Posts Filed Under cohabitating with a man.

To the Childless People Wondering Why We’re Such Losers

by Janelle Hanchett

Occasionally I come across a blog post saying something like this “So all my friends are having babies and I just really don’t understand why they’ve all lost themselves. I mean does having a baby mean the end of life? Of adulthood? Why do they put their kids first all the time? Why can’t they hang out with friends like they used to, drink some cocktails, GET A LIFE?”

I read a blog recently by some childless bag – wait, I didn’t mean that – I meant “blogger” who was simply appalled, aghast, offended, by the way her friends had just morphed into these pathetic adult imposters, consumed by their children, simply lifeless. I would link to it but I’m afraid you all would slaughter her with your wit and intelligence. That was not a sarcastic statement.

I’ll be honest, the first thing I wanted to do was rant like a psycho, but I’m not going to. Because I’m above that. Right?

Oh of course I’m not. I think I’ve proven that enough times.

However, in an entirely uncustomary gesture, I’m going to give people like her the benefit of the doubt and assume they aren’t simply pricks, but instead really just don’t get it.

Yeah, I know. Mother Theresa and whatnot.

So, as a sort of public service announcement to people who write things like the aforementioned, I’m going to provide some info on the topic, hoping to help them understand how their new-parent friends morphed into such despicably boring, haggard versions of their former selves.

First of all, childless people who can’t understand the degradation of your friends (NOT ALL CHILDLESS PEOPLE, OBVIOUSLY), I need to clear something up, right out of the gate: Most of the time you’re hanging out with us, WE’RE FUCKING FAKING IT. We only LOOK normal. We’re not normal. We’re losing our shit. But we don’t want you to see that because you haven’t ruined your life yet (didn’t mean that either) and probably won’t understand. You’re still living in a place where things like “dinner dates” are enjoyable, or at least have the potential to be enjoyable.

Allow me to illustrate:

You want us to “hang out with friends” more often, presumably without kids, right? Did I get that right? Okay, check this out.

We’re meeting you and your significant other for dinner. Dinner on a Friday evening at a restaurant 45-minutes away, at 7pm. That sounds, easy, RIGHT? Well yes it is.

For you.

Here’s, perhaps, your experience: Come home from work, screw around on the internet, have a glass of wine, a snack, hop in the shower, bathe yourself, get out, towel off, peruse the closet, get dressed. Have your partner get ready. Pour another class of wine, maybe chat with a friend on speakerphone while you put on make-up, do your hair, put on shoes, get in the car at 6pm so you don’t have to rush…order a cocktail when you get there. Have dinner with friends, go out for a drink after, dance a little to work off dinner. Come home around 1am, have sex, sleep til 9am or 10am. Wake up to some coffee, chat about how sad it is that your friends have all “lost themselves” after they have kids.

That, above, is pretty much the way every evening of mine looked before I had kids (and was going out with friends).

Do you know what this little soiree looks like for us?

Here you go.

Dinner date with another couple at 7pm on a Friday at a restaurant 45 minutes away for a couple with a toddler and a baby…

Begin worrying about it approximately 5 minutes after the date is made because:

Who the fuck is going to watch the kids?

  1. Grandparents? Best option, but they live 30 minutes away, which will make getting to the restaurant in time impossible because there’s Friday traffic. You could leave work early but not really because you already did it twice this month for baby doctor appointments. Plus, after dinner you’ll have to drive super far and Childless Friends are probably going to want drinks after…
  2. Hire a babysitter? Well, at $20.00/hour, from 6pm until at least 11pm, that’s $100, which will make this evening (not including gas) at least $200. Holy SHIT!
  3. One of us goes and the other stays home? No, then our Childless Friends will think we’ve lost ourselves and can’t “date” anymore, and all those stupid online forums say you simply MUST “date” your husband if you want the marriage to last. DAMNITALLTOHELL.

Guess we’ll go with babysitter. Hire the babysitter.

Spend the next two weeks going about your life, completely forgetting about the dinner date because life is insane and chaotic and never stops, until that afternoon when the reminder pops up on your iPhone and you almost wet your pants in fear (shoulda done those kegels!).

Race from work to daycare, call husband fifty times to remind him of the damn dinner date because you KNOW he’s forgotten. Plus, he was up all night with the baby who’s teething so he’ll definitely not be into this. Holy shit he’s teething! OMG I’m leaving my baby when he’s teething!

I can’t do it.

