Book Review: Bad Mother

Isn’t that cute? While I was reading a big chunk of Bad Mother, the kiddo was reading The Cat in the Hat. And since I’m always taking pictures of my books, he decided his book should be included as well. Obviously, I agreed.

I borrowed Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace by Ayelet Waldman from my friend Jamie. She explained to me that the author was the wife of Michael Chabon (who I totally had to wikipedia & then found out I totally know who he is and felt kind of embarrassed that I didn’t remember his name. Hello? Wonder Boys? One of my faves.), and she’d received a lot of flack for something she’d written where she had described that she loved her husband more than her children. And then the world exploded. So she wrote a book about how she is such a Bad Mother.

As a Bad Mother myself, I immediately identified with Waldman. For the past four years, I have berated myself for not adhering to some impossible standard of Good Mother. I didn’t breastfeed (pumped for 9 months but he couldn’t latch – see, I still feel bad about it & have to defend myself), we’ve never done Gymboree or Mommy & Me or Baby Yoga, I used disposable diapers (for convenience really – again with the defensiveness!), and I’ve never really developed the unending patience I thought came with the whole motherhood deal. In fact, I didn’t even like being a mother for a really long time. I’m pretty sure I had postpartum depression for the first two years of his life. Probably.

However, despite my obvious neglect for the poor child, my kiddo has grown to be one of the smartest and friendliest 4-year-olds ever. This must be true, because people tell me almost every day.

“There are times as a parent when you realize that your job is not to be parent you always imagined you’d be, the parent you always wished you had. Your job is to be the parent your child needs, given the particulars of his or her own life and nature.” (pg. 108)

I think this book was really quite fascinating. Waldman’s voice is strong, at times humorous or heartbreaking, but always completely honest. No matter the topic, the honesty is probably the most admirable thing about her writing. This is not a book telling you how to be a Good Mother, or to stop being a Bad Mother. Waldman doesn’t tell you how to raise your child. Instead, she tells how she raises her four children and encourages other mothers do whatever works best for them and their children.

“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.” (pg. 208)

So, even though I’m not the mother that I imagined I would be (in fact, I’m not even the person I imagined I would be…not even close), Waldman has given me the confidence to declare that I am a Good Mother. My perceived failures do not make me Bad Mother but, instead, make me a better person and a better parent because I have learned from any mistakes I have made. And, hopefully, maybe the kiddo will learn something from them as well.

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  1. Pingback: Books Read in 2011 | Unintentionally Brilliant

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