone who grew up with Reactive Attachment Disorder due to abandonment as an infant, I can say with confidence, the damage that poor excuse for a human being (male or female) did to those boys will not be know for years, but what has been done is severe, deep, and lasting. I know, I live mine every day.

Nipper March 3, 2011, 12:08 PM

I can’t believe how judgemental people in America can be. Too many women have children just because it’s expected that women should do so, but they’re too afraid after they’ve had them to admit that the never wanted them in the first place, so instead the go around feeling like martyrs and being resentful and the kids pick up on that. As an artist I chose not to have children because I knew that all of the expectations to raise them would fall on me the way it always falls on women, even if a father is present. Men are expected to pursue their dreams, fathers or not while women are expected to sacrifice themselves for eveyrone else. Women should really decide whether they really want children or not BEFORE having them and not be afraid to be different and stand by their decision so that no one will be hurt in the long run.

Abandoned March 3, 2011, 12:18 PM

Interesting observation on “Nipper’s” comments. The person who gave birth to me and abandoned me was an artist… .

I find the gender martyrdom almost comical if it weren’t so sad. Poor women, can’t stand up for themselves and are “forced” by society to have babies. Well I’m sorry, Parenthood is the absolute greatest achievement one can make in this world, it shouldn’t be a sacrifice. It is tough? Yes, I know I have kids. And as a father, I’ve given up plenty of what you would call “dreams” to pursue my “sacrifice” of dreaming to be the best parent my children could ever have, regardless of the cost in any terms to me personally.

LouAnne March 3, 2011, 12:40 PM

I think it’s horribly sad that she is making herself famous by saying she doesn’t want her children.

Cara March 3, 2011, 1:05 PM

Most of the comments are very judgemental.

She went to Japan for 6 months. During the 6 months, she had some self revelation and perspective. She came back home and got a divorce and lives down the street from kids with shared custody.

If a father did this, fewer people would have the same judgemental comments.

There is an unfair double standard for mothers vs fathers.

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