Call husband to announce teething and discuss how the hell you’re going to leave an insane infant with a non-family-member. Realize your husband has no opinion on the subject. DEMAND A DIVORCE IMMEDIATELY (in your head).

Figure out on your own what to do (as always, I mean seriously): baby Tylenol. Remember you used the last of it. Remember husband was supposed to buy some yesterday.

Ask husband. Hear “I forgot.”

KICK HIM IN THE BALLS. (in your head). Tell him to get Tylenol on the way home and you can’t live under these conditions anymore. Answer approximately 750 questions from your toddler girl as you drive home trying to figure out the maelstrom ahead of you. Pull in the driveway. Leave all the kids’ daycare stuff (bags bottles, nap mat sheet, 12 pounds of paperwork, art work, etc.) in the car because you can’t handle it.

Walk in the door, realize you left one of the dogs in the house so there’s piss on the kitchen floor. The toddler just walked in it. It’s 5:35. Freak out because it’s 5:35.

Try to plug toddler into television. Nurse pissed off infant. Make sure there’s pumped milk in the freezer. O thank god, two bags. Hear the husband come home. Want to punch him in the face.

Give baby to husband and get in the shower. Remember you haven’t shaved in three weeks and the only dress you have that fits your post-partum body is knee-length, which requires shaving but THERE’S NO TIME. Consider other clothes. None. Tights? Yeah right.

Shave. Wonder how to do your hair. Wonder how long it’s been. Wonder if you even have a blow-dryer.

Hear your baby screaming. Try to block it out.

Babysitter arrives. Get out of the shower while yelling instructions to the babysitter through the door. Wonder why the hell your husband isn’t getting ready. Yell at him too. Wonder if you have any clean underwear.

Put on Spanx, nursing pads and the dress. Look for shoes. Realize there’s only one shoe. Remember toddler playing in the closet this morning so you could take care of the baby. Holy fuck the toddler has REMOVED THE SHOE.

The only dress shoes I have!

Mayday! Mayday! I’m missing a shoe. It’s been deposited somewhere by a TODDLER, which means it’s in the ONLY PLACE IN THE WORLD you’d NEVER think it will be, possibly in the toilet.

Run around the house like a madwoman looking for the godforsaken shoe, find it in the dog crate, chewed by the other bastard canine.

Put on shoes that don’t go with the dress at all, realize Childless Friends will think you’ve lost all fashion sense. Realize you have.

See that it’s 6:10. Squeal.

Freak out at your husband. Notice he’s dressed, but wearing a shirt that needs about 20-minutes of ironing. Also observe he hasn’t showered even though he’s an ironworker. (Wait. Maybe that’s just me.)

Bolt out the door anyway, leaving behind a forlorn toddler and a baby who’s teething and OMG the dog piss on the floor and shit I forgot to tell the babysitter about the Tylenol and potty-training and not to put the breast milk in the microwave – wait, I told her that, right? – I mean she’s done it before. Look down and see baby vomit.

On the only dress you have that fits.

Wipe it off. Tell yourself breast milk puke doesn’t smell that bad.

Get in the car, start driving, spend the whole trip on the phone with the baby sitter, giving her details you forgot and trying to apply make-up.

Arrive at the restaurant at 7:10, smiling calmly with your hand in your husband’s, ready to “enjoy a relaxing, adult evening.” Act pulled-together, happy to be there, adult, social.

“How are you guys? How are the kids?”

“We’re great! It’s so great to see you! It’s just so great to be OUT, having a LIFE!”

Want to vomit as you realize your baby is at home, teething, without you.

Go through dinner…enjoying yourself, sort of, but also kind of faking it, because honesty will scare these people away and possibly result in the discontinuation of humanity. I mean who’s going to have kids when they realize The Truth?

Wait, was that my outside voice? Totally didn’t mean that.


So there, people sans kids wondering why we’re such losers, does this clear anything up?

Maybe you see two adults who’ve added this baby to their lives, like an accessory, like a pet, like this new cute thing you carry around when you want it and drop when you don’t.

That’s what you see.

We, however, are living something different.

We are having fundamentally different experiences of reality.

At every moment. In every interaction. We may look normal, we may look right there with ya, but you have NO IDEA HOW MUCH WORK it took to get ourselves to where we sit right now, in this restaurant, dressed, without kids…

So please, don’t hate, when after a bottle or two of wine you and your Childless Cohort suggest a cocktail at this great place down the road and we look at you with a smile, trying to muster the energy, remembering the babysitter money rolling down the bowl of the toilet, and the toddler snoozing in her big-girl bed, and the baby…who could be crying…wait, do I have a text from the babysitter? – and the exhaustion, of the new life, the priorities that have shifted.

