United against the children we birthed

by Janelle Hanchett

Fine, I birthed them. That particular portion of the situation was mine and mine alone. But we made them together, and now that they’re here – all freaking four of them – I’m damn glad you’re here, Mac.

It’s funny, the way marriages change. The way you start out all in love and innocent and shit, dreaming of the family to come, or, in our case, drinking Captain Morgan and trying to raise a baby while getting to know each other and yelling.

And then you spend a few years realizing the person you married is, in fact, their own person, which seems rude and unnecessary, because as my partner I know how you should behave and if you would just follow through with my ideas of how you can improve yourself, we’d all be better off, dude.

And that begins the portion of the “Let me mold you into what I had in mind” stage, which can go on for years, and, as far as I can tell, culminates in either acceptance of the parts of the other person that will not change – or divorce.

Maybe an affair? Don’t know. Never considered that route. Sounds like too much work and a serious dick move. That’s what she said.

It’s fine. I’m a grown up.

Anyway, my husband and I are often told we’re like “the most in love couple ever,” which is for sure not true, because my grandparents existed, and they used to hold hands on the couch and flirt well into their 80s, and I watched their faces pressed together as my grandfather was dying, recounting their lives together, and I thought “They are the most in love couple ever.”

I mean, we like each other, which seems like something of a feat. I guess we flirt. We like to piss our kids off by making out in the kitchen. We’re definitely best friends.

It wasn’t easy getting here. We were separated twice, once for two years. We’ve gone to years of therapy. The screaming matches could shatter all the glass in the county. We’ve threatened divorce approximately 9000 times and twice on Sundays. When people ask us how we stayed together, we say, “We never hated each other at the same time.”

To this day, when we fight, we like to yell “Fuck off” to each other, which I hear is not the kindest or most productive option, but to them I say: EIGHTEEN YEARS, MOTHERFUCKERS. And I still want him with me more than I want any other human with me.

So get the fuck outta here with your “effective marriage communication” workshops or whatever the hell you’re selling.

Anyway, lately I’ve felt more connected to dude than I ever have in my life and it’s a new type of connection. I think it’s because our kids are unbearable, and against the wall of wailing child death trap, all I’ve got is him.

There’s really something nourishing about texting somebody “I’m gonna kill your kid right now” and have them just respond “What now?”

And: “Thank god we aren’t having any more.”

“Holy fuck (insert kid name) is really pissing me off.”

“What’s wrong with that one?”

“I think they’re defective. Maybe we stopped parenting. Did we give up?”

A well-placed “Entitled little assholes” goes a long way, too.

And yesterday, when we finally got into bed, after having decided earlier in the day (STOP READING NOW, DAD), that we wanted to have sex, we were straight up blocked by kids everywhere.There was nowhere to go to be free. We have a rule of “no kids in our room during the weekends,” and last night was Monday, and we had said they could sleep on our floor, so one kid was on our floor, and two more were in their room, and the other was in her room, and the living room and main room are too easily accessible by wandering children of any type, so we just kind of laid there and laughed and got annoyed and kissed.

“My god, they’re everywhere,” we said.

And they are everywhere, except where we are, in this bed, alone. We’re surrounded, but there’s a place that’s only ours. I don’t think I’ve ever quite realized how lucky we are to have that space. My mom didn’t have it.


The teenager with her tornado tantrums. The teenager-light with his silent brooding and passive aggressive retaliation. The 8-year-old with her endless projects and scream fests and the toddler with all of the above. Every damn day it’s a fight to get that one dressed. They bicker with each other and whine and bicker some more and ask for food and shit and then bicker about the thing they just asked for and I am over all of it right now. It’s a rough patch. The roughest of rough patches, maybe.

Or maybe this is how it is from here on out. Whatever. Things are hard, and yeah, today we cried looking at Arlo’s first day of preschool picture. That’s how this goes. Get me the fuck outta here. Please god don’t ever let it end.

There’s something sacred about having a friend to cling to in the maelstrom of nonsense. Just when you think your last shred of energy is used up, your friend comes home, or you mention what you’d like to do to him tonight, and it’s you and me against them.

The them we’re terrified to lose. The them we worked so fucking hard to keep, to bring back around, to heal. It isn’t us against them, is it? It’s us beneath, behind, above and around them – they’re like swirling winds.

