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In our mothers’ day there were good mothers, neglectful mothers, and occasionally great mothers.
Today we have only Bad Mothers.
If you work, you’re neglectful; if you stay home, you’re smothering. If you discipline, you’re buying them a spot on the shrink’s couch; if you let them run wild, they will be into drugs by seventh grade. If you buy organic, you’re spending their college fund; if you don’t, you’re risking all sorts of allergies and illnesses.
Is it any wonder so many women refer to themselves at one time or another as “a bad mother”? Ayelet Waldman says it’s time for women to get over it and get on with it, in a book that is sure to spark the same level of controversy as her now legendary “Modern Love” piece, in which she confessed to loving her husband more than her children.
Covering topics as diverse as the hysteria of competitive parenting (Whose toddler can recite the planets in order from the sun?), the relentless pursuits of the Bad Mother police, balancing the work-family dynamic, and the bane of every mother’s existence (homework, that is), Bad Mother illuminates the anxieties that riddle motherhood today, while providing women with the encouragement they need to give themselves a break.
Ayelet Waldman: Do you want the snarky answer or the real one?
Q:The real one...
AW: Because so many women I know are in real pain. They are so crippled by their guilt, by their unreasonable expectations, that they can’t even allow themselves to celebrate the true joys of being a mom. When your little girl curls up in bed with you and says, “Your hair always smells so good, Mama,” you should be able to melt with emotion without worrying about whether she’s reading at grade level.
Q: Do you think you’re a bad mother?
AW: Well, yes. Of course. I mean, that’s the whole problem. I feel like a bad mother, even when by all reasonable analysis I’m a perfectly fine mother. Hell, I went camping last month with the second grade. Camping. Me. A Jewish American Princess from New Jersey. Camping for me is staying in a Marriott, but I slept on the ground and ate toast burned over an open fire. And had fun.
Q: What is your definition of a good mother?
AW: As one of my interview subjects said, “A Good Mother remembers to serve fruit at breakfast, is always cheerful and never yells, manages not to project her own neuroses and inadequacies onto her children, is an active and beloved community volunteer. She remembers to make playdates, her children's clothes fit, she does art projects with them and enjoys all their games. And she is never too tired for sex.”
Q: Okay, so what do you consider the responsible, attainable ideal of a modern mother?
AW: One who loves her kids and does her level best not to damage them in any permanent way. A good mother doesn’t let herself be overcome by guilt when she screws up.
Q: How did your upbringing shape you as a mother?
AW: My mother drilled into me the importance of being a feminist, a woman with her own identity. But perhaps more important, she and my dad modeled a relationship that was entirely unequal... and didn’t work. I knew I wanted something different from what they had. So while I’ve made choices that made her feminist blood boil, I’ve also expected that my husband pull his share of the home and child labor. And that’s made all the difference.
Q: What advice would you give to mothers, today?
AW: Most important, learn to forgive yourself and the other mothers you know. Try to lay off the judgment. Just do your best and consider the rest a small donation on your part to therapists the world over. If we never messed up, what would they charge our children for?
Q: So what's the snarky answer to why you wrote Bad Mother?
AW: As a kind of f*** you to the insane Urban-Baby type moms who, after my New York Times piece on loving my husband more than my kids, sent me letters saying my children should be taken away from me and/or my husband would leave me for another woman. And especially to the woman on Oprah who leapt across the stage shouting, “Let me at her!” when I walked on that set. Yes, that really happened.
(Photo © Stephanie Rausser)--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Witty and insightful memoir. Loved the writing style, it races from one area to another of major worries we all have concerning our kids in a light way.Published 2 months ago by Barry Graham
A thoughtful, honest, candid, at times uncomfortable, funny, sexy, enlightening, touching, lovely book. I simply adored it and was rather sad at turning to the last page... Read morePublished 6 months ago by L. Tolson
This is well written and fast moving, easy to read and full of insight into parenting. The joys and fears that children bring are facts of life as described so vividly by Waldman. Read morePublished 7 months ago by sarah
I almost stopped reading in the beginning. She was starting to lose me when describing how she was a defense attorney, determined to keep her career going, despite having a baby. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Tara V. Murphy
Meeting Ayelet Waldman for the first time in "Bad Mother" was a truly New York experience, reminiscent of many a legal recruiting event during which I'd first recoil from an... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Ready Mommy
Ayelet Waldman's book was life changing for me. I had been through so many of the things she had been through so I cried through some of the book (especially through her... Read morePublished 13 months ago by EF
I read this book at 9 months pregnant and found Waldman's writing to be exactly what I needed. Her take on bad/good mothering was spot on. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Amazon Customer
This book is great if you like to hear about...all kinds of privileged things. I feel for her poor husband, who, after he proposed to her, had to listen to all the details of her... Read morePublished 16 months ago by Bradley Hall
Bad Mother is a collection of 18 essays (some very short) in which Waldman makes some interesting observations about motherhood and reveals lots of personal details. Read morePublished on September 20, 2012 by Balboa Bookreader