Don’t hate, just see, that you aren’t the most important thing in our lives anymore, and frankly, neither is that damn cocktail.

Also, we’re really fucking tired. Like really, really really tired. Like a tired that rests on our bones, all the time.

And there’s no sleeping in for those “adult imposters.”

You know, those people with “no life,” raising life, providing life, trying to adjust to a new life, remembering their old life, with people like you in it, kind of wishing we could go back there, when things were simpler and easier and more glamorous, and there was leisure and after-dinner cocktails, and…

then again, maybe not.


Nope, no life. No life at all.

Nope, no life. No life at all.

Meg Ryan Ruins Marriages

by Janelle Hanchett


There’s that line from When Harry Met Sally: “You look like a normal person, but actually, you are the angel of death.”

We should rewrite that about Meg: “You look like the epitome of marital felicity, but actually, you are the destroyer of marriages.”

Oh come on. I know Meg Ryan doesn’t write the scripts for those romantic comedies. Duh. I realize there’s a good chance she thinks that stuff is inane drivel, but you have to admit, Ms. Ryan and her perky blonde curls, the unbelievably heartfelt love stories she tells, the “true love,” the best friendship, the soul mate stuff…she’s like the quintessential depiction of “all that a marriage should be.”

Or, as I like to call it “The Shit that Ruins Marriages.”

Let me explain: We watch movies like that from the time we’re young and it gives us ideas. Expectations. Beliefs.

And then we meet that special someone and we’re all “OMG I’ve found my soul mate, just like in the movies!”

And we’re just SURE he’s the one and the love story is coming true and OMG it’s all so good.

But then we get married, and one or two or three years later we’re like “Who is this douchebag and why is he in my house?”

And every day feels like work and work and MORE WORK. You hate your husband and he pretty much hates you.

There’s no romance. There’s only confusion and miscommunication and yelling and silence. There are tears and reflection of the “old days” when you were new to the relationship and actually liked each other. And you’re sure you’ve made a tragic mistake. Something’s happened to your marriage; the love has died. The friendship has flickered. Something is terribly wrong.

And all you can do when nobody’s around is think: But it’s not supposed to be like this! Marriage is supposed to be fulfilling! It’s supposed to be fun and interesting and enlightening! We’re supposed to laugh and flirt and have sex on the kitchen floor. Witty banter, coy smiles, dancing!

No, that’s not it. And since nobody else seems to be saying it, I guess I’ll take the plunge and just throw this out: “Marriage is the hardest fucking work in the world and the only thing that makes it last is bulldog-like tenacity and full acceptance of the fact that your partner is not supposed to give your life meaning.”

I can’t believe I just said that out loud.

But it’s true.

I’m no authority on marriage. OBVIOUSLY.

But sometimes, my friends get married. Then, about a year later, I get a phone call or fifty, generally announcing something along the lines of “I made a mistake. I hate being married. Screw this shit.”

And I’m like, “Yes, well. Welcome to the club.”

Them: “This is nothing like what I expected.”

Me: “Yeah. I know.”

Them: “I’m not fulfilled. This is totally not fulfilling. In fact, I hate the motherfucker.”

Me: “Yeah. I know.”

Them: “How did you and Mac make it so long?”

Me: “We didn’t divorce.”

And then there’s a weird silence while they try to think of a friend to call who’s actually helpful.

Having gotten married too young on a cold December day with a baby in a sling across my body, under a tree in front of a courthouse of a hideous town, dressed in all black, I started my marriage in a highly unromantic way.

We were insanely in love when we first met. You can read about it here. But after that, for a variety of reasons (mostly involving immaturity and Captain Morgan), we spent years and years doing everything in our power to obliterate our little love story. We often loathed one another.

Like seriously hated each other. We separated a couple times, but always came back together. I just never left for good. Why?

You want the truth?

Because I couldn’t stomach the thought of another woman being around my children.

Yeah, I know. It’s profound. Super romantic. Real Sleepless in Seattle shit.

But it’s the truth. I’m telling you this so you understand that THAT is how little “love” I felt. I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t feel it. All I knew is that I didn’t want a broken family. So I held on and held on and so did he and I’ll be damned if eleven years later, we’re still here, and we’re doing alright.