It’s nice to be a rock with you.

And it’s nice when you sing me those songs.

The other day we were talking about the years when Mac and I were in the same twelve-step group in our little town and he was batshit and I was unable to remain sober, and how when I finally got sober, and our family was reunited, we kind of became the couple the older alkies pat on the head and smile at and feel a part of, like they watched us get our heads out of our asses and grow up, and things like this don’t happen too often with addicts like us.

Mac looked at me and said, “We’re like the little losers that could.”

Stick that shit on our headstone, cause it’s good enough for me.



People have told me that book I wrote is a love story to Mac.

I didn’t see it at first, but it’s true,

it’s a story of people who for sure shouldn’t have made it but stuck around until it got good.

 “We were always good friends, I guess.” I wrote that. It seems true. That’s the story we found.

BTW, I have three upcoming book events: two in northern California and one in Vancouver, BC. Learn more here.

18 Comments | Posted in cohabitating with a man. | September 4, 2018

A letter to my kids’ teachers explaining their condition

by Janelle Hanchett

To my kids’ teachers:

As summer comes to a close, I feel compelled to warn you: There’s a chance my kids are, at this point, completely feral.

I tried. I really did. But things went south about mid-July, and I had to make a choice: Fight the descent into madness or say “fuck it” and hope for the best.

I chose the latter, probably because I’m old.

Don’t think we didn’t learn things, though. We did. We took a vacation to Seattle and Port Townsend in Washington and in addition to observing the Space Needle and playing in that rad disco ball fountain, my kids learned the expression “fucking asshole,” which I muttered under my breath or perhaps over my breath after an unfortunate run-in with somebody. Can’t quite recall. I think maybe a ferry worker guy? Coulda been my teenager.

I AM KIDDING. There’s no way that was the first time my kids heard me say “fucking asshole.”

During the day, largely cooped up in the living room on account of the weather resembling what I imagine Satan’s armpit to feel like, and thick, unbreathable outside air due to wildfires, my kids engaged in all kinds of imaginative play, including, but not limited to:

  • Cutting their clothing with “safety” scissors
  • Covering themselves in toilet paper to “scare” each other
  • Dumping old fireplace ash on their heads
  • Ripping the wings off a dead dragonfly and placing them in a small jar (no, wait, neatly cutting them off because “that’s what normal people do.” That seems sane.)
  • Making “juice” by smashing all the fruit in the house into a bowl
  • Grabbing a cell phone and Facetiming some random contact
  • Naked porch dancing
  • Peeing only in the backyard

Other activities they enjoyed were wearing the same pajamas for two days straight (as in, not taking them off), riding their bikes in the house, seeing how long a man bun will last before it becomes a dread, and screaming at each other until I lose my mind and ban all imaginative play, demanding instead that they watch television like normal people.

But of course only learning shows, like “Nailed It,” for example, which is basically a documentary and heart-rendering story of human perseverance in the face of really sucking at something. Also, somehow “Liv & Maddie” made its way onto the television about 2,456 times a day, but when my 8-year-old said, “I don’t want to become a teenager. They have nice clothes but are boring,” I realized she learned how to not be a boring, self-absorbed teenager. Boom.

In the evenings, we would watch Queer Eye, as a family, so we could all weep together. This was obviously emotional development. We’re emotional and therefore we’re developing.

That’s how that works, right?

We went to Santa Cruz. We camped. My mother did a backyard campout with the cousins. We swam sometimes, I think. Or maybe that was just in my head. We went to the library five times.

No, that was definitely just in my head. It was a very productive summer in my head.

But alas, they are, in a word, quite weird right now and I’m pretty sure we didn’t officially keep up with all you taught them – although I did force them to read every single day before they could watch brain-dead television.

Or maybe it was twice. It was either every single day or twice all summer.

I’m 90% sure they can still read.

My point is, you really should get paid more, and before the first day of school, I am 100% sure they will snap back into their normal, adorable selves, as opposed to the ones who discovered their absolute favorite game was locking somebody in the bathroom and making them crawl out a window into the side yard and then locking the escapee out of the house, too.

A feral cat found us a few years ago. We started feeding her and giving her water on the porch and then she had kittens in our front bark. Now she’s ours.

Maybe try that.

Love you.


Remember that one time I yelled at my teenager, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING ON YOUR PHONE AGAIN?” and she said, “Reminding people in Michigan to vote in the primaries.” That was fun.


Want to feel like a better mother immediately?


But only if you have a pretty jacked up sense of humor, because, like, the joke I just made, it’s already pretty wrong.

Check on tour (it’s all local, except Vancouver, sorry!). 

10 Comments | Posted in I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING HERE. | August 16, 2018

Family vacation is a barrel of lies except for the overpriced Junior Ranger vest.

by Janelle Hanchett

“Family vacation.” It has such a nice ring to it.

But what it actually means is: Spend money on tiny hungry humans who complain too much, get tired by 4pm, and probably won’t remember any of your valiant efforts at family bonding.

I don’t mean that.

I may have meant that.

Stop shaming me for my lack of gratitude.

Seriously, why do we bring them?

Don’t tell me about “education” or “lived experience” or whatever other helpful thing you’re about to say. I am clearly not interested in that at the moment.


Vacation with kids is like regular life with kids only it costs more and there’s an added layer of THIS WAS SUPPOSED TO BE AMAZING. IT WAS SO AMAZING IN MY HEAD BEFORE WE LEFT.

How many times a day on vacation do Mac and I look at each other and say: “We’re never bringing them again?”

Well, that depends on how many hours we’re awake.

Twelve hours? Twelve times.

Fourteen? Fourteen.

Eighteen hours? 27 times because after 14 hours it triples in frequency (Don’t check my math. I did not calculate.)

In the past three weeks, we’ve taken our kids to a wedding in Port Townsend, Washington, which required a FLIGHT, on an AIRPLANE, and we took them camping in an RV for three days.

As a reminder, my kids are ages: 4, 8, 12, and 16. One might think the older ones are super chill on vacation, and one would be correct if measuring them solely against the total-body-mind-spirit-breakdown of the toddler by 6pm since naps apparently don’t happen on vacation and when they do, they don’t count.

They’re like tiny refueling sessions so the kid can arise more batshit than before.

But if gauging from basic attitude and mercurial emotions and bickering over stupid shit that does not matter ever at all ever, teenagers rank pretty fucking high on the “WTF ARE YOU DOING HERE WITH ME ON VACATION” meter.

Between arguments over who sits where everywhere we go – restaurants, planes, cars, the ferry, benches, the ground – to all four kids simultaneously losing it by hour two in Washington traffic (seriously, Washington, fix your infrastructure), poking each other in the car like a goddamn stereotypical sitcom, there are just so many moments when I truly, at the bottom of my soul, cannot understand why we bring kids with us on vacation.

Other fun pastimes:

  • Trying not to lose them in public places
  • Trying not to let them drown
  • Trying to find public bathrooms because somebody has to pee even though we just left the pee place
  • Trying to navigate new roads, ferries, and drivers in an unfamiliar car while the kids throw punches and wail about Cheez Its
  • Trying to pack
  • Trying to unpack
  • Trying to pack and unpack and then pack again and unpack once you get home which will either happen immediately or 2-4 weeks later
  • Trying to hike
  • Trying to not let them get sunburned while hiking
  • Trying to keep caring if they get sunburned
  • Trying to keep caring if you lose them
  • Trying to keep caring at all, about anything
  • Trying not to micromanage them to the point of uselessness for all (“Let them be happy, free children!” BUT DO NOT LET THEM GET HARMED IN ANY WAY WHATSOEVER.)
  • Spending so much goddamn money on food at every meal you resort to buying loaves of sourdough at grocery stores and throwing it at them
  • Sticking the toddler in a car at 3pm and flailing about hysterically trying to keep him awake until you’re back to the actual bed because god knows those 20-minute car naps that somehow replace the 2-hour ones create a Satan death child for the rest of the day
  • Trying to talk a teenager out of a random, nondescript tantrum
  • Trying to talk a toddler out of a random, nondescript tantrum
  • Trying to talk yourself out of a random, nondescript tantrum

At one point, I simply screamed: “EVERYBODY STOP SPEAKING.” Oddly, it worked. It was one of my more successful moments, in fact.

