05 August 2012

Bad Mother, by Ayelet Waldman

I'd been sort of intrigued by Ayelet Waldman ever since I heard about the whole kerfuffle over her saying that she loved her husband more than her kids. I thought it was a bold thing to say, and one I totally agreed with, and I was curious to read more of her stuff. I ended up buying this book along with her husband's essays on fatherhood (which I liked, but did not love, not that it really seems appropriate/fair to compare them). Maybe because I was not so blown away by Chabon's book, I didn't really expect to appreciate this one. To my surprise, I actually kind of was.

The opening salvo, about how most women feel like bad mothers, and take it out on other women by policing their mothering, struck me as true but not that compelling, but as the book went on, I got more and more into it. Waldman wrestles with a lot of things that I've spent a lot of time thinking about - and I generally agree with most of what she says about it, and appreciated her perspective in helping me think about it. It's actually somewhat unfortunate that the book is framed as being primarily about motherhood, because I think it's more broadly about being a woman and trying to figure out what feminism means to you, and how to live your life, balance work, love and family, etc. Sure, it's a little trite or sappy at moments, but at others - like the essay about learning that the child she was pregnant with was likely to have birth defects, and deciding what to do next - were incredibly moving and poignant. And brave. Waldman really bares her soul at a lot of moments moments in this book, but manages to find that sweet spot (that she explicitly describes searching for) where it comes across as intimate and open but not narcissistic or exhibitionist.

It's an excellent book. Definitely makes for a good gift for that woman in her late 20s/early 30s in your life. I'm actually quite glad I read it now, not having gone through pregnancy/motherhood myself - I kind of feel like I got more out of it now than I might later. 

No comments: