Thursday, May 21, 2009

Not bad meaning 'bad'

Posted By on Thu, May 21, 2009 at 2:55 PM

In terms of parenting, bad can be relative.

click to enlarge As bad as she wants to be: Ayelet Waldman's Bad Mother
  • As bad as she wants to be: Ayelet Waldman's Bad Mother

In 2005, when Ayelet Waldman — lawyer/author/wife of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, probably the best book about comics that I'll never read, and The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, probably the best book about the mysteries of Pittsburgh that I'll never read ) — wrote in a now-infamous article for the New York Times on sex after marriage and childbirth, "I love my husband more than I love my children." It set off a firestorm (to be polite) of controversy. Condemned from the peaks of every internet mountaintop, from Salon to Gawker, it seemed that the divide between second- and third-wave feminism had finally been united by one common understanding: Ayelet Waldman was a "bad mother."

In her just-published collection of essays, fittingly titled Bad Mother, Waldman wisely and wittily addresses the "bad mom" issue head-on. Working her way through the uproar around her New York Times piece and her resulting appearance on Oprah, she writes

The Bad Mother police were swiftly on the scene. They speculated publicly, down in the toxic mud of the comments sections on blog pages, that I was crazy, evil, a menace, that my children should be taken away from me.

What Bad Mother ends up showing, though, is the exact opposite. Wisely wrapped in the guise of a self-defense piece is a discussion on what mothering means in today's society. With razor-sharp incite, Waldman cuts through decades of feminist theory, parenting magazines and societal conceptions by ever-so-subtly counterbalancing arguments with her own, oft-heartbreaking stories of child-rearing, sex, breast feeding, abortion, prenatal care, mother-in-laws and cereal.

Bad Mother's enraging at times, but also a funny, eye-opening account of what being a "good" or "bad" mother actually means, warts-and-all. It's the perfect antidote to typical greeting cards-and-chocolate Mother's Day schlock, so if you forgot to get mom something go grab this. While you're at the bookstore, also pick up Waldman's novel Love and Other Impossible Pursuits. It's fantastic — except for the end. Don't say I didn't warn you on that one.

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