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

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3.49 of 5 stars 3.49  ·  rating details  ·  2,581 ratings  ·  687 reviews
In our mothers’ day there were good mothers, indifferent 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. Is it any wonder so many women refer to...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published May 4th 2010 by Anchor (first published January 1st 2009)
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christa
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 claim...more
Sara Beresford
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...more
K
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 sp...more
Shelah
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 l...more
Noramk2
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" m...more
Lisa
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...more
Kate
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...more
Ellie
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 o...more
Amy
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 ide...more
Dollie
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 d...more
Leah
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...more
Jean
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 th...more
Julie
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 an...more
Jennifer
Overview

Subtitled "A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities and Occasional Moments of Grace," Bad Mother is a warts-and-all look at Waldman's experiences as a mother. (She has four children.) These types of books are like catnip to me. What mother doesn't want to learn that she is not alone in her misgivings about her mothering skills?

Waldman writes openly and honestly about a wide variety of topics, including:

* pursuing a career versus staying at home (Waldman gave up a high-powered car...more
Claudia Putnam
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 essay), so my own rating of this collection as a whole is a three. The...more
Stephanie
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...more
Kristen
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...more
Simi
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.

Lindsay
Aug 03, 2009 Lindsay rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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 rea...more
Sheri
I checked this out before I knew that Waldman was married to Chabon. When I figured out who she was, my expectations were elevated and so the fact that the book was only mediocre was slightly more disappointing than it otherwise would have been. I also found it to be rather repetitive. She makes some good points, but she continues to make them over and over again ad nauseum.

First, her argument about the inequalities in expectations of a good mother vs. a good father is valid, but is also one I r...more
Julia
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

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...more
Sarah
I have a bit in common with Waldman and agree with some of her views on parenting, and I also think she's a decent writer and some of her stories were touching and/or made me smile. That's why I'm so surprised that overall, this book really disappointed me. She never seemed to get around to fully fleshing out what I thought to be the whole premise of the book; I was expecting a more in-depth investigation into the "good mom vs. bad mom" dynamic on a larger scale. Waldman, too, appeared to have g...more
Elizabeth
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
Lisa
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, however...more
Audra
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 w...more
Elizabeth
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
Emily
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
Sarah Jamison
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...more
Melissa
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Florinda
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 th...more
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Ayelet Waldman is the author of 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 and profiles of such public figures as Hillary Clinton have been published in a wide variety of...more
More about Ayelet Waldman...
Red Hook Road Love and Other Impossible Pursuits Daughter's Keeper Nursery Crimes (A Mommy-Track Mystery, #1) The Big Nap (A Mommy-Track Mystery #2)

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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. ” 86 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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