Book Review – Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace by Ayelet Waldman

Written by MOTHERS volunteer Kelly Coyle DiNorcia (

As mother to a 4- and 1-year-old, it’s been a long time since I’ve chosen to forego sleep in order to read. But Bad Mother was one of those books that had me up turning the pages when I should have been catching some Z’s. I wondered at one point if locking myself in the bathroom to read a few pages made me a Bad Mother.

If so, it was worth it.

It is not just that Waldman’s memoir about some of her dishonorable mothering moments is smart, funny and poignant that kept me going. Ayelet Waldman is, on some level, EveryMom. We can all relate to the feeling of having someone tsk-tsk disapprovingly at our parenting choices. We have all suffered the disappointment of having the reality of parenthood differ from the fantasy, or the fear that our children will inherit our flaws. We are all familiar with the self-doubt that is part and parcel of being a modern-day mother.

Some elements of Waldman’s story are less universal. She has a husband who is involved and supportive, an equal partner in caregiving and housekeeping. She left a fulfilling professional career to care full-time for her children and was able to re-invent herself as a WAHM. Many mothers do not have the support, flexibility, and financial security that Waldman has. In a book reading that was aired on C-SPAN, Waldman herself acknowledges that women have been sold a bill of goods. As women entered the workplace, she notes, the rules changed so that employees no longer worked 9-5 but were required to be at the office non-stop, effectively making “having it all” an impossible dream.

However, Waldman’s account of her life as a wife and mother surely is more common than unique. Reading this book is like talking to a girlfriend, one who is willing to be brutally honest about some of the most intimate details of her life and who is forgiving of all of your parenting foibles and failures.

We invite you to read Bad Mother this summer, and join our discussion of the book on the MOTHERS Book Bag on Good Reads. And if you have any mothering-related titles you think would interest our readers and members, please feel free to post them on our virtual book club!

About Valerie Young

Valerie Young is a public policy analyst who focuses on the economic status of mothers and other family caregivers. She promotes social justice by arming mothers with information and a healthy dose of outrage. She is the Advocacy Coordinator at the National Association of Mothers' Centers, and is a reporter for The Shriver Report and contributor to Brain/Child Magazine. Follow her blog, Your (Wo)Man in Washington, on Twitter @WomanInDC and on Facebook as Valerie Young and Your (Wo)Man in Washington.