A book entitled Hiroshima in the Morning was recently released by Rahna Reiko Rizzuto. You can read a brief summary of the book here, including several quotes from the author.
Basically, Rizzuto is a “part time mom.” She lives down the block from her children (whose father has primary custody). She has her own life (deliberately) and says that she does not miss her children when she’s away from them. She prefers to be independent, and even states that she “never wanted children.”
Rizzuto contends that the roles we have are unfair: moms are simply expected to be full-time caretakers, and are “not good moms” if they’re not (she’s including working moms who live with their children as “full time moms”), but dads are unusual and amazing if they’re full-time caretakers. She believes that it shouldn’t be this way, and that moms can be just as good if they’re only “part-time moms.”
Now…I agree with part of what she says. I think the roles and expectations are not fair. We shouldn’t simply expect the full burden of childcare, especially with demanding little ones, to fall upon mothers. And we shouldn’t exonerate fathers, saying, “That’s just not their job.”
But I don’t agree that any parent is an “amazing” parent who deliberately chooses to be a “part time parent.”
What do we say about divorced fathers who only see their children on weekends? The ones who prefer it that way, not the ones who desperately wish for more time? We say that they are not very good fathers, because if they were, they’d prioritize their children and try to spend more time with them! And plenty of studies have noted that when fathers are largely absent this way, it has a profound effect on children’s development. Both parents should be available for their children, and should prioritize them!
In my home, my husband works during the day, and is home by 4. He’s arranged it this way so that he can play a major role in our childrens’ lives. He (and I) both feel that this is very important. It’s become especially important now that I work quite a bit blogging. We both share nearly equal in caring for our children. We don’t think that it is, or should be, an expectation that I do the majority, or that he deserves a medal for being a good father. That’s part of the responsibility he took on when we decided to have children! (And as I type, he’s upstairs, bathing the children for bed!)
It seems that parents who do not live with their children make excuses to make themselves feel better, and Rizzuto does. Once you have children, your life does change, like it or not. Your children come first. And most parents who do not live with their children fully understand this, and strive to be with their children as much as they can (barring custody arrangements, work schedules, etc.). Their children are still prioritized.
But men and women like Rizzuto (I’m not giving either gender preferential treatment here) are simply selfish and trying to justify it. They didn’t want their children, and they didn’t want the sacrifice and responsibility that naturally comes along with it. They don’t want to give up their sense of independence and “self” to become parents. They want to continue making choices for their lives with what they want in mind first. And once they’ve satisfied their own needs, they give some time and energy to their children.
Now, might people like this be happier if they are only with their children a few hours a week? Might those hours be spent blissfully? Might we truly call it “quality time?”
Sure. We could make that argument.
But if you tried that in a marriage, or any other close relationship — “I’m sorry, I’m independent and I need my space. I can see you Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, but other than that, my schedule’s booked” — we’d find that that relationship fizzled out pretty quickly. Our spouse or friend would, rightfully, call us selfish. In any type of very close, especially familial relationship, we need more intimacy than that. And parenting is no different.
When you choose to be a parent, you give up the right to be “just me.” It’s similar to when you enter into a marriage. Your decisions no longer are about “me,” they are about “us.” And when you are a parent, your decisions are about “the family.” Not you.
Do all moms deserve an afternoon or a weekend to refresh, rejuvenate, revitalize? Absolutely! We all do need some time off, to pursue things just for ourselves. But these should be those small windows of time. We shouldn’t spend most of the time on ourselves and give our families what is leftover (no matter how happy the times may be).
What do you think? Do you think it’s possible to be a good “part time parent” or not?