We Read Wednesday - Bad Mother's Day

Every now and again, one of my numerous parenting magazines throw me a useful bone. Not to say that they aren't generally useful, although repetitive, like renaming broccoli to get kids to eat them (Silly Trees, anyone?) or Tantrum Tamers For Frustrated Moms (Parents, September 2009 cover story). Yes, we know, toddlers need to be empowered, give them choices like "Do you want to go now or in five minutes?", set limits, etc. etc. etc.

I can't remember who it was that suggested that I read "Bad Mother" by Ayelet Waldman. But once I picked up the book at the library and read the cover with the quote, " 'The 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.' ", I couldn't put it down.

She wrote the book to help women crippled by the guilt of motherhood. And she should know...her 2005 New York Times piece generated a firestorm of ire when she declared, " 'But I'm not in love with any of them [her four children]. I am in love with my husband.' ", and could imagine a world without her children but not without her husband. She even went on Oprah, who defended her to an audience out for blood, crossed-examined her, and felt her children should be taken away.

This book is her response to the Bad Mother police force, as she calls them, who is always watching; condemning the mother who shrieks at her child in the grocery store, the mother who doesn't breast-feed, the mother with the kid on the backpack "leash", the mother who chooses her career over her children. It's about her own struggle as a working mom, a Harvard-trained lawyer, BTW, her husband a cheerful stay-at-home husband, a Pulitzer-prize winner author, BTW. And when she grew envious of his life and traded places, realized she hated being at home. " 'I, on the other hand, was supposed to be doing this Good Mother thing, this caretaking thing, this Gymboree and Music Together and baby-massage thing, but unlike Michael [her husband], I wasn't happy filling my traditional domestic role. It didn't feel like I had come into some deeper understanding of what it meant to be a woman and a mother. It just felt like I...was stuck in a hole I had dug for myself...And complicating all this was the fact that I loved these children so much.' "

It's her response to all of us who are riddled with guilt on a daily basis. Why am I sitting here blogging when I should be making Playdough with my kids/folding laundry/cooking a 4-course meal? Susy is 3 and doesn't know all of her colors/shapes/letters, I've doomed her to a life of crack and prostitution. I do want the $295 purse, but I have to shop for school clothes/we are going on vacation/I'm at home full time, what the hell do I need a $295 purse for?

Oh, sorry, that was me slipping in there. Saw the purse at the Las Vegas store (awe-inspiring in purple and yellow), and stroked it softly, murmuring "Some day, some day". It didn't help that my sister-in-law (married, working, no kids), had just purchased $80 jeans from True Religion, wait, 7 For Mankind, I think. One of those brands the celebrities wear that I always read about, that make your ass look like heaven, and they have 10 of. Nope, the most I've spent on jeans was $39.99 at the Gap, and you bet your ass I wore them until they literally fell off. They did, with a gaping hole in the knee, and 9:30 a.m. aerobics classes 3 days a week.

Damn it, why can't I have the purse? Why can't it be just for me, a selfish, guilty pleasure because I deserve it? After 10 years of marriage, kids, military deployments (3 6-month ones, thank you very much!), and stretch marks, can't I have something just for me? Nope, that makes me a Bad Mother; they could have gone to camp where they would have discovered some hidden talent that makes them the next Stephen Hawking or Michael Jordan. Look what you just doomed them to, a life of mediocrity because you didn't enroll them in Kindermusik at 3 months. Instead, you bought the purse.

So to all you Bad Mothers out there, this book is for you.

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