babies and pregnancy · books and reading · chronic pain/fibromyalgia · depression · Jews/Jewish/Judaism/Orthodox Judaism

Good Mother, Bad Mother, Not Yet a Mother

While all of my closest friends are repopulating the Earth, I am hesitant. There are so many reasons to be. My husband’s still in school. We can’t support ourselves much less a child (how did my mother do it on welfare?). Also, ug, getting pregnant means forgoing possibly every medication that helps keep my fibromyalgia and depression in check. There’s a lot to do before we start setting up a crib…maybe, even just finding room for one. And please, guys, don’t inundate me with totally unrealistic advice to “Just do it.”

All of these reasons are, however, minuscule compared to a heavier issue. What kind of mother does the child of my mother become? What kind of mother does an adult survivor of child abuse become? Can you believe people have told me to my face that they worry I will beat my kids into depression? All this because I said I wouldn’t think twice before slapping a kid’s wrist over a tantrum. I didn’t even mention that growing up throwing a tantrum (yeah, right, like I would be alive if I’d ever had one) meant a beating (telephone cords, belts, sandals, pick your poison) and the possibility of early death.

This is probably why I’m interested in stories about families. Like Rebecca Walker, I’m kind of obsessed with them. When my friends all started getting pregnant, I started reading books about motherhood for purely selfish reasons. Rebecca Walker (whose father is Jewish and relationship with her famous author mom Alice Walker is tumultuous) got pregnant, wrote a book about it and then went out and edited a whole collection of stories about all different kinds of family, “One Big Happy Family: 18 Writers Talk About Polyamory, Open Adoption, Mixed Marriage, Househusbandry, Single Motherhood, and Other Realities of Truly Modern Love.” Some of us are obviously more ambitious than others.

Now, Jewish author Ayelet Waldman (wife of Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon) has gone and put a whole new spin on things by writing a book called, “Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace.” I think that if my sister can get me a Mother’s Day card (for kidnapping her, raising her and you know, saving her life), then I can buy myself a Mother’s Day present. (By the way, do you think this means she forgives me for all the time I was a bad mother?) Anyway, I know just what to get myself.

Check out Ayelet Waldman reading the first chapter of “Bad Mother.”

Now, I’ll bet you’ve got some great stories about being a bad mother!

10 thoughts on “Good Mother, Bad Mother, Not Yet a Mother

  1. Hey becoming a mother is terrifying. One of the scariest things about getting married I think. Funny enough, I don’t have any advice.

    I was always worried what kind of mother I would be after my childhood. (After my father left my mom 20 years into their marriage, she lost it and went temporarily insane, including marrying a drug addict convict and using me as her therapist… BH she’s a bit more stabilized now…)

    But I think the people who come from the worst situations have the most potential for becoming amazing parents and spouses because they may not have an example for the way things should be but they sure as hell know what they don’t want to be like.


  2. I’ll have to agree with le7.

    My dad had a really bad childhood, non-existent father, mother who was rarely around ( too busy producing about 7 half-siblings with different fathers than my dad), and his grandmother did his best, but he was frequently beaten. When he moved to Canada, he moved in with his dad who stole his passport, sold it, and then proceeded to beat him, starve him, etc. He was living on his own, in a country that wasn’t his, by the time he was 15. He worked his way through university, by working in factories and as a waiter.

    However, my dad is a great father, he’s very doting and loving towards me and my 2 siblings, he would give up pretty much anything to have us live a better life, and he has shown that over the 22 years that I’ve been alive. My dad tries hard to guide us, while letting us make our own decisions, etc. He’s always spent a lot of time with us (when he’s not working), never missed swim meets, etc. Through his hard work and willingness to sacrifice, we’ve all had a comfortable life.

    My siblings and I are not perfect children by any measure, but there’s no way I could say that I had anything but an excellent father- and he came from a pretty bad situation.

    Aliza, the fact that you’re aware of what a bad parent can do to a child will make you a better parent- you know what not to do, and you want to be a good parent, so you’ll try extra hard (harder than those who already believe they’ll make good parents). I’m not saying to ‘just jump in and have one now’, as you clearly have valid medical concerns, but I’m saying don’t let fear of being a bad parent stop you.


  3. Aliza. I have seven kids and i have a secret to tell you (and this isn’t information you are going to get from Ayelet whose book I don’t recommend) YOU ARE NOT ALONE. The Torah says that there are three partners in every child, man, woman and Hashem Himself. And if you want to have kids–you’d better get that and good. I can tell you, as a Mom who is vastly outnumbered by my brood (and two of them are diagnosed with ADHD which makes them count double or triple in childrearing anst or what our sages call tzaar gidul banim)That is very clear. It is mitzva #1 of the 613, Be fruitful and multiply. I can well understand your own hesitations and am not in any way trying to belittle your personal pain, but please keep this in mind. Best


  4. While to be fruitful and multiply is a mitzvah, no woman should ever put her physical or emotional needs second to do so.

    Aliza, you know what i think. Your body and the contents of your uterus are between you and G-d. the end.


  5. No one is suggesting that. The only thing people have said that if anything is holding you back from parenthood, it shouldn’t be a fear of a being a bad parent. That’s all


  6. You are going think I’m nuts but believe me, I was a bigger mess with two than I am with seven. I know that is contrary to reason, but that is the truth. Ask any mother of many and she’ll tell you the same. Its a HUGE mitzvah and you get lots of help. I really believe this, not that I’m telling you to go and get pregnant. That is your own personal choice, and everything about having babies, from the first obstetric visit, to worrying about whether the baby has a heartbeat to whether that sound of horses hoofs is normal is scary. (and then they get to be teenagers) but just as I give them life, they give life to me. Best


  7. Ah. I mean I’ve heard the same thing from other people. I know a shlucha to a Caribbean island and she now has THank G-d four kids. She claims as each kid came along the amount of time she needed to make Shabbos was practically cut in half.


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