Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Book Review: Bad Mother by Ayelet Waldman

There are several reasons I really like Ayelet Waldman.  One is that she is married to Michael Chabon, who wrote Wonder Boys, which was then made into one of my favorite movies.  But the real reason I love her is because she's not afraid to say things about motherhood that the mommy police are just waiting to crucify her for.  Bad Mother came from an essay Waldman wrote titled "Modern Love" in which she confessed to loving her husband more than her children.  I remember when the essay was first published and the cries of the mommy police that Waldman was, in fact, a Bad Mother.  I don't have kids yet, but I love that Waldman has the guts to stand up against the breast-feeding Nazis, the child-competing power parents, and the issues surrounding medication for depression while pregnant.  I don't agree with everything Waldman says or all of her ideas, but I did really enjoy reading this one.

Waldman writes in a very personal, confessional style that I think works well for her essays.  She's talking about her own life and so, necessarily, she can come across as self-indulgent.  While I wouldn't appreciate this in academic writing, I think it translates perfectly for essays written by a mother who is trying to do her best when her best often goes against public opinion - or at least the most loudly voiced public opinion.

Entertainment Value
I enjoyed all of the essays, even those expressing opinions I disagreed with.  The major essay that I struggled with was one in which Waldman discusses her decision to abort a child who, had he lived, may have been born with Down Syndrome.  I'm very strongly pro-life and have also known quite a few Down Syndrome adults and children, so this essay really stretched me.  I still disagree strongly, but I could sympathize with Waldman and I found her mixed feelings on the decision to be particularly moving. 

Overall I recommend this one if you can handle the idea that other people might not parent the way you do.  If you are the mommy police, this one is sure to get you all riled up.  If you are able to empathize with people who aren't perfect, though, I think you'll enjoy it, especially if you are a parent and/or you have ideas about parenting that go against the norm.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds great too. Since becoming a mother and one who suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety the constant judgment and feeling unworthy by others only added to the difficulties I faced entering motherhood.