I didn't really like it. But this post is less about lambasting the book than disagreeing with the concerns of the main character and the underlying premise that stay at home motherhood is boring and generally undesirable.
Writer Ayelet Waldman's protagonist, like herself, is a Harvard-educated lawyer married to a writer. The main character, Juliet, complains incessantly about her weight, which gets annoying because she doesn't weigh that much, since she's pregnant. She's mother to a typical two year old. I tried to like her, honest. But I just found her a pain in the butt.
I wasn't the only one. I was curious to see if I was overly critical, so I checked out Amazon.com customer reviews. There were twenty-four 5 or 4 star reviews and five 3 star reviews, so obviously some people liked it. I checked out the five 2 star reviews and three 1 star reviews. One 1 star review excerpt read:
And the paragraph in which Juliet explains how parenthood ruins one's life, relationship, looks, productivity, and intelligence was, to use a Waldman-like cliche, the last straw.A two star rater commented:
I'm guessing that Waldman expects to find a niche with female readers who share some of her protagonist's ambivalence about stay-at-home-motherhood.Even a four star review noted:
I found Juliet pretty whiny at times...Although a different four star rater clearly didn't mind:
What makes this book so delicious is Juliet's sense of humor and honesty. She freely admits that her daughter can be pretty darn annoying and that she is ambivalent, even resentful, about leaving her job as a Harvard-trained lawyer to stay at home with her pre-schooler and soon-to-be born son.My own view was pretty well summed up by another customer review:
Sorry, Juliet is someone who I couldn't identify with in the least. She seems like a whiner, and not up to motherhood. Big deal she's an attorney, how many times do we have to hear about it. Big deal her husband makes a ton in the movie business.... I like to read about characters who I would like to be friends with. Not some kind of upper class ninny who seems to have nothing better to do than complain she's a stay at home Mom.I'm not saying that every day is bliss around here. Or that there weren't times when my children were babies that I felt exhausted. But I always felt extraordinarily grateful that I was able to be at home with them when they were small. I still love sharing their days when they get home from school, and having the flexibility to volunteer in their classrooms. There are a zillion things I can do to be creative and use my mind for the betterment of the community. I try to do at least a few of them every once in a while. Being a SAHM hasn't consigned me to a life in the doldrums. It's enriched my life so much.
I still remember when my Amazing Boy Child was born. I felt so overwhelmed by love that I could hardly believe it. Although he towers over me now, it feels like yesterday that I took him home from the hospital and began the adventure of motherhood. Whenever I feel low, all I have to do is think of my kids and the world seems brighter.
The illustrations I've included here are three of Mary Cassatt's paintings. From top to bottom, they are Goodnight Hug, The Young Mother, and Woman Combing Her Child's Hair. I loved her work before I ever had children. The relationships she depicts between mothers and children resonate with me.
I'm a Stay At Home Mom, and I am very happy.
And I'm writing my own novel. The main character is a SAHM who feels fulfilled and has some interesting adventures. I'm excited about this! My only worry is that some readers will say nasty things about my book and protagonist.
Oh well, you can't please everyone...