I could go on. Should I? Nah.

Truly. Why the fuck do we do it? And more importantly, why do we keep doing it?

Well, I’ll tell you why.


We do it for the goddamn junior ranger vest.

We were in the gift shop at Olympic National Park when my eye landed on an adorable, overpriced little green vest situation that said “Junior Ranger” on it. It was covered in pockets, and I knew our four-year-old, Arlo, would lose his shit for that thing, so I showed Mac and he was like, “Um, yes,” so we bought it, and told Arlo he was now The Junior Ranger and must fearlessly lead us on our hike.

My god the seriousness of that child while receiving his charge. Very official.


We clipped some sunscreen on it. He went around fastidiously asking if anyone needed it. We were a party of about 11, and every single one of us needed it. Twice.

We get on the trail and there he runs, straight to the front. George tried to get ahead of him, but never fear, unbridled earth-shattering shrieks from Jr. Ranger Arlo soon deterred her.

“I AM LEADING!” Okay, tiny human with a day-old man bun. We get it.

He walked and walked, until he needed daddy to carry him uphill. Which daddy did. Junior Rangers sometimes need carrying.

At one point, Uncle Cedric asked Arlo, who was stomping along in front of him, “What’s in your vest?”

Without breaking his stride, from over his shoulder, with an air of dismissive superiority, Arlo said, “Junior Ranger stuff.”

Like, you moron. Fuck off. This is top-secret information.

He wore it the whole hike, occasionally picking up rocks and beer bottle caps and sticks and flowers to stick in the pockets. He wore it later at the beach, where he collected shells. All the other kids brought it up constantly, praising his ranger skills, exploring the vest, suggesting he add this and that.

I think it may have been the cutest fucking thing I’ve ever seen in my life.

He slept with it that night.

And when we got home, when all the vacation shit was covering the kitchen table, entryway, and living room, Mac said, “You know, all we’re going to remember from this shitshow is the fucking Junior Ranger vest.”

And he is right. And it will be worth it.

The most expensive Junior Ranger vest in the history of humanity, and yet, somehow, it’s alright. It’s what we needed with our whole, broke, bickering hearts.


Junior Ranger does not find you amusing.

UPDATE: In looking for photos for this post, scrolled through all vacation shots. Now crying at the unending beauty of it all. I want to go back I LOVE ALL THE CHILDREN.


Have you had a chance to read my book? If so, would you leave me a quick review on Amazon and Goodreads? I’d be immensely grateful. It’s very helpful to authors.

And if you haven’t, did you know that it’s also “wickedly funny?” Somebody official who knows a lot about literature said that.

Or maybe it was some dude on Twitter. Your call.

But yeah, we talk a lot about the seriousness of the topic – motherhood & addiction – but my strongly held belief is that we absolutely must laugh, a lot, even at really fucked up things. Amazon editors even said it was “one of the best books of 2018 so far” in the humor category.

Also, a few people have been asking me about the audiobook. Yes, I narrated that shit! At a recording studio in Sacramento with half-naked women all over the walls. It was lovely. They were motivating.


Hey also one more thing: I made a brand new writing workshop for people who don’t know where the fuck to begin in revising their first draft. Check it out

In addition to potty train, I am required to teach a teenager how to drive? Parenting is bullshit.

by Janelle Hanchett

There are so many parts of parenthood that strike me as absolutely illogical and impossible, and yet, we have to do them.

Beginning with getting a baby out of a vagina, or even being pregnant at all, actually. Enduring the last month of pregnancy. Not a thing, and yet, we all do it, repeatedly.

Potty training is another one: Oh so NBD I’m just supposed to get a toddler who last week didn’t mind sitting in his own excrement and sticks blueberries up his nose to communicate with me about when he has to urinate.

Cool good talk.

And yet, all four of my kids now use a toilet. Weird.

Maybe I’m just old and tired, but I have to say, above all insane requirements of parenthood, the most baffling and batshit is “Teach your teenager how to drive.”

Okayyyyyyy let’s talk about this. My teenager, a 16-year-old, who takes frequent Snapchat selfies and inquires about “when I’m going to actually start parenting my children” is supposed to enter the roads with common humanity, 3,000 pound boxes of metal on wheels barreling down freeways at 70 MPH, half of their drivers drunk or texting, while I sit at home hoping for the best.


