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

  • Review
By – November 10, 2011
Just like many Amer­i­can career women, Ayelet Wald­man wears a wide vari­ety of hats in her dai­ly life. One minute, she’s the moth­er of four chil­dren, the next, a suc­cess­ful author observ­ing from the side­lines as one of her nov­els is trans­formed from the writ­ten page to the big screen. She’s also an out­spo­ken advo­cate for social issues of the day who isn’t shy about express­ing her opin­ion.

And, oh yes, she is the wife of award-win­ning nov­el­ist Michael Chabon. 

While Waldman’s first two books, Daughter’s Keep­er and Love and Oth­er Impos­si­ble Pur­suits fea­tured fic­tion­al char­ac­ters seek­ing to cope with com­plex life issues, her lat­est release is non-fic­tion with a con­tro­ver­sial top­ic. 

Bad Moth­er: A Chron­i­cle of Mater­nal Crimes, Minor Calami­ties and Occa­sion­al Moments of Grace implores its read­ers to con­front their def­i­n­i­tions of a bad moth­er.’ In eigh­teen chap­ters full of moth­ers’ sto­ries and Wald­man wit, the author delves into the ordi­nar­i­ly taboo sub­ject of Good vs. Bad Moth­er. Is a woman a bad moth­er if she also works out­side her home, there­by spend­ing time away from her fam­i­ly? Will a wife’s lack­lus­ter libido be reawak­ened by her husband’s gift of tiger-print­ed crotch­less panties? Cer­tain­ly, the gift’s impact will dif­fer from woman to woman, but Wald­man is emphat­ic when she writes the present will back­fire. How­ev­er, she advis­es hus­bands tru­ly inter­est­ed in rekin­dling eroti­cism in their mar­riage to unload the dish­wash­er or pick up a broom. There is noth­ing sex­i­er to a woman with chil­dren than a man hold­ing a Swif­fer,” she writes. 

In a tele­phone inter­view, Wald­man revealed that the idea for Bad Moth­er was hatched dur­ing a con­ver­sa­tion she was hav­ing with fel­low author Daniel Hatch­er, oth­er­wise known as Lemo­ny Snick­et. The pair were dis­cussing moth­er dra­mas,” she says, when Hatch­er retort­ed, Stop talk­ing and write a book.” 

On a relat­ed note, Wald­man found her­self in the crux of con­tro­ver­sy when she wrote in a New York Times essay that she believes she could with­stand the loss of a child more eas­i­ly than the death of her hus­band. 

She dif­fer­en­ti­ates the love for a spouse and an off­spring by defin­ing mar­i­tal love as con­tain­ing ele­ments of pas­sion and sex” while love for a child is mater­nal. When it’s not, then you have a prob­lem.” Wald­man is irri­tat­ed when moth­ers dis­play an all-con­sum­ing devo­tion to their chil­dren like they have for a hus­band.” That’s because, she says, the two rela­tion­ships are dis­tinct from one anoth­er so they should not con­tain the same com­po­nents. Everybody’s a Jew­ish moth­er, which is a huge prob­lem in our soci­ety,” she says, adding, There is a dis­tinc­tion between what we feel con­sti­tutes a good moth­er ver­sus a bad moth­er. A dad just has to show up and he’s already doing bet­ter than his dad,” says Wald­man. 

Her mes­sage? Moth­ers need to wor­ry less about being good/​bad moth­ers and focus on the moments. They escape too quick­ly,” she laments.
Tami Kamin-Mey­er is a licensed attor­ney who would rather write than fight. Her byline has appeared in a vari­ety of pub­li­ca­tions, includ­ing Bet­ter Homes and Gar­dens, The Rotar­i­an, Ohio Super Lawyers, Ohio Lawyers Week­ly, Ohio Mag­a­zine, Cleve­land Jew­ish News, the Jew­ish Tele­graph­ic Agency, and www​.chabad​.edu. She is also an award-win­ning Hebrew school educator.

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