To be perfectly honest, part of the reason I had an interest in this book was to see what the wife was like of author Michael Chabon. He’s a brilliant writer – an Artist Extraordinaire with language, a guy who pops words into a magic hat and pulls out entire new universes of spun sugar, capturing his readers into a sweet and glorious web of wonder.
As it turns out, he’s also just a husband and dad! And he drives a minivan! And his wife loves him very much, with a devotion for which she has taken a great deal of criticism. On March 27, 2005, The New York Times published an article by Waldman in which she wrote that she could imagine a future without her children, but not without her husband. He is her bashert, or soul mate.
The mothers of the world were (and remain) outraged, identifying her as a bad mother. Yet even aside from her strong feelings for him, the fact is that children grow up and leave, but a spouse is (or can be) forever.
Bad Mother is Waldman’s response to her critics. And it is also about “the perils and joys of trying to be a decent mother in a world intent on making you feel like a bad one.” It is a world in which other mothers judge you for not appearing enough for storytime at school, for putting your child in front of the television instead of reading him or her from The Great Books of Literature, for not taking enough photographs or taking too many, and especially, for having a career. Waldman reveals, “As happy as I am to crown myself Queen of the Maternal Damned, part of me still believes that my children would be better off with June Cleaver.”
Waldman’s chapter-essays are in-your-face and non-apologetic. She has eighteen for a variety of reasons she explains in the beginning, but I thought she could have left a few out (which would have, however, messed up her “eighteen” trope). I admit I might not want to live with her (she does, it seems, try very hard to be a perfect mom, in spite of her protestations), but I found her honesty and earnestness refreshing. And this would make a great selection for a book club. If Waldman’s assertions about love, parenting, and sex after children don’t get a great conversation going, nothing will!
Published by Doubleday, 2009