This book was definitely not, to borrow from the title of that ubiquitous parenting tome, what I expected.
Ayelet Waldman, a former federal public defender, was penning successful "mommy-track" mystery novels when she thrust herself into the middle of the national, media-induced, mommy-tug-of-war. In the now infamous essay, published in the March 27, 2005, Modern Love column of The New York Times, she dared to confess that her children had not supplanted her husband as the center of her passionate universe. And, not only were she and her husband still "doing-it" on a regular basis she was enjoying it!
So, quite frankly, I was expecting a primer on how to become a "bad-ass" mother myself.
I didn't imagine the Ayelet presented by narrator Mia Barron in this collection of essays: a sensitive and loving woman, with a strong identity as both a "good Jewish girl" and a staunch feminist, struggling with society's dictates for mothers in a post-feminist world. By all accounts, Ms. Barron reads with a wonderfully accurate approximation of the author's pedigreed voice. Her tone and cadence is pleasant, with just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek needed to deliver the more ironic passages.
She recounts Ayelet's journey from working, breast milk-pumping lawyer (Chapter 4) to stay-at-home, baby-lusting mother of four (Chapter 16) and the blogosphere-full of disdain for both roles. Like mothers everywhere, she worries that there is something wrong with the baby; something wrong with the 1st grader; something wrong with the 13-year-old.
When she's not crying over an optimistic YouTube portrait of the world her children might someday inherit, she's busy dissecting the influence of her and her husband's disparate upbringings, as it bears on their children's future. And she can go from boring ("My Mother-in-Law, Myself", Chapter 7) to heartbreaking ("Rocketship", Chapter 11) in 60 seconds. As parenthood does, every day.
Ayelet does give up a few secrets, and they benefit both seasoned moms and "we're trying" gals. The secret to an intact, marital libido? Equally shared housework. The secret to a happy, healthy child? "Be the parent your child needs, rather than the one you want to be."
Now, I ask you, does that sound like the advice of a bad mother? Lisa Duggan
As every pregnant woman knows, motherhood is a nonstop pleasure cruise filled with warmth, personal fulfillment, and consistent joy - or at least that's what women are told before they give birth and the real truth of mothering asserts itself. As seasoned moms will attest, mothering is difficult, stressful, and the biggest challenge a woman will ever face.
With rare insight, Waldman addresses the overwhelming task of motherhood - and encourages women to realize they may be doing a much better job than they think.
©2009 Ayelet Waldman; (P)2009 Recorded Books, LLC
"Waldman writes in these well-fashioned essays how a mother's best intentions frequently go awry.... [her] frank revelations are chatty and sure to delight." (Publishers Weekly)
"While Waldman's biting humor is ever present, it is her concern for other conflicted mothers that stays with the reader. In all, an unexpectedly tender book in which Waldman candidly considers how difficult it is to be Mommy." (Booklist)
This work is more about the author's political viewpoints and less about motherhood. I should have googled her before purchasing and suffering through it.
There is just something about Ayelet that I really like. Her honesty is so refreshing and thought provoking. I am mad that I moved away from my fantastic book-group in PA. I would've loved to have heard what they would have said about this book.
I know I will look at mothers differently after reading this.
I almost deleted this book several times. The title and media reviews suggested irony and humor. The contents demonstrate, instead, that intelligence plus obsessive introspection don't necessarily add up to insight, that blaming oneself doesn't exclude blaming others, and that having it all doesn't necessarily lead to happiness. There is a compelling narrative about the moral and psychic conflicts surrounding an elective abortion, but no ambiguity at all about the author's joy in getting guilty felons acquitted when she was a San Francisco lawyer. Or any concern that her young children might not be truly capable of the "consent" she obtained to present her rather horrifyingly intimate fantasies about them. There's a reason that many informed choices have a statutory age of consent. A lawyer should know about these things.
I finally gave up in the face of a political diatribe so relentlessly bombastic that it was simply intolerable to listen to-- even though I actually agreed with all of the opinions! Somewhere out there is an Ayelet Waldman who is clever and sophisticated, with a comic touch. But she doesn't appear very much in this book.
As a working mother of two young children, I could relate to a lot of the material in this book. I would have enjoyed it SO much more if the author would have left the politics out of it. It really wasn't necessary and leaves me with no interest in any of Ms. Waldman's other works.
I don't know why I bought this. I thought it was a comedy. My youngest child being 23, I am well over the bad mother complex. I hope the readers have a little more self confidence in themselves.
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