Maternal ambivalence has long been a central theme of Ayelet Waldman's work – she thinks parenting is now ultra competitive
One day in spring 2005, Ayelet Waldman opened her inbox to discover 1,000 new messages. Must be a mistake, she thought. In fact, it was the start of a deluge that would include venomous online comment threads, angry notes left on her front gate, an appearance before a furious Oprah Winfrey Show audience, and calls for her children to be removed by social services. The root of all this was an essay she had written for an anthology on motherhood, which she expected to be little-read. But it was picked up by the New York Times and, one Sunday, millions of people learned over breakfast that she loved her husband "more than I love my children". She often engaged in a pastime she called "God Forbid" she added, in which she imagined what would happen if she lost a family member. "I imagine myself consumed, destroyed by the pain. And yet, in these imaginings, there is always a future beyond the child's death...