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Meet a Self-Proclaimed Bad Mother

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Vivian Manning-Schaffel: Author Ayelet Waldman chats about her new book, Bad Mother, from her dressing room at Bergdorf's.

Bad Mother

Ayelet Waldman just writes her life, but some would have it she's a rabble-rouser. She was taken to task for her candid New York Times Modern Love piece about how her passion for her husband (writer Michael Chabon) could eclipse her maternal instinct, but it served well as the root for her latest memoir, Bad Mother. I had the pleasure of chatting her up during her recent jaunt to NYC:

Q: It's amazing that throughout your career, you've been taken to task for your honesty about your family life. Aren't you entitled to frankly discuss your experience? This kind of double standard must piss you off.

A: Writing is like a Rorschach blot. You bring to it whatever you have going on in your life. It's almost irrelevant what you say, because the takeaway is what's going on in the reader's heart. I just write the truth as I see it.

Q: In your book, you flip the sanctimommy tip around and point out how Good Mothers could be seen as the real Bad Mothers because they aren't being entirely honest with their kids or themselves. Could you elaborate for our readers?


A: Nobody wants to be a bad mother. You're good, you're bad, you're both, you're neither. There's no upside to making this the focus of your life. My mom certainly didn't make me the center of her universe. She had clear goals for me and there was this idea that I had to achieve because she didn't. But on the other side, my failures and successes didn't influence what she thought of herself. So often in our generation, our kid's successes or failures somehow invalidate or validate our sense of self.

Q: Why do you think that is?

A: Many of us have expectations of a changed world, when it hasn't changed all that much from our father's time. I'm lucky because I have a husband who really pulls his weight in the house. And the fact that he makes more than I do really isn't a part of the equation, which I know it is for a lot of women. That guy in the pro-choice T-shirt standing next to me at the Take Back the Night march, why is he just like his dad? We are supposed to be equal, aren't we? Then we end up in this ridiculous circle jerk of blaming each other and vilifying one another, when we should be asking how we can make things any better.


next: In Defense of Elizabeth Edwards
1 comments so far | Post a comment now
Ten Tees January 8, 2011, 5:01 PM

Great post. Good reading. There’s a single point to make about funny t-shirts.


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