Out in the Open

Flipping the gendered script of motherhood

Reiko Rizzuto was accused of 'leaving her kids' twice. She knew she didn’t want to be their primary caregiver.
Reiko Rizzuto with her youngest son in Japan. (Provided by Reiko Rizzuto)

Reiko Rizzuto always knew she didn't want to be the primary caregiver to her two sons.

"It's important to know that we had a very non-traditional parenthood to begin with. Before I even had children, my husband and I had a lot of conversations about who would be the primary caretaker. He really wanted to have children and I was a lot more ambivalent. And, so, from the beginning it was never assumed I was going to be a full-time mother."

When Rizzuto and her husband divorced, he gladly took the kids.

Rizzuto was still very involved in their lives. In fact, she lived on the same street. Yet, she felt the sting of going against the grain.
Reiko Rizzuto with her youngest son in Hawaii (Provided by Reiko Rizzuto)

"The fact that I was the one who moved out of the house...meant to other people that I had left them. And I actually had people that I knew, who were the mothers of my children's friends, cross the street when I was coming so they wouldn't have to talk to me."

It wasn't the first time Rizzuto's choices around motherhood were questioned.

When she was offered a work opportunity in Japan for six months, she took it. Her children were five and three years old at the time. She was accused of walking out on them then too. It's an experience she writes about in her memoir.

Rizzuto believes her two sons - who are adults now -  benefited from growing up with flipped parental gender roles.

"Because our gender roles were reversed my kids have had the opportunity to learn differently about men and women. They treat women with great respect and great equality….And they believe that they have some personal responsibility for their own lives. 

They're not living in a family where they can just turn to one person who's been identified as the mother and say, 'You're the one who is suppose to take care of - fill in the blank for me.'"