Kristen's Reviews > Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace

Bad Mother by Ayelet Waldman
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May 01, 2009

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bookshelves: first-reads
Read in May, 2009

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 on resonated in my heart. I was born long after the bra burning days that Waldman lived through and I am not Jewish, nor do I have a lucrative career as an attorney or author, and I don't live in an uber-liberal town filled with good schools. However she WAS able to tap into the side of me that feels like I'm failing as a mother figure to my boys.

Waldman talks about how women in the post-bra burning era have actually set themselves up to feel like failures. We want a career, we believe that we need to work, we also want to be excellent wives, and to be fantastic mothers of perfect children in our fabulously sparkling clean houses. We can't do it - well the vast majority of us can't, there just isn't the time or enough coffee in the world to get it all done, and so we pile the guilt on ourselves making us bitter and unable to appreciate the joys that we do have.

The book contains 18 essays on different aspects of the author's life. These are very honest and personal tales, many are funny, some are heartbreaking, some are thought provoking, but all are honest. This book is not a "how to" or even a vague guide. This book actually reads almost along the lines of a personal series of therapy sessions, as if the author is working through her own fears, faults and shortcomings. Since that is the case - if you share some of these fears this book can actually take a bit of the weight off of your shoulders in the knowledge that you aren't alone in it all.

She discusses the fears we have of losing ourselves in our motherhood - becoming "Tommy's Mom" or "John's Wife" rather then being known for our own contributions. The frustrations of giving up a career and the satisfaction that we would have gained from it. The boredom and maddening feelings that the transition from business woman to mommy can envoke, and the guilt we slather on ourselves for even thinking this way.

I loved the beginning of this book, and I probably would have rated it 4 stars if I had been able to get past my personal hangups of writing her off. I have a hard time feeling sorry for a woman debating on hiring a cleaning lady because of her "feminist" values, or complaining about snarky comments from other Berkley residents, or whining about her choice to give up her prestigious legal career to be a stay at home mom. Most moms don't have the option to hire a cleaning service, or live in Berkley, or even have the option of a legal career. Where I really started to shut off was at the ending of the book when her liberal leanings became the forfront of her writings. I'm registered as an independant and don't believe in either party - and I also don't like to be bashed over the head with party politics from either direction.

If you're not a liberal - you probably won't like this book. The last several essays become extremely liberally biased and some of the poking and prodding about the pros of a gay lifestyle and glory of interracial marriage became enough to make me gag (which is quite a feat considering that I don't have an issue with either.) I would also warn anyone who is extremely pro-life that this book does contain and essay about an abortion and her justification for her choice.

Still - even though I didn't agree with her in-your face political leanings at the end of the book - there were some very touching and eye opening moments that made this book worthy of the read.
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