Ayelet Waldman expects to be called a bad mother by now, said Carol Memmott in USA Today. With her latest book, the 44-year-old California novelist is consciously revisiting a stir she created four years ago, when she confessed in a New York Times essay that she loved her husband, novelist Michael Chabon, more than she loved their four children. Bad Mother covers a lot of ground: One essay in the book offers Waldman’s advice on teenage sexuality; in another, she describes the painful decision to abort her third pregnancy after discovering that the fetus carried a genetic defect. But the book’s recurring theme is that she and all other mothers today are measured against unreachable standards. “We’ve evolved the June Cleaver image into something even more toxic,” she says.
It’s hard to imagine that the contingent Waldman refers to as “the Bad Mother police” puts much of a damper on her enviable life, said Rebecca Steinitz in The Boston Globe. She’s right, though, that other women are always a woman’s toughest critics. We’d all be better off accepting that we can’t be perfect parents. Looking back on her infamously indiscreet profession of marital love, Waldman suffers no regrets. “My oldest daughter’s reaction to that essay was, ‘Duh.’ My kids are incredibly secure. More and more of their friends’ parents are divorcing, but my kids have absolute confidence that we’ll stay together forever.”