Are you a Bad Mother?
Ayelet Waldman shares her thoughts below.
1. Why did you write this book? Do you want the snarky answer or the real one? The real one… Because so many women I know are in real pain. They are so crippled by their guilt, by their unreasonable expectations, that they can't even allow themselves to celebrate the true joys of being a mom. When your little girl curls up in bed with you and says, "Your hair always smells so good, Mama," you should be able to melt with emotion without worrying about whether she's reading at grade level.
2. Do you think you're a Bad Mother? Well, yes. Of course. I mean, that's the whole problem. I feel like a bad mother, even when by all reasonable analysis I'm a perfectly fine mother. Hell, I went camping last month with the second grade. Camping. Me. A Jewish American Princess from New Jersey. Camping for me is staying in a Marriott, but I slept on the ground and ate toast burned over an open fire. And had fun.
3. What is your definition of a good mother? As one of my interview subjects said, "A Good Mother remembers to serve fruit at breakfast, is always cheerful and never yells, manages not to project her own neuroses and inadequacies onto her children, is an active and beloved community volunteer. She remembers to make playdates, her children's clothes fit, she does art projects with them and enjoys all their games. And she is never too tired for sex."
4. Okay, so what do you consider a responsible, attainable ideal of a modern mother? One who loves her kids and does her level best not to damage them in any permanent way. A good mother doesn't let herself be overcome by guilt when she screws up.
5.How did your upbringing shape you as a mother? My mother drilled into me the importance of being a feminist, a woman with her own identity. But perhaps more important, she and my dad modeled a relationship that was entirely unequal… and didn't work. I knew I wanted something different from what they had. So while I've made choices that made her feminist blood boil, I've also expected that my husband pull his share of the home and child labor. And that's made all the difference.
6. What advice would you give to mothers today? Most important, learn to forgive yourself and the other mothers you know. Try to lay off the judgment. Just do your best and consider the rest a small donation on your part to therapists the world over. If we never messed, up what would they charge our children for?
7. So what's the snarky answer to why you wrote Bad Mother? As a kind of f&%k you to the insane Urban-Baby type moms who, after my New York Times piece on loving my husband more than my kids, sent me letters saying my children should be taken away from me and/or my husband would leave me for another woman. And especially to the woman on Oprah who leapt across the stage shouting, "Let me at her!" when I walked on that set. Yes, that really happened.