Selfish Parents – Mothers Running From Responsibility

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to discuss selfishness and the feature on the Today Show about “redefining motherhood or running away from responsibility?”

First a quick update:

“When and how to do an intervention”
Interventions & addiction: Do you have a friend or family member who is out of control and nothing seems to be working? What can you do or should you do to help them? Read my insights and suggestions in my article on my blog: “When and how to do an intervention”.

“Is Harsh Judgment of Charlie Sheen Just Evidence of a Hollywood Double Standard?”
Read my quotes and insights in the article by Hollie McKay of on my blog

Now, let’s talk about selfishness as it pertains to parenting.

Rhana Reiko Rizzuto was recently featured on the Today Show. She is a mother of two children and author of “Hiroshima in the Morning” – her memoir that reflects on her decision to leave her family, her husband and two small children, to study in Japan for 6 months. Rhana had received a grant to live in Japan to do research for her book and while she was away, she questioned her role as a wife and mother.

The kids visited her in Japan during her 6 months stay there, but the time apart led Rhana Reiko Rizzutto to realize that she didn’t want to be a full time mom anymore. “I had lost myself and I wanted to give myself a little more priority” she says.

When Rhana Reiko Rizzuto returned she ended her 20 year marriage leaving behind her two young sons – ages 5 and 3 and admitting she never wanted children – “I didn’t want to be a mother.”

Rhana told The Today Show that she struggled with being a good mother while staying true to herself: “We have to have the freedom to decide what it is we are going to do and how it is we are going to shape our motherhood, to shape our lives.”

Rhana Reiko Rizutto believes she is a good mother and that her children are well-adjusted and she refers to the quality time she now spends with her children: “I am able to pay attention to them for that block of 5 or 6 hours in a way that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to.”

Rhana claims that her children are not traumatized, they have a great life, two great households and everything they need.

While The Today Show describes the Rhana segment as “Redefining motherhood or running away from responsibility?”, Rhana sums up her choices as “I didn’t want to do give up my life for someone else.”

Her comments raise two key points – the evolution of the egocentric individual in the 21st century and the pivotal point about parenting: who comes first, you or the children?

Yes, I teach and encourage people to ‘realize your full potential, to grow, evolve and use all of your gifts, talents and abilities to make a positive contribution and difference in the world.’ However, we have come to the point now where we are seeing many examples of people who are easily willing to drop all responsibilities, commitments, promises and pledges if and when it either doesn’t suit them, is not convenient or they find a better offer. In Hollywood, it is referred to as BBO or BBD – the bigger, better offer/deal.

When a parent says he or she doesn’t want to give up her life for someone else, she is describing selfishness and narcissism. Yes, being a parent is about giving up aspects of yourself for someone else but it also about giving love and providing to a helpless dependent child. It is not always convenient or comfortable and it is one of the most difficult and challenging tasks and choices, although parents will tell you about the extraordinary fulfillment that comes from raising children.

And yes, not everyone will choose to be a parent but once making that choice or engaging in behavior that ultimately makes that choice for you (i.e. getting pregnant and getting someone pregnant), then you have a responsibility – and that applies to men and women.

Rhana says she never wanted children but that doesn’t release her of the responsibility once she has children. Motherhood is not something that is shaped by convenience, comfortableness or personal growth – it is a responsibility and a commitment that is also dependent on the needs of the children.

This leads me to the next point, the fallacy and myth surrounding quality time versus quantity time. Children need both. A child cannot receive all that she needs from a mother or father with 5 or 6 quality hours once a week. Humans bond, connect and deepen their relationship based on spending time together, doing things together and sharing. This applies to adults and children. One client, an eleven-year-old boy told me how he was afraid to call his dad (who is divorced from the boy’s mom) in the early evening to discuss his school day because he didn’t want to disturb him. This boy told me that he wanted to be able to see and hang out with his dad on a daily basis, to talk about school and other things in his life. A mother or father cannot make up for that with 6 uninterrupted hours per week.

If you doubt the significance of quantity time, then review your own life and situation. Are you married or want to be married; do you live with someone; are you simply happy to see your partner, boyfriend or girlfriend once a week for 6 uninterrupted hours? Of course, not. Why then would we fool ourselves into thinking all a child needs is 6 hours per week? One of the reasons that office affairs occur is because we spend so much time with each other, sharing, bonding, doing and connecting with each other. Children need to be with and do things with their parents. Children need constant and consistent love and affection.

The excuse of ‘quality time’ is something we say to ourselves to justify our behavior and as an attempt to rid us of our guilt of neglect or selfishness.

Having said that, I understand that many parents today have to raise children on their own and it is not my intention here to cast aspersions but rather to highlight the ideal situation where and when it is possible, when we actually have a choice to choose the right thing and best thing as a parent.

In almost every case with every client, the single most obvious cause of problems in adulthood is a missing need during childhood; the subconscious belief that the adult is not loveable because he or she didn’t feel loved or didn’t get his or her needs met as a child.

Abandoning your children for your own personal growth, telling them and the entire world that you never wanted children (and thus never wanted them), that you wanted to put yourself first and not anyone else are not examples of healthy motherhood or parenting. Those actions do not serve as a good role model to children and only encourage selfishness, narcissism, lack of responsibility and accountability and a lack of commitment, devotion and dedication.

Motherhood cannot be redefined because it suits or doesn’t suit us, nor can fatherhood; children have basic mental, emotional, physical and spiritual needs, and we can only adjust our parenting and motherhood based on what happens to us and not what we choose out of selfishness, convenience or because it feels better or easier. The same principle applies to every area of our life; what is best or necessary is not always the most fun or convenient thing to do.

Children need to be loved and need to know that you love them, but they also need you there to actually love them.

You can comment on this newsletter by visiting my blog or directly to this article.

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & Clinical Hypnotherapist

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5 replies
  1. Avatar
    Leslie says:

    I understand where you are coming from but why is it such a crime for a woman to do this when for the last 50 years men have been “conveniently released” of all fatherly responsibilities whenever it suited them? What is the difference? Why is it so socially unacceptable for a woman and no for a man? I think it’s very sexist.

    • Avatar
      Patrick Wanis says:

      Dear Leslie,

      I agree with you – and that is why I called my article “Selfish parents” – not selfish mothers. There is no excuse for men to have ‘“conveniently released” all fatherly responsibilities whenever it suited them.’

      Of course, my intention is not to be sexist, but I will say that from experience, working with many clients, mothers seem to have a greater impact on children’s development and emotional health than father’s do. After all, we enter the world from our mother and she is the one that feeds and nourishes us first (breastfeeding); there is a bond between mother and child that I believe is stronger than the bond between father and child. Again, I am not excusing fathers who have failed to act as fathers or who have chosen to shirk their responsibility.
      All the best,

  2. Avatar
    Mary says:

    Patrick, Good for You! I’m glad someone has the guts to call these people on their B.S. Rhana should have thought about not having children before she had them. And not to try and pretend that she is a good mother, because she couldn’t be bothered to give them more that six hours. I agree with you, it’s pure selfishness on her part, you can think about yourself but only in the context of your responsibilities. Who does she think should take care of and raise her children? They need both their parents!

  3. Avatar
    Jennifer D. says:

    Patrick, thank you for sharing this important article. I remember when I was growing up as a child, my mothers struggle with her career and her commitment to her role as a mother. She was very smart and always quickly received promotions; however, whenever she saw her new position was interfering with her role as a mother she would resign. Once we were off to college and out of the house she had a happy and successful career. I was always appreciative to know she put us first…..thank you mom 😀

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