Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace” as Want to Read:
Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  3,526 ratings  ·  770 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 2009)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Bad Mother, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Bad Mother

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.53  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,526 ratings  ·  770 reviews

Sort order
May 27, 2009 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 claim ...more
Aug 02, 2010 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 sp ...more
Sara Beresford
May 11, 2011 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 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 l ...more
Jul 26, 2010 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 ide ...more
Jun 25, 2009 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
I love Waldman's writing. Much of this I read previously, in Salon's Mothers Who Think column or elsewhere. As a mother I appreciate her point of view because she isn't an ideologue. As a reader, I think she's funny as hell. Also, it must be said that the book lists she published were both very broad and mighty fine.

Library copy
Jan 07, 2013 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
Jul 22, 2011 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 o ...more
I was going to give this three stars because some parts weren't my jam, and I wasn't loving this as much as A Really Good Day... but then the last page was worth an entire star: "The thing to remember, in our quest to do right by our children and by ourselves, is that while we struggle to conform to an ideal or to achieve a goal, our life is happening around us, without our noticing. If we are too busy or too anxious to pay attention, it will all be gone before we have time to appreciate it. The ...more
Sep 06, 2010 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" m ...more
May 01, 2009 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
Jul 22, 2009 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 28, 2010 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 d ...more
Claudia Putnam
Dec 17, 2013 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
Jun 29, 2010 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
Jan 02, 2010 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
Dec 15, 2009 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 an ...more
Jul 20, 2009 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 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 th ...more
Oct 03, 2010 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
Dalit Kaplan
Sep 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Thank you for sharing this wonderful book of essays with us. A year after reading this, I experienced severe complications in a pregnancy that ended in a stillbirth. One of the stories described a similar position and I held in my mind the insights drawn from that story during my own nightmare. I think my own experience would have been much worse had I not read the book. A really important read.
Jul 10, 2009 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.

Jan 20, 2010 rated it did not like it
I really disliked this collection of essays. There were 2 or 3 essays (out of 18) that were not totally self-indulgent, whiny, and mainly pointless. Get over yourself, Ayelet! That is 3 hours of my life I will never get back.
Apr 09, 2017 rated it liked it
The author was a hoot. Her style is very camp and American, but she still managed to have me laughing throughout the book. There were parts where she perfectly articulated the physical, tactile nature of your relationship with your baby, that warm, soft 'fairy floss' hair, buttery skin, the long, earnest kisses they give you... it made me preemptively grieve the baby period, which we'll be leaving behind shortly.
I appreciated her attempts at talking about how hard it is for women to find balanc
Mar 01, 2012 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 th ...more
Jul 12, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Feb 24, 2014 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 mother-in ...more
Feb 08, 2010 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 w ...more
Life is Novel
Feb 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read these essays slowly, between reading novels. I enjoyed the book; it is an unflinching look at motherhood and womanhood. One of the most important takeaways, for me, was how she laments the crushing judgment of a woman's mothering skills. That is so true - it is hard to measure up to society's demands on women AND your own expectations.

I admire the Waldman's courage in admitting some of these things in print. She is a smart, unapologetic writer.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • American Journeys
  • Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety
  • Winchell: Gossip, Power, and the Culture of Celebrity
  • The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined All Women
  • It's a Boy: Women Writers on Raising Sons
  • City: Rediscovering the Center
  • The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood to Fit Reality
  • Making Babies: Stumbling into Motherhood
  • Manhood for Amateurs
  • Whittaker Chambers: A Biography
  • Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween
  • Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang
  • Waiting for Birdy: A Year of Frantic Tedium, Neurotic Angst, and the Wild Magic of Growing a Family
  • Inconsolable: How I Threw My Mental Health Out With the Diapers
  • Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War
  • Mindful Discipline: A Loving Approach to Setting Limits and Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child
  • I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids: Reinventing Modern Motherhood
  • Waiting for Daisy: A Tale of Two Continents, Three Religions, Five Infertility Doctors, an Oscar, an Atomic Bomb, a Romantic Night, and One Woman's Quest to Become a Mother
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
“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. ” 122 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.” 7 likes
More quotes…