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Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace

3.5  ·  Rating Details ·  3,218 Ratings  ·  746 Reviews
In the tradition of recent hits like The Bitch in the House and Perfect Madness comes a hilarious and controversial book that every woman will have an opinion about, written by America’s most outrageous writer.

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
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published May 5th 2009 by Doubleday (first published January 1st 2009)
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May 27, 2009 christa rated it liked it
According to an informal Gawker poll, Ayelet Waldman and Michael Chabon have received the second-most votes for literary power couple that make Gawker readers wish they had never learned to read. As of today, they are quite a few percentage points behind Jonathan Safran Foer and Nicole Krauss, but they have moved up a spot since Waldman's book "Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamitites, and Occasional Moments of Grace" went from draft to publication to the shelves. [She ...more
Aug 03, 2010 K rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book took me back to my recent book club meeting. In a tangential conversation, my book club friends and I discussed the self-doubt we sometimes heard from parents our age about their decision not to use corporal punishment with their children. “It’s not the spanking itself,” one friend said. “It’s the whole style of discipline we use. Because if we tried to integrate spanking into our otherwise touchy-feely parenting techniques, it wouldn’t fit. The issue isn’t whether or not to ...more
Sara Beresford
May 11, 2011 Sara Beresford rated it really liked it
This book completely surprised me. I was prepared to not like it, or to just listen to another person use the 'bad mother' idea to actually let you know that they are a fantastic mother.

In fact, this book was remarkable in its openness and honesty about mental illness, motherhood, and a lot of other uncomfortable/interesting subjects. It contained a few pearls of wisdom, but most of all I am amazed at a person who will just lay it all out there for everyone to see. This chick has guts.

If nothing
Oct 30, 2009 Shelah rated it really liked it
I seriously doubt that any woman who gives birth to a baby goes into it aspiring to be a bad mother. But within days, hours, and honestly probably before the baby is even born, we all have moments where we're sure we're not going to be as good at this motherhood thing as we want to be. One of my first bad mother moments came when Eddie bought me flowers to celebrate my coming home from a business trip when I was pregnant. The flowers died, but instead of dumping out the glass they'd been in, I ...more
Jul 26, 2010 Amy rated it liked it
Shelves: parenting-family
Ayelet Waldman is a self-confessed bad mother, the only problem being that it only takes a few pages of reading to decide that she's wrong. I felt like I was a bad mother myself as I devoured this book after coming home from the library today, leaving my six children to their own devices. The author's tendency to overanalyze and feel guilt over every minute aspect of her parenting and her much-critized confession that she loves her husband more than she loves her children were easy for me to ...more
Jul 22, 2011 Ellie rated it really liked it
Now that my kids are in their late teens, I feel like I've left that particular battlefield of parenting-whose baby is early on their milestones, what designer wear onesies are in, at home vs. working mom, cloth vs. plastic; breast vs bottle, play dates, classes, narcissistic investment, guilt because you finally gave in and did the d*#! project for the kid since it's already 2 a.m., they're falling on their face & doing what is clearly going to be the worst project of the class (since the ...more
Jul 15, 2013 Lisa rated it it was amazing
I had heard of Ayelet Waldman but had never read her work until this book. Ironically, I've read her husband's (Michael Chabon, Pulitzer-prize winning author).

In this book of essays, she is honest and personal, often at her expense. She doesn't shy away from controversy. She hints at essays she had published elsewhere (like the NY Times) that generated a lot of backlash and press (like saying she loves her husband more than her children). On the one hand, it's good that she doesn't reproduce th
Jul 17, 2012 BookgirlonGoodreads rated it liked it
I liked this, and would recommend it to other mothers who like reading nonfiction about motherhood. I didn't agree with everything Waldman says, and her life and opinions are generally about as different from mine as you can get. Despite all that, many of her observations on motherhood rang true for me. Mainly the book is about the expectations we have for mothers and how the bar is set impossibly high. We're doomed to feel like failures because no one could possibly do all the things a "good" ...more
Jul 22, 2009 Kate rated it liked it
Wow. Well, once again, a book where the author shares personal experiences and feelings to a degree that I find at once brave and shocking. I do not agree with some (most?) of her parenting style/approach, or even the over-sharing that I admittedly took advantage of by reading this book. However, it was well-written in many regards, and the premise actually speaks to my negative reaction to her parenting: We moms should cut eachother a break.
It was at times difficult to read such personal and co
Dec 05, 2013 Dollie rated it liked it
I think she does love her children very much and she got a bad rap for her opinions. On the other hand, she HAD to know what she was getting into. Speaking from experience the most ruthless critics on the planet of mothers are other mothers. It stems from insecurity and a need to feel justified in our own choices. Why we just can't live and let live, I don't know. She has four children and they were all pretty young at the same time at one point. My sense is people just didn't believe her: how ...more
Jul 10, 2009 Simi rated it it was ok
Eh. I thought this book would explore the phenomenon of motherhood and how it is judged and misjudged by different people. But it is actually more of a memoir of a woman who appears to have too much time on her hands and as such gives more thought to whether going to every PTA meeting makes one a good mother.... It seems to me to be mostly the kvetching of an over-privileged liberal Berkeley mom.