Most of the time. The rest of the time it’s yelling and screaming and wishing I could whack him with blunt objects. But that’s rare these days. Much to my astonishment, it’s pretty rare. And I’ll even say, we’re happy.

But nobody talks about the price you have to pay to get that “happy.” The longed-for “happy marriage.” Nobody talks about the screaming and the agony and the silent nights – after night, after night, of the same. The cruel insults and utter dismissal. The depression. The counseling. The soul-crushing inability to connect with a person you used to feel inextricably connected to.

The moment you realize “Whatever. Fuck it. I guess this is as good as it gets.”

And you surrender.

Because there’s nowhere  else to go and the thought of starting over with a NEW MAN is about as appealing as stabbing yourself in the eye with a razor blade, so you just give up. You “resign” yourself, even though you swore you’d never do such a thing…I mean how SAD! How pathetic!

You’ve sold out. It’s over. You’ve never been so down.

And in that moment of total desperation, in the deepest sorrow you’ve ever felt, the insane thought enters your mind… “Maybe marriage isn’t supposed to ‘fulfill’ me.”

Maybe I’m meant to live my life fully and completely and let him live his, and independently we build this thing together, but separately, and I let him be and he lets me be, because the “change each other” plan isn’t working, and I can’t live with him and I can’t live without him.

Maybe those movies were wrong, you think to yourself. Maybe Meg fucking Ryan lied.

Maybe I had it all wrong.

And with your heart in your gut and the surety your life is over, you stop fighting and accept the douchebag for who he is, and you make peace with the fact that he’ll never fully meet your expectations, he’ll never be your perfect “soul mate,” the one who makes your life whole and full and meaningful like the italicized poetry in those Hallmark cards.

[Alright maybe some people have Hallmark marriages from day one. Yeah, well, some people also experience “orgasms” during childbirth. The only thing to do with those people is assume they’re fucking lying and move on.]

For the rest of us, staying married often feels like stepping into an abyss and falling, forever, into the unknown.

Until two or three or four years go by, and one day you’re sitting on the couch with that same man and you break into laughter about something only you two understand, or you tell a friend about 10 years ago, when you first met, or you see him sleeping with your son curled against his chest, and in a flash you realize you’re desperately, terribly in love. That something has happened when you weren’t looking, that some new man stands before you and you hold him in respect with all your heart and there’s admiration and true, lasting friendship. He’s there, still, through history and hell and somehow, a life built itself while you were busy arguing, tearing each other apart, sure this couldn’t possibly be life.

And like war survivors you think back and know you’ve got each other only, a dark crazy history, and a family so gorgeous it makes your head spin.

My god, you think, I’ve got a goddamned love story.

And with everything you’ve got you want to thank your younger self and the universe for not giving up, for staying there, for this, even though you never knew it possible, to have this, with the man you were sure you “didn’t love anymore.”

You sit back, watching your friends get married, still a little amazed they look at you and him as a picture of a “happy marriage.” But mostly you can’t believe you really are happy, usually, and in love, mostly, and okay with all of it, the way it’s turned out, in the big picture, the only picture that really matters.

A Meg Ryan love story.

Fused perfectly with Apocalypse Now.

In the greatest love story ever told.

Or this, which is good enough for me.







Honest Valentines, for Married People

by Janelle Hanchett

[Those of you who’ve been here for awhile know that I wrote this post last year. But since I had about 9 readers back then (you know who you are), and I added some new Valentines for each stage, I feel it’s appropriate to publish it again, in an updated version.]


The other day, while scowling at the absurdity of one of those feel-good chocolate hearts and roses Valentine’s ads, I placed my pointer finger against my face in the classic thinking posture and asked myself… “Hmmmm…what would an honest Valentine’s Day card say?”

And then, as this thought rolled around in my [acutely insane] brain, I realized that this is no simple question, but rather depends entirely on how long the couple has been together.

Because as you probably know…that shit CHANGES. (Relationships, that is. Men, not so much.)

So this small, profound monologue got me thinking about the fact that there are (in my opinion) three stages in a relationship/marriage, each of them obviously necessitating a different Valentine, were it to be honest and real and able to speak the truth of the insanity. Err, I mean “budding love story.”

Wow. Deep.

Anyhoo, I give you this. I ask that you please enjoy the clip art.