I don’t even know who I’m talking to.

But for real, this ain’t right. The first time I sat in our minivan with my teenager in the driver’s seat, I noticed how she looked like a tiny baby in charge of the Pentagon. Like a toddler at the front lines wielding a mini sword, much like our POTUS, perhaps, only significantly more moral, reasonable, and capable of intelligent thought.

So not like him at all.

I got my phone out and told my husband to deal with it since I was for sure about to have a breakdown and needed to pretend none of this was happening.

It’s my go-to parenting move until I come up with a better one.

When we got home, I told Mac, “Um, she’s terrible at this.”

Now, I realize the whole learner’s permit thing is to remedy the “terrible” thing and my kid is responsible, smart, and careful, but I think she needs to be driving for about three years before she’s let out into the wild world of assholes and other nondescript rush-hour drivers who are for sure hellbent on crashing into her.

But no. We’re supposed to do this for a few months then let her drive. In the world. On roads. Without parents but with Snapchat. Hoping for the best.


Can I just simply fucking opt out?

Can I just not do this and call it a day? Like potty training, I’d just like to wait until this phase passes, but this one ain’t passing.

Everybody keeps saying “But she can drive her siblings around.”

Sure good plan. But first, tell me: What exactly are you inhaling?

I can barely comprehend letting her drive herself around, let alone her chattering, flailing siblings arguing incessantly because they never get to choose their song on Spotify.

Never. Okay? Never ever.

Also, 100% suddenly regretting some of the driving decisions of my life. Every time I made a hasty turn, took that call, sent that totally required text at a stoplight, or fished around behind my seat to retrieve the monster truck the toddler just dropped and is now screaming about – why didn’t I think of this?

I just wish parenthood would stop asking me to do insane shit that could lead to death.

Okay? That’s all I want.

In other news, can we talk briefly about the fact that parents are supposed to teach a child how to drive precisely at the time when that child believes to the very core of her being that her parents know nothing?

Who the fuck formulated this plan?

Us: “Brake.”

Teenager: No action.


Teenager: Eye roll. Brakes. Looks at us like “How is it that you’re so old and yet know nothing?”



Great. Yes. Teach a teenager how to drive. This makes sense.

Let’s learn to drive.

There is nothing in this post except wonder and awe at the insanity of this endeavor, much like putting my teenager on the road.

High five. And to the dude who flipped my kid off because she wasn’t going fast enough: If I ever find you, I’ll kill you in your sleep.

It’s fine. I’m rational.

Yay road rage, metal boxes flying down the road, and loved ones!




Did you know that
Amazon editors chose I’m Just Happy to Be Here as a “Best Book of 2018 So Far” in the

– wait for it –

HUMOR category (?).

Who knew Amazon editors had such a jacked up sense of humor? (This is not an insult.)

Anyway, that made me particularly delighted, because we talk a lot about the book’s seriousness, and not much about the parts where I, at least, laughed my ass off writing it. Nice to see that aspect of it highlighted.

Thank you, Amazon editorial staff.


13 Comments | Posted in I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING HERE. | July 23, 2018

I’m done behaving. It got us nowhere.

by Janelle Hanchett

On my book tour, on a flight between Washington DC and Austin, Texas, I sat in the window seat with an empty seat beside me. A man in his sixties sat in the aisle seat, and about halfway through the flight, I got up to pee. He moved to let me out.

When I came back, I stood next to him and said, “Sorry,” kind of shrugging, annoyed that I had to annoy him. I stepped back to allow him to get out of the seat to let me in.

Oddly, he stepped back toward me, positioning himself in the aisle directly in front of me instead of stepping forward so I could go in behind him. His position would require me to squeeze past him in the tiny aisle, my body pressing against his.

Surprising myself, I refused to do it. I just stood there. Fuck you, man. Get the fuck out of my way. I don’t want to touch you, and I won’t, and whether you’re doing this to be creepy or out of sheer lack of social skills, I don’t care. Get the fuck out of my way.

I stood there and stared at his back until enough time passed that it got weird. He looked back at me and I motioned for him to step forward so I could get by. He didn’t move. I said, “Move forward so I can get in behind you.” I didn’t even say please.

