Bad Mother by Ayelet Waldman
Back in June or July, Newsweek came out with a list of 50 Books For Our Time. After joking around about how some book blogger was CERTAIN to turn this into a challenge, Amy decided that SHE was going to turn this into a challenge. Clearly no book blogger would have time to read all 50 books and report back, so she decided that we would divide up the list, people choosing which book they would like to read and review. I’d been hearing a lot about “Bad Mother” in the previous months and had just become a mother about a week before Amy’s brilliant idea, so I volunteered for #25 on the list, Ayelet Waldman’s “Bad Mother.”
“Bad Mother” is a collection of essays about Waldeman’s life with and thoughts about her kids. The idea of a ‘bad mother’ is basically pushing back against the idea of the super mom whose identity is completely subsumed by those of her children, the bad mother is the anti-June Cleaver. And, according to Waldman, the bad mother might just raise emotionally healthier kids:
What is a child like whose mother has selflessly devoted herself to his every need and desire? Is he thoughtful and kind, empathetic and liable to put others’ needs before his own? Or is he so packed full of self-esteem, so conscious of his own sense of entitlement, that he is impossible to be around? Our children may wear unmatched socks, we trumpet, but they’re better people than yours are.
Ayelet writes on a variety of topics and really throws herself into each of her essays. While I don’t necessarily agree with all of her beliefs and parenting ideas, everything was well-reasoned and internally-consistent. I will say, that her essay about her abortion of her possibly-deformed child nearly made me cry, how she both grieves for the child she could have had and yet fulls owns her decision.
I can see why this was added to the Newsweek list. The phenomenon of the supermom, the woman who does everything for her husband and children, all the while holding down a fulfilling job became incredibly pervasive in the 1990s, and much of the last few years has seen women pushing back against that ideal. Whether or not you agree with all of Waldman’s politics, this is definitely a worthwhile read for all parents, if only to serve to begin discussion. It was a quick, thought-provoking and enjoyable read.