Stage 1

Years 0-2: The “I haven’t Been With You Long Enough to Realize How Much You Annoy Me” stage, comprised of long walks and hand-holding, starry-eyed dinners, cocktails, discussions, movie-watching, reasonable arguments, cuddling and pet names. Also, smug looks directed at women who are in Stages 2 and 3 with their men, and a distinct feeling of superiority, having obviously been deemed the first woman in history to not wonder if she could turn herself into a lesbian to avoid further intimacy with the male population. Also, women in this stage rest easy in the comfort and surety that they will never, ever want to pummel their little love kitten with a meat cleaver. Because he’s PERFECT. Duh.

A Stage 1 Valentine looks something like one of these:

And now…

Stage 2, Years 2-5: The “Holy Shit I had no Idea You Had These Sorts of Habits” Stage, also known as the “I Must Mold You Into Something More Like What I Had In Mind” Stage, characterized by a lot of discussions with girlfriends regarding the man’s deficiencies, as well as a decent amount of wonderment and awe as the female discovers The Male is not at all perfect (and may actually have some sort of disability, as evidenced by the fact that he can’t find stuff that’s 3 inches from his forehead and insists on passing gas in bed). This stage also involves the surfacing of all other incomprehensible tendencies, causing the female to realize she’s going have to fix this character if they’re ever going to make it. And therefore, she begins to WORK, which of course results in long, long, long discussions, unreasonable bickering, maybe therapy but for sure tears, cajoling, threatening, flailing and general malaise, and, most likely, the arrival of an infant or two.

Honest Valentines at this stage may look like this:

And then, if the couple in question makes it past Stage 2, they enter Stage 3 (years 6 – ?), commonly known as the “Well Obviously You are not Going to Change and I’m Tired of Fighting so I’ve Accepted you and your Weirdness” Stage. (Yes, these stages have awkwardly long titles. Not particularly catchy, I know. Don’t blame me. I didn’t make it up.) Oh wait.

As you can see, this is something of a deal-breaker stage – since it’s pretty much Stage 3 or Stage Bye-Bye. Stage 3 is characterized by a lot of glaring but less complaining, fewer divorce threats and a surface-level acceptance of small, irritating habits (such as buying odd gadgets that will never ever be used EVER, or eating onions before bed). It also involves some strange compromises (“Honey, if you pick up your bath towel from the floor every day, I’ll start squeezing the toothpaste from the bottom.”) and subtle retaliation (as opposed to the long, long, long discussions in stage 2 (or therapy)). On the plus side, this Stage results in a weird peace and vague sense of serenity and, occasionally, some intense relief  regarding the fact that you didn’t throw in the towel when things got rough (and therefore, thank god, you don’t have to deal with these hoodlum children alone). Women in this stage feel a little like badass survivors of some great calamity, like a tsunami, or fire. “We almost didn’t make it, kids. We really had to work HARD to make this marriage work. Ah, but look at us now…”

And we feel a little victorious. And yeah, alright, I’ll say it: A little in love.

Enough of the sappy crap.

Real valentines in this stage may look something like this:

Sometimes people ask where I come up with this crap.

In response, I give you one word: LIFE.

 As proof, I give you this…

My own real life Stage 3 Valentine.



I became a mother, and died to live.

by Janelle Hanchett

So I was hanging out the other day with a friend who has a newborn. A freaking gorgeous newborn boy, to be exact.

He is her first baby. She has recently become a mother.

You know, when we hear those words we hear them like it’s no big deal – “become a mother,” like you might “become a doctor” or “become a pet owner.” As if it’s just this thing that happens, without anything else happening – it’s just this exciting addition to one’s life. You add this new thing and go about your business.

Like a new-home owner, or a resident of a new town.

“A mother.”

But this particular transition comes with a cost. A BIG ONE, yet nobody really talks about it.

And if you do talk about it, you have “postpartum depression.”

I have an idea: let’s talk about it, right here and right now, and call it nothing other than a human, adult reaction to a giant shift in identity, a presence of mind recognizing the end of an entire chapter of life, a heart mourning the woman that once was, and a soul shaking under the weight of a new giant world.

I’ve talked about it a little before, and in my case I actually DID have postpartum depression, and obviously I’m not trying to say that having these feelings does not indicate PPD (um DUH). What I’m saying is that it seems to me that every woman who becomes a mother, no matter how much she loves her kid or wants to be a mom, will most likely, at some point, mourn the loss of her previous identity.

And it will hurt.

You’re sitting in the house a few weeks after your perfect baby is born. Everybody has gone home. The help is gone. Your husband (or wife) is back at work.

