Books / Culture

The Good Mother Myth – An interview with Candace Walsh

Deborah Goldstein talked with Avital Norman, Joy Ladin and Candace Walsh about the anthology, “The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood to Fit Reality“, which seeks to deconstruct the myth of the “good mother.” You can purchase the book through Amazon.com.

The following interview with contributor, Candace Walsh, is the third in a three-part series. You can find the first part here and the second part here.


The Good Mother MythCandace and I talked about her essay, To be real. In it, she talks about coming out as a lesbian after marrying a man and having two children together.

Deborah: Your story was such a journey. There were so many different layers to it.  What would you hope readers would take away from your story?

Candace: Get a good therapist earlier! I thought I had a good therapist but she kind of nudged me into marrying my first spouse and when I said that he tends to just lecture me at every meal and we don’t really have a dialogue, she said “Well, I’m sure there are plenty of other women who would like to listen to him. So if you want to keep him, you’d better be interested.” I still love her. I just think she was a little old fashioned about that stuff. I had no idea that my ex-husband and I were both living in reaction – we were just choosing what we didn’t want. I didn’t think about what I actually wanted until I was 35. I was too busy choosing what I didn’t want to continue and when you’re doing that, it’s not sustainable.

Deborah: It seemed like you had a lack of role models for positive parenting – gay or straight – so I found it fascinating that you were able to create this great set up with your ex and your current partner. Where did that come from? How did you do that given that you really did not have any positive role models? Obviously, it wasn’t your therapist!

Candace: You mean our custody agreement?

Deborah: I mean in talking about your ex and how you’re set up and how you dealt with it. It seemed like you were on the same team and that you all wanted what was best.

Candace: Yeah the cool thing about my kids’ father was that from the moment we decided to get a divorce, he was absolutely “I want to be with the kids 50/50.” He is very devoted. The gender thing doesn’t really apply in that relationship. He’s just as devoted as I am and he really gets a kick out of the kids and he really misses them when they’re not with him so it’s not like I had to coach him. I didn’t say, “Hey do you want to have this 50/50 arrangement?” That happened organically and I think I chose to marry him because I could sense that he would be a great dad on some gut level. I think I loved him for that more than as a partner. I was so craving finding the good dad that I didn’t have that – to give that to my kids – so I think that’s just constantly been a reliable thing in our lives and so I think that my wife is very mature and grounded about not resenting him, not being threatened by him.

Deborah: When you talked about allowing yourself to be with a woman, you talk about reproach from your younger self. This is not what that younger self had in mind.

Candace: That younger self didn’t know very much!

Deborah: They never do. We shouldn’t listen to them. They’re young and stupid. How has your community – your chosen community and your wife – helped you to quiet those concerns or have they? Is that still something you’re sruggling with today?

Candace: I feel good about it. To make the change I made, I had to be really ready for a different life and I live in Santa Fe, a very liberal community. I feel grateful to be surrounded by people who are just like “That’s great that you have a wife” or just take it in stride. It’s not a thing. It just is. I know the unhappy mother I was when I was unhappily married. I was not as good of a mother then in terms of being depressed and checked out. I was there physically and I was doing my best, but I know that I’m more present and I know that I’m not like emanating waves of weird funky gloom and stuff.

Deborah: To me, that was the take away from your essay –  just how important it is to be happy in yourself in order to be a good parent.

Candace: I grew up in this homophobic, born again Christian household that was so judgmental and not in alignment with letting people be who they are. That’s another way they have a better childhood than I did. They are in households where people are accepting and living their truth.

Deborah: That’s a powerful message. Just out of curiosity, your mother or step-father haven’t read your essay, have they?

Candace: No.

Deborah: They never will?

Candace: Well, my mom divorced that guy and has a new husband who’s nice but they don’t really care for the fact that they have a memoirist in the family.

Deborah: That is a tricky one. Does that mean that your relationship is still fraught or are there just topics you don’t discuss?

Candace: I think we’re figuring it out as we go. We both want to be in connection and she probably had a completely different wish in mind when she thought about having a child. She probably wanted her to be a Christian, straight lady. She always wanted me to be a writer but I honestly think she’d be most happy if I was writing my Christian romance novels – the ultimate thing she could brag about.

Deborah: There’s still time!

Candace: The kind where the hottest scene is when someone touches somebody else’s hand…

Deborah: Depends on where you touch. The pulse points are very different.

Candace: Could be pretty sexy.

Deborah: When it comes to being a parent it’s not just about you and your happiness but allowing your children to find their happiness too.

Candace: Oh my gosh, they have to be allowed to be who they are and to not have this big overlay or template waiting for them. I just try to give my kids lots of space.

Deborah: So if your kids wanted to be Christian romance writers and write about hand sex, that would be ok, right?

Candace: As long as they’re not making other people wrong – that I would have an issue with. If they were the groovy Christians who were pro-marriage equality, then go for it!

Deborah: In your experience reading essays or listening to readings, was there a connection or increased empathy towards somebody else’s situation?

Candace: One stood out to me – African American woman married a white man. (T.F. Charlton) People were constantly thinking she was the nanny or thought “Are you married or not?” or “Is the father in the picture?” These assumptions people have – that just stuck with me and I’m trying to figure out why. She says she feels guilty for being married and financially stable and a model “whatever” and I think  I feel like I’m a lesbian mom who doesn’t fit the most common…you know, being married to a man first and being able to pass. I think there’s something there. I just felt like I wanted to give a lot of the moms a big hug. We tend to put a lot of crap on ourselves and it doesn’t serve anybody. Are the needs met? Is the mom happy? Great. Why put guilt on yourself?

Deborah: That’s such a great message – feeling positively towards other mothers even if they don’t have the same experience you do and feeling like everybody’s experience is valid and we’re all on a path.


Candace WalshCANDACE WALSH is the author of Licking the Spoon: a Memoir of Food, Family, and Identity (Seal Press, 2012). She is also the co-editor, with Laura André, of Dear John, I Love Jane: Women Write About Leaving Men for Women (Seal Press, 2010), a Lambda Literary Award finalist; and the editor of Ask Me About My Divorce: Women Open Up About Moving On (Seal Press, 2009). She is the managing editor of New Mexico Magazine and was the features editor at Mothering magazine. Her articles, essays, and poems have been published in various national publications, the Huffington Post, and in the anthologies Here Come the Brides, and The Dressing Room. She recently served as faculty at the Wild Mountain Memoir Retreat. She’s on Facebook, on Twitter @candacewalsh, and on Pinterest. Learn more at candacewalsh.com.

PHOTO CREDITS: THE GOOD MOTHER MYTH

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