“Bad Mother,” by Ayelet Waldman

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Bad mother bookI just finished reading Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace, by Ayelet Waldman. The author, wife of novelist Michael Chabon, is herself the author of the Mother Track mysteries as well as Daughter’s Keeper and Love and Other Impossible Pursuits (which is being made into a movie starring Natalie Portman).

She and Chabon have four children, Sophie, Ezekiel (Zeke), Ida-Rose (Rosie) and Abraham (Abie), who are now between the ages of 14 and 5. This and her insightful way with words makes her eminently qualified to comment on motherhood. Her premise, that this society, other mothers and mothers themselves are too hard on mothers is only part of what the book is about. The rest is a highly personal and honest accounting of her life as a wife and mother.

In 2005, Waldman wrote a now infamous essay about how she loves her husband more than she does her kids. This alone, it appears, caused her to be branded a “Bad Mother.” Apparently, that has been on her mind ever since and she decided to set the record straight. The only thing is, she didn’t retract her original sentiments and in fact, added more fuel to the fire. I’m not going to give away her secrets and spoil the book and I want to go on record as saying that I don’t for a second think that any of it makes her a bad mother. It makes her human.

I came away from the book feeling a little better about my own mothering, not because I think I’m better at it than Waldman is, but because I could relate to so much of what she wrote. And if she’s honest and at all self-aware, I think any mother could. Even a busy mother can find time to read it–it’s only 208 pages, divided into 18 chapters. I wouldn’t recommend, however, that you give it as a gift; the title might put some mothers off. Because, after all, none of us wants to believe that we could be a gasp! BAD MOTHER.

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Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

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