Although she had been a writer for a long time, Lori Gottlieb burst into the national consciousness when she wrote her best-selling memoir about anorexia, “Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self,” in which she discovers, at age 11, that women can’t be thin enough. However, they can be too picky, or so she wrote a few years later in “Marry Him!: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough” in the Atlantic — one of the most commented-on articles in the magazine’s history and the basis of her new book by the same name.
At age 38, Gottlieb became a choice mother because, as she notes in the Atlantic article, she “hadn’t met Mr. Right yet.” Although the regular commentator for NPR’s “All Things Considered” and the New York Times often writes about the challenges of being a single mother — “you don’t have time to shower, eat, urinate in a timely manner, or even leave the house except for work, where you spend every waking moment that your child is at day care” — she says it’s the best decision of her life.
Now 43, Gottlieb lives in Los Angeles with her 4-year-old son.
You say you hope women in their 20s and 30s pay attention what you’re saying about finding Mr. Partner, not Mr. Perfect, but it’s no different than parents trying to tell parents-to-be what to expect; we all think we’ll handle it better and that things will be different for us. And usually it isn’t. What did you think single mothering would be like, and in what ways is it different?
I had a lot of the same assumptions people who are married have, like “the baby will sleep and I will work.” I was disabused of that notion early on! My son had colic. I was really naive. Until you’re in the trenches, you have no idea. I thought I was going to have a blissful bond with my baby, and I did, and the sleep deprivations won’t matter. But it did, it affected my mood. There were times I’d cry for the gadzillionth time. I didn’t think you’d need to read parenting books, but parenting is not intuitive. You actually do need practical knowledge.
People used to tell you how brave you were for having a child by yourself. Many consider single moms “unsung heroes,” while others such as Ann Coulter consider them to be responsible for all the “criminals, strippers, rapists and murderers” in the world. Who’s right?
Depends on the mom. I don’t think single moms are exalted figures. We have our sanity moments and our selfless moments and our very human moments. People would say I’m brave, and then there were the ellipse moments, meaning, “I would never do that.”