He looked at me irritated, like I was insane, like not wanting my groin pressed against a stranger’s ass was an irrational request, and I realized I have fucking had it with the tiny courtesies I extend to men who demand space in this world at the cost of women.

I am done with it.

My new approach, when it comes to these mediocre, posturing white men – because let’s be real they’re pretty much the only ones I notice doing this – is get the fuck out of my way.

A man did his manspreading thing against my legs on an airport bench. I moved my legs to press against his, until he adjusted. He was in my space. I was in my own. He can move the fuck over.

A man did his mansplaining thing, explaining how publishing works, even though he had never published a book and I, um, have. I looked at him and said, “Why are you explaining my own career to me?”

When acquaintances tell me to “settle down,” or “calm down,” etc., because I have the audacity to speak openly and passionately about a topic, I tell them to calm down. I get to speak, and loudly.

I haven’t always been this way, and the truth is I have always accepted a certain level of bullshit from the men around me – ones I know and don’t – even when it made me very uncomfortable, or angry, or put me in positions of holding my tongue to “keep the peace.”

I’m not talking about a refusal on my part to extend common courtesy, or about sharing space with other humans, men and women. I’m talking about no longer catering to men who CHARGE THE WORLD with their voices, bodies, and assumed power to trample women around them.

I usually deferred to these men, hating myself for doing it, wondering what people would think if they saw me doing that. I’m supposed to be a feminist. I’m supposed to be strong. I’m so tough on the page.

But I have been programmed in a misogynistic world just like the rest of us. I have been sexually abused and nearly raped. I’ve been taught to be ashamed of my body, told my voice was like “nails on a chalkboard.” I have had sex when I didn’t particularly want it. To appease. Because I thought I owed them, led them on.

When I was younger, and thin, and thus interesting for the male gaze, I looked away when cat-called, walked faster. Shirked, while my blood boiled in humiliation. I never said a word.

I have listened silently while men ranted on and on about their mediocre knowledge, even if I knew more. Not always, but often, because something in me said, “You be quiet and let the man speak.”

I ain’t a fucking shrinking violet, but more often than not, I moved my body to accommodate theirs. I don’t even know exactly how I learned this behavior, but literally and figuratively, I shrunk to allow them space.


But lately I’ve been wondering: What did all this fucking good behavior get me?  

It got me a nation who elected a pussy-grabbing president. It got me millions of people voting for a party that wants to remove my daughter’s dominion over her own body. It got me no paid federal maternity leave, fat shaming, and a rising maternal death rate. It got me Harvey Weinstein (at every turn) and less money on the dollar. It got me “cover up in public when you nurse.” It got me the vast majority of the domestic labor.

And I’m white. ALL of this is worse for women of color. All of it.

As a whole, it got us damn near fucking nothing.

There’s something viscerally infuriating about looking at my country and realizing it voted against my body. Against my child’s body. Against my freedom. And for my assault.

And so I’m done. I’m done catering to overbearing, sexist men. I’m done stepping aside simply because they’ve righteously demanded it. I’m done keeping my mouth shut and I’m done pretending I’m smaller than I am to feed that delicate male ego, or because I am afraid of something I cannot quite define.

Am I angry? Of course I fucking am. I gave the world a chance, and played by the rules, and all it got us was “I moved on her like a bitch.”

From the President of the United States of America.

So get the fuck out of my way, and then, maybe, if I feel like it, and you shut the hell up long enough to hear my voice, we can talk.

Clearly, there’s no space for anything else.


Note: I wrote this piece a few days ago, and in between then and now, I read this, and, though a bit off topic (and it needs a whole blog post to itself), I want to draw attention to the intersectionality of all this. That we, as white women, while demanding our space in a man’s world, need to be acutely aware of how we take up space in a white world. Love you all. 


Though it is about recovery from alcoholism, one of the overarching themes of my memoir is the sanctity of motherhood and how it is, in short, utter bullshit.

Practically the whole book is calling out the vapid narratives surrounding motherhood, telling my own story of battling with erasure, inadequacy (both real and imagined), and finding some peace in there, somewhere.

Check it out.

Also my upcoming tour dates

45 Comments | Posted in feminist AF | July 18, 2018