Your belly is still sagging. Your boobs are exploding. You’re bleeding still, maybe, but you’re definitely leaking milk. There are big pools of it on your bed and couch and everywhere. You don’t really sleep, but rather fade in and out of a half-sleep, alongside your baby, checking him every hour, acutely aware of his breath, as if it were a freight train roaring through the room: do I hear it? Yes, I hear it.


His temperature, his blanket. He stirs and you’re there, boom. Awake. You are infinitely connected. You seem to be melting into this tiny body. He wakes and you stare into his eyes, struck and dumbfounded at his beauty. You coo at him and notice the way he moves his mouth, as if he wants to speak. What will he say?

Someday he will speak. And you know you know him better than everybody else, and always will, and you know when he’s sleeping you’re there when nobody else is there, and you’re watching him breathe so you can breathe and watching him sleep to drift into your own.

And you’re falling into a love you’ve never known. It’s like quicksand; the more you struggle the deeper you fall. Only you’re not struggling, because it’s a gorgeous catastrophe, and there’s nowhere else to go.

But you watch people leave, too. You watch your husband go to work. You see friends come and go, bright and capable with energy and direction, as if the world is still going on outside, out there.

And you’re isolated and stuck.

As you watch them there are moments, moments when you remember when you used to run around and visit people and live your life and work and be alone. You remember when your body was just your own and you were thinner and felt contained and like the owner of your boobs and vagina and life. You remember having a couple shots of tequila or maybe a cigarette with some friends, and you did it like it was nothing, never knowing it was somebody who was going to stand like an old friend some day, a thousand miles away.

You were twenty, twenty-three, thirty, thirty-five. You were free and young and somebody else.

We were free and young and somebody else.

But now, we’re mothers.

At some point the reality will hit us: We are never alone again, no matter where we are, and we are the only ones in the world who have become this person toward this child.

Yeah, that’s right. I said it. NOT EVEN THE DAD.

It’s hard to put into words, but something becomes very apparent when a baby enters a relationship: there is something different between my relationship with this baby, and everybody else in the world.

I am the only one who is The Mother to this child twenty-four hours a day, and will be for the rest of my life.

I’m not trying to speak for everybody. Obviously. I’m speaking for myself, and for my friends, who I’ve seen living the same beautiful catastrophe.

My husband always goes back to work relatively soon after the baby is born. So his life, though obviously irrevocably changed, goes on in more or less the same way it was before. My husband’s sleep patterns haven’t changed. My husband’s body isn’t suddenly owned by a 9-pound nursing machine. My husband’s vagina isn’t, well, let’s change the subject. My husband doesn’t have stretch marks. My husband didn’t give birth.

My husband doesn’t spend hours eye-locked with the newborn, cooing and talking with infinite fascination with a ball of chub. My husband doesn’t pick at the baby’s head and eyes and ears like an attentive monkey.

My husband didn’t become a mother, but I did.

And there are moments when I know it. There are moments when I look at that baby and myself and feel my body that isn’t my body and wonder if maybe I didn’t make the biggest mistake of my life, because what have I given up? What have I done? Was I ready?

Why didn’t I appreciate my life more, when it was mine? What if I want to leave one day?

I’ll never be able to leave one day, ever.

I’ve been the same woman my whole life. What about her? Where is she? Is she just dead?

Yes, she is just dead.


Does that seem harsh? Well, it is. So is motherhood.

Perhaps we can soften this whole thing by saying our identities are “transformed,” or we are “forever changed,” but the fact of the matter is that the woman you once were is gone, and she will never come back.


You can pretend she’s not dead. You can even leave your family and act like a kid again and not a mother. But you will not be free, and you will die under the weight of your lies, because you know you’re something else, and there’s a little girl out there who misses her mama, and has replaced her with a box full of notes and cards and memories and yearning.

I’m speaking from experience.

I will never live a single day as an individual. Always, somewhere, my heart will be beating for that child. Always, somewhere, though I may not even know it, my mind has wrapped itself around her, wondering how she is, seeing a shirt or dog or book, “She would love that.” I miss her.

One thousand miles away, but tied.

And so she’s gone, that woman. Old friend who partied with you and spent hours absorbed in herself, her work. She’s gone, that girl that lived for herself, and maybe you for a moment, but always, in the end, for herself.

And yet, I’m still here. This is still me. I am untouched, unscathed. So maybe I have not died?

If I died, how am I here, nursing and changing and mothering this baby? Who’s doing this work now?

And who is she?

