May 20, 2009 / 7:34 AM / 10 years ago

Bad mother? So what, says U.S. writer Ayelet Waldman

CANBERRA (Reuters Life!) - For writer Ayelet Waldman, being branded a bad mother and maternal enemy No. 1 for admitting she loved her husband more than her children was a shock, but one that spelled opportunity.

Waldman said she was stunned by the hatred fired at her after an essay she wrote about loving novelist husband Michael Chabon more than her four young children was published in The New York Times in 2005.

But on the upside, the controversy was an irresistible invitation for publicity, with California-based Waldman this month releasing a book expanding on the “bad” motherhood theme while arguing that women should free themselves from striving for the impossibility of perfection.

“I couldn’t believe how many people hated me. All these mothers had transferred their passion and devotion to their children but I still had all the passion in the world for my husband which made me a bad mother,” Waldman told Reuters in a telephone interview.

“Now, the bad mother thing is fashionable. It’s chic to be a bad mother. I’ll take fabulous and huge advantage of this — until I write the next book,” she laughed.

In “Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities and Occasional Moments of Grace,” Waldman writes about her decision to abort a baby with a genetic abnormality, losing her virginity at 14, and suffering from bipolar disorder.

On the lighter side, she also covers topics like the hysteria of competitive parenting, which includes teaching toddlers to recite the planets in order from the sun, the trials of homework, and the relentless pursuits of the “Bad Mother” police.

It’s her first non-fiction book and a far cry from her seven-book series called “The Mommy-Track Mysteries” whose main character is part-time sleuth and full-time mother Judith Applebaum.

But Waldman, 44, who studied law at Harvard and was a federal public defender before quitting to care for her first child, felt it was time to branch out and take a stand against the current trend of perfecting parenting — and the guilt that goes with it.

“I felt I had a lot to say about the subject of motherhood and the different aspects of it. Maybe because I am bipolar there are things I am willing to talk about that other people are not,” she said.

“Sure, there has always been bad mothers but what is weird is our cultural obsession about them. Look at the treatment of Britney Spears. We are anxious about ourselves and we want to point at someone and say they are worse mothers than we are.

“What I am arguing is that mothers everywhere need to learn to forgive themselves and each other so we can get over it and get on with getting through our days with our children as best we can,” Waldman said.

Editing by Miral Fahmy

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