Ayelet Waldman’s Bad Mother
A book review! Don’t worry, the theme of this blog and its angsty writing hasn’t changed, but I do want to share an angsty book that I selected for my book club. Actually, this isn’t a book review at all.Side note on my book club/pat on the back: Nine years ago I co-founded Literati, an all-women’s (aren’t they all?) book club with co-workers. While only a few of us still work at the place we all met, we still get together once a month and the person who hosts picks the book. We’ve read everything under the sun.
Anyhoodle, I hosted Wednesday night and selected Ayelet Waldman’s Bad Mother. I read her latest book Red Hook Road earlier in the year and liked it. Then I heard her on a replay of Terry Gross’ Fresh Air, where she recounted her essay where she famously acknowledged that she loved her husband more than her four children. Gasp! Splat! Swoon! It’s more complicated than that, believe me, but she went on Oprah and was almost torn to shreds. I thought, “I gotta read this.”
I’m not going to share anything new about the book that hasn’t already been written about. But I can share some of the insight from my book group. Not all of us have children, but all of us are children and remember our mother’s so we had some interesting conversations. I found Ayelet on Twitter and asked her, “My book club is discussing BAD MOTHER tonight. I’ve been recommending it to so many people. Any ?s you recommend I ask?”
To my surprise, she responded with, “Ask the women the very worst thing they ever did as a mom. Answers will be hilarious, I promise.”
Side note: I love Twitter. I like it more than Facebook. I find out information faster than news organizations post it, have met people in Madison I now regularly hang out with, and actually have conversations with people I would never be able to, like Ayelet. Are we on a first-name basis, Ayelet? Hope so. Also, this is why I’d make a terrible book reviewer.
During our conversation we talked about the hardships most women place on themselves, and found similarities to raising children in Madison as in Berkeley. Most of us gave it a “B” overall, except for loving her brave and heart-breaking chapter, “Rocketship,” for which we applauded her honesty.
So what were some of the worst things some of the moms did? Both were accidents, but one mom vacuumed over her baby’s hand and another locked her three children out of the house in winter while she went to work. Two moms shared that at the time of their parenting they thought they were great moms, but in looking back, actually think they weren’t so great. Why the change, we asked? They were tired and yelled, they responded, and while had some support from their partners, it was in that 80s male way, as Ayelet describes, of “showing up.”
I shared this with Ayelet on Twitter, to which she replied, “Nobody ever screamed so loud in a parking lot that someone called the cops?”
We discussed imposed feelings of guilt, working and staying home and everything in between. But can I share a secret with you, fair readers? I don’t think I’m a bad mom. I’m not the best, but I don’t even know what that means. I think I’m a pretty good mom for Miss Red, and a lot of that is because of the support I receive – from CH, my town, my friends, my family, my job. I’m lucky. I know. And I might not be the best mom if we had a different type of kid, but that I don’t even know. The worse thing I’ve ever done to Miss Red? I guess forgetting to buckle her car seat straps when she was a baby and I was sleep deprived. But I figured it out a few blocks later and pulled over, crying and sweating and freaking out and thanking the sky above that nothing bad had happened. And being bad is relative, right?
So let me ask you, what’s the worst thing you ever did as a mom?