I don’t know her yet, but I will. I’ll know the woman who wraps her baby against her chest and storms the world. I’ll know the woman who goes back to work with one foot and her heart at home, always. I’ll meet the woman who races to preschool to get there on time and holds little hands and chases kids in restaurants.

I’ll meet the woman who disciplines. I’ll meet the woman who yells. I’ll meet the woman who works to be better, who holds a child as it grows and grows and grows and I’ll meet the woman who does it a couple more times, until she’s the one sitting by a friend and a newborn, telling her it’s alright, talking about death, and rebirth.


Thinking my god, I guess I’ve known her all along.



We’re all facing the “most sacred job in the world” armed with nothin but ourselves. 

I insist there’s beauty right there. And a shitload of humor. A SHITLOAD OF FUCKING HUMOR. Because it’s funny, goddamnit, the whole thing.

And I wrote that too.
That part was really, really fun. Alongside even the most intense parts of that book, I was laughing my ass off (IN MOMENTS, okay, I’m not a monster). I may be a monster.

Somebody messaged me today saying her favorite passage in the book was the dinosaur porn one. Here it is:

“Let’s not talk about how we all became better versions of ourselves the day we became parents, and, please, would you stop pretending you did? Because your holier-than-thou shit makes me worry you watch dinosaur porn after the kids go to bed. Your steadfast focus on seasonal cupcakes and organic kombucha concerns me. Look, I’ve got some too. I know all about gut flora. But please. Is that all there is?”


Verbal Abuse: The Cornerstone of a Healthy Relationship

by Janelle Hanchett

In keeping with the general trajectory of my life, wherein I do everything in precisely the wrong way, my husband and I have, since the beginning, made practically every mistake available to humans.

We met too young: he was 19; I was 21. I got pregnant about 47 seconds later (okay fine it was 3 months, but it felt like seconds).

And, just like any Meg Ryan movie, we got married in front of a courthouse on a cold December day, wearing all black, and our baby in a sling.

After reproducing and marrying, we decided to get to know each other, and realized to our great dismay that we only vaguely enjoyed one another’s company. We broke up like 9 times a week, often wishing homicide didn’t carry quite such a heavy sentence.

We drank too much whiskey in too many dive bars while attempting the dubious task of living a “grown up” life with no money, maturity or discernible future.

The recipe for success, as you can see.

And yet somehow, we’re still here.

Despite some really solid efforts to eradicate our relationship (burn it down, in fact, TO THE GROUND), we are still, 12 years later, a unit.

And I’ll be damned if we aren’t the happiest unit you ever did see.

By some miracle (of what must be a really twisted love god), we have a damn good marriage. I mean it. We’re like happy. We flirt, laugh, hang out, send gushy texts, don’t have affairs.

Friends have told me it’s “refreshing” to see a marriage actually working. [Um, yeah, it’s “refreshing” to BE in a marriage that’s actually working.] Occasionally they ask us how we do it. “How does your marriage work so well?”

And since it’s generally people who are just starting out in a serious relationship or recently married, I feel a little awkward explaining that ‘what we did’ was everything wrong and ‘what we’re currently doing’ is apparently, everything wrong.

You see they always say the most important feature of a lasting marriage is “good communication.” They say it’s the cornerstone of a healthy relationship. As if patience and understanding, “I” statements instead of “you” statements, no sweeping generalizations, no attacks or criticisms or name-calling form the HOLY GRAIL of marital bliss.

All of this came to mind the other day when I was tutoring a student in the writing center who’s taking a communications class, and I read the following in her textbook:

“Marriage counselors have long emphasized the importance of communication for healthy, enduring relationships. A primary distinction between relationships that endure and those that collapse is the presence of effective communication. Couples who learn how to discuss their thoughts and feelings, adapt to each other, and manage conflict constructively tend to sustain intimacy over time.”

And then it gave the results of a poll in America, in which they found “a lack of effective communication to be the primary cause for divorce.”

If this is true, what the hell are Mac and I still doing together? And why are we so happy?

Our “conflict-resolution” goes something like this:

Me, in a horrid, critical tone: “Why do you [insert behavior that’s only annoying me because I’m overtired]? I mean how does that make sense to you? I don’t fucking get it. You make me insane. I can’t take this shit anymore.”

Him: “Whatever, Janelle. Go to bed.”

Me: “No, this isn’t because I’m tired. This is because you’ve got something wrong with you and I’m sick of it.”

Him:  “Then LEAVE.”

