In Bad Mother, author Ayelet Waldman encourages women to aspire to be “not bad” mothers and resist the pressure to meet the extremely high standards of success that society has for women and motherhood. Waldman wants women to stop trying so hard and just be. She argues that mothers can and should be honest, flawed, and, yes, selfish sometimes — your ability to care for your children will not suffer.
Waldman’s book is a welcome change from the usual motherhood self-help nonsense that lines the shelves at Barnes & Noble. The book deal was struck after Waldman wrote a controversial piece for the New York Times‘s “Modern Love” column a few years ago. In “Truly, Madly, Guiltily,” she wrote about loving her husband, author Michael Chabon, more than their four children. Her confession came about after observing how many other mothers didn’t seem to have as active a sex life with their husbands, a fact she attributed to their focus on being moms rather than wives.
“Why am I the only one incapable of placing her children at the center of her passionate universe?” she asked. She goes on to describe how she could envision enduring a life in which all her children died, “God forbid,” but if something were to happen to her husband, she could “imagine no joy” without him.
Her column set off a firestorm of criticism from other mothers who were quick to label her a bad mother. I suspect Waldman knew all along her column would enrage others, inspire water cooler conversations, and get her a book deal. I’m not saying Waldman isn’t brutally honest in her admission that she loves her hubby more than their kids, but I think it was an unnecessary one.
Why does she have to declare who she loves more? Can love of that magnitude — the love you feel for your kids and the love you feel for your soul mate — really be compared? The question might as well be, “Who would you rescue from a burning building? Your baby or your husband?” God forbid, as Ayelet might say, you might have to make that choice in reality, but entertaining the notion that you need to consider what kind of love is “greater,” and thus, more important, is the kind of societal pressure that ensures women end up feeling like they failed at something. Bad wife or bad mother, which will you choose? [The Huffington Post]