Claudia Putnam
Jun 23, 2014 Claudia Putnam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir

Bumping to 4 stars bec I find it holds up in my mind over time...


It's a stretch to call this literary non-fiction memoir but my shelving system isn't perfect and this is one of those times where I don't know where to put something. This is a collection of personal essays--sometimes expository essays. Stronger when more personal. Some of them I'd give 4 stars and some even 5, but others are less strong and some just weren't that interesting to me personally (no reflection on Waldman or the es
May 01, 2009 Kristen rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I don't have any of my own children - but I have "aquired" two little boys when I married my husband. Having never been around children I was in for a rude awakening when I discovered that mothering was not at ALL what it appeared to be.

"Bad Mother" is not a book I would have picked up on my own, however I am glad I read it. It's a well written book, and Waldman does have an excellent talent for honest, amusing essays on being a mother and a wife. I did find that many of the areas she touched o
Sarah Jamison
Feb 10, 2013 Sarah Jamison rated it did not like it
I think most people understand the idea that if you're questioning whether or not you're a good mother, for whatever value of good, then you are, in fact, a good mother. Just as crazy people don't know they're crazy, bad parents don't care whether or not they're parenting well. Waldman disproves this in so many ways it's not even funny.

I decided to read this book after reading the controversy surrounding her statement that she loved her husband more than her children. That didn't seem like a par
Jun 29, 2010 Stephanie rated it really liked it
I read Ayelet Waldman’s book Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace after hearing Ms. Waldman interviewed on NPR. I have complained in the past about at least one memorist being reluctant to share her warts with her readers. Ms. Waldman, however, lets us see her as she is, warts and all, with a willingness that she attributes to her bipolarism:

“The bipolar inability to resist the impulse to reveal inappropriately intimate details of one’s li
Dec 15, 2009 Julie rated it liked it
i liked this book and i enjoyed reading about her life and her children (she and michael chabon have four kids). but at times it surprised me by veering off into a too-indulgent memoir. she makes some very excellent points, however, as she argues that we are all way too hard on mothers, who expect and are expected to be perfect. i liked her call to embrace and allow for "good enough" parenting. i thought she was really right on when she mentioned the berkeley parents network and how extremist ...more
Jul 20, 2009 Leah rated it liked it
Very worth reading--provocative. It features, at its best, original perspectives on issues you've thought about a million times--but never quite thought about in the way Ayelet does.

Two things annoyed me: The if-only-men-did-more-household-chores-they'd-get-more-sex argument (yawn!). And the overly precious telling of her woes at imaging her children growing up and away from her. Not that that isn't fertile territory--only that she doesn't bring anything new to it.