Me: “I would if we didn’t have these kids. Where the hell am I going to go now?”

Him, looking like he’s about the break my face: “I don’t know. Go anywhere. I can’t fucking stand being around you.”

Me: “I can’t stand you either! You have NO IDEA HOW MUCH IT SUCKS TO BE MARRIED TO YOU.”

Him: “I want to hit you in the face.”

Me: “Go ahead. Fuck you.”

And then he walks away and I chase him down because I don’t want to miss the opportunity to converse in this constructive manner.

Him: “Get away from me. I mean it.”

Me: “I can’t believe I have to deal with this shit for rest of my life.”

And with death glares, clinched fists and dark thoughts, we stomp off in different directions and slam a door or whatever. We go about our business, really fucking pissed, thinking we should probably divorce. About 8 to 12 minutes later one of us (usually whoever instigated the whole thing (WHAT? Why are you all looking at ME?) comes back around and says something totally unrelated, such as “How was Rocket’s parent-teacher conference?” or “Did you pay the Expedition payment?”

The other person answers. A couple minutes after that, the bigger asshole (no seriously, stop looking at me. You don’t know. You don’t LIVE HERE.) occasionally mumbles some sorry excuse for an apology, like  “Um, sorry for being a dick.”

And then, “I love you.”

And that’s it. That’s how it goes. We just drop it, until it happens again, AND IT ALWAYS HAPPENS AGAIN. Because seriously, after 12 years with somebody, the crap that still annoys you ain’t ever going away. You can talk about it “constructively” until you’re actually out of air, and every word on the topic has been uttered, and every approach has been tried, but seriously, if it hasn’t changed yet, it ain’t never changing. (Yes, I believe that sentence called for a double negative.)

For example, I will always be better at multi-tasking, at looking at a situation and seeing what needs to be done, at taking care of the twenty-seven thousand things that must be addressed in our day-to-day lives.

Mac will always be better at not being an overbearing asshole.

To each his own I suppose.

So basically they’ve lied to us again. They lied about adulthood (it really isn’t that fun). They lied about motherhood (one word: Babycenter). And now, they’ve lied about marriage, telling us that unless we sit down in a perfectly calm manner, thoughtfully “adapting” to one another, listening with the attention of a thousand Zen monks, our marriage will fail.


As far as I can see it, marriage is messy. It’s ugly. It’s disheveled and weird and clunky. It’s a whole lot a of tenacity thrown in with bit of romance.

You know what it is? IT’S FUCKING WORK.

I am absolutely convinced that the only reason Mac and I are still together is because we stuck with one another with an insane, [irrational] bulldog vengeance. We gritted our teeth and dug them in and JUST WOULD NOT LET GO. We weren’t happy. We were so far from happy we made Misery look like a love story.

And we were dragged through the mud. We were towed across the coals. There were times so dark I thought I wouldn’t survive.

And there are still times I’d like to bust his gorgeous face across my knee.

But there’s never a time I regret standing in front of that courthouse 12 years ago, marrying a man I felt in the depth of my soul was the one for me, devoting myself to him without knowing how to do so, trusting something, something that told me it would be alright. And I’ve never regretted holding on, even when the only thing keeping me there was the fact that we had already started this life together, and our kids were just so beautiful, our family just so dear.

And as it turns out, we were just babies, trying to find our places in the world.

And when we finally did, it turns out they were right beside each other. I know that’s not everybody’s story. But it’s mine, so I’m telling it.

So screw those damn chick flicks. Screw the 50-year honeymoon bullshit. As far as I can tell, marriage is lived in the trenches, on the ground, in the mud. It’s built on the ruins of mistakes and struggle. But when it finds its footing, when it’s withstood all that crap, when it stands like the mightiest brick house you’ve ever seen, my god it’s lovely.

But they don’t tell us that shit in movies. It’s either 50-years of wild sex and unbridled joy — or it’s divorce.

I don’t buy it. I don’t buy any of it. I think there’s more to the story. At least there has been in mine.

So to my friends who’ve asked “How do you do it?”, I’ll tell ya all that I know (though let’s be honest, it isn’t much):

Marry somebody you love, then hang on like hell, with everything you’ve got, until one day you let go and to your surprise, you find you’re carrying him, and he’s carrying you – with big, easy open arms, and the most fucked-up perfect marriage you’ve ever seen.

And relax, you can do it all wrong…

until it’s all right.

32 Comments | Posted in cohabitating with a man. | November 29, 2012