What I do find very brave and
Jun 09, 2009 Jean rated it really liked it
I really liked this book of autobiographical essays. It’s about womanhood as much as parenting, and of a sort that rang very true to me. She is funny and wry throughout, when possible; and serious in a non preachy way when called for. The chapter "Sexy Witches and Cereal Boxes" is typical – funny, and very on target regarding early sexual experiences – i.e. “more than a football team, fewer than a marching band”; not “date rape” but “the night I lost my virginity to an asshole.” There is also ...more
Oct 03, 2010 Elizabeth rated it did not like it
Ayelet Waldman writes essays about motherhood. While I was excited to hear her point of view--I had heard how she had been bashed for writing that she loved her husband more than her children, and I thought that was an interesting and probably just idea-- 100 pages in I had to put this book down because I couldn't take any more of Waldman's self indulgent rambling. She is often criticized for her excessively personal writing style and her chutzpah; according to her, this is often expressed as "I ...more
Mar 01, 2012 Florinda rated it it was amazing
It seems like there's been an ongoing conversation about motherhood for at least the last fifty years or so, accompanying the discussion of feminism in general - doing it right, doing it wrong, what it all means. And recently - in a development that has included blogs in a big way - the discussion has been joined by many new voices, and they're emphasizing telling the "truth" about motherhood and getting beyond the popular images. The thing about this truth-telling is that it shapes a picture ...more
Mar 03, 2014 Michelle rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I did not disagree with most of the main points Waldman seemed to be making with this book. I actually came into the book assuming I would really enjoy it. However, the more I read the more I disliked it. The book does not have any really cogent argument. It is written in 18 chapters, which read more like Salon or Slate blog posts (not surprising, since Waldman used to blog for Salon on mommy topics). These chapters all do have something to do with being a mother, or having a mother or ...more
Feb 08, 2010 Audra rated it it was ok
I probably would have given this book at least a 3 - possibly a 4 - when I started reading, as I identified with a lot of the points the author made in the first several chapters. However, as the book progressed, a few themes emerged, notably, "get off my back" and "my husband is my superhero." In fact, as I continued to read, it became clear to me that women who have normal husbands (i.e., they contribute as best they can, in spite of jobs that require them to leave their home every day), and ...more
Jan 05, 2010 Elizabeth rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Many of the chapters were entertaining, insightful, and thoughtful. The chapters "Breast is Best" (about how mothers "proclaim the superiority of their choices" about child-rearing, "los[ing:] sight of the fact that people have preferences") and "Tech Support" (decrying the "snark-filled cesspit" of the internet) were particularly good. "My Mother-in-Law, Myself" (discussing the inherent weirdness between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law) was also very good. And I loved the very last paragraph ...more
Apr 04, 2010 Emily rated it it was ok
I found Ayelet Waldman’s memoirs to be heartfelt and genuine. I laughed and I cried. But I don’t relate to her Jewish heritage, I wholeheartedly disagree with her position on abortion, and I have so far turned out to be what she might describe as a ninny who actually likes to listen to Raffi with my daughter. The last chapters turned out to be quite liberal, and not much about motherhood. I guess I didn’t realize how conservative I am... This book opened my eyes about the kind of mother I am and ...more
May 24, 2009 Jbradley rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 26, 2009 Lisa rated it really liked it
I have mixed feelings about this book. Intelligently written and brutally honest, I delved into the book, reading with gusto as the author attacked the ridiculous and impossible ideal of motherhood that we modern, western mothers inflict upon ourselves and each other. I almost felt like I was being given permission to let go of some of the guilt for being so far from the perfect mother - whatever that is. (I say "almost" because, really, what is motherhood without guilt?) I was troubled, ...more
Nov 19, 2014 Melissa rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 24, 2011 Julia rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, humor
I read this because I read all Michael Chabon's books and he wrote Manhood for Amateurs, which I read earlier this month, at least in part, as a response to this book. This is my first book by Waldman. I intend to check out her fiction, now. Manhood for Amateurs The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son by Michael Chabon

Eighteen essays on parenting in Berkeley, on being Michael Chabon’s wife, on being the fallible mom (and daughter and daughter-in-law) to four kids and one heartbreaking one she knew she couldn’t keep and had terminated.

About her sexual history and her moth
Aug 03, 2009 Lindsay rated it it was ok
Recommended to Lindsay by: newsweek
This gritty, sometimes heart-wrenching memoir struck a chord. Waldman's vignettes illustrate an aspect of misogyny that is pervasive, specifically among women. Could it be that the self-deprecation so many mothers take part in cannot be contained and thus ends up spilling out onto other mothers? Maybe it's correlation and not causation. The root of it does seem to be that many women simply think that they know what is best for other women and their families (She shouldn't work full time. She ...more
Jun 26, 2010 Adriana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ayelet Waldman deserves every bit of the praise and ire she has received from critics and her audience. Many women will refrain from talking about such sensitive subjects like getting/or not getting along with her mother-in-law, abortion, dealing with other parents, or, dealing with the disappointing reality that your children are not perfect. But not Waldman. She dissects these thoughts and experiences in her life with a surgeon's eye and knife precision that freaks people out, because she is ...more
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Ayelet Waldman is the author of A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life, Love and Treasure, Red Hook Road and The New York Times bestseller Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities and Occasional Moments of Grace. Her novel Love and Other Impossible Pursuits was made into a film starring Natalie Portman. Her personal essays ...more
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“Even if i'm setting myself up for failure, I think it's worth trying to be a mother who delights in who her children are, in their knock-knock jokes and earnest questions. A mother who spends less time obseessing about what will happen, or what has happened, and more time reveling in what is. A mother who doesn't fret over failings and slights, who realizes her worries and anxieties are just thoughts, the continuous chattering and judgement of a too busy mind. A mother who doesn't worry so much about being bad or good but just recognizes that she's both, and neither. A mother who does her best, and for whom that is good enough, even if, in the end, her best turns out to be, simply, not bad. ” 110 likes
“Let's all commit ourselves to the basic civility of minding our own business. Failing that, let's go back to a time when we were nasty and judgmental, but only behind one another's backs.” 6 likes
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