Bitch in the House: 26 Women Tell the Truth about Sex, Solitude, Work, Motherhood, and Marriageby Cathi Hanauer
The culmination of lessons learned in the past three decades -- the "me" years, the therapy years, and the "express yourself" years -- The Bitch in the House welcomes readers into the lives, minds, and bedrooms of its contributors to talk about the choices they've made, what's working, and what's not. Ranging in age from twenty-four to sixty-five, single and childless… See more details below
The culmination of lessons learned in the past three decades -- the "me" years, the therapy years, and the "express yourself" years -- The Bitch in the House welcomes readers into the lives, minds, and bedrooms of its contributors to talk about the choices they've made, what's working, and what's not. Ranging in age from twenty-four to sixty-five, single and childless or married with children or four times divorced, this is the sound of the collective voice of successful women today -- in all their anger, grace, and glory.
- HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.01(d)
Read an Excerpt
Excuse Me While I Explode
My Mother, Myself, My Anger
My parents met and started dating on the same day, at the age of thirteen. Forty-five years later, my father still glows when he tells the story of seeing my mother on her first day at his school, and how he offered to walk her home that very afternoon. They dated throughout high school, went to the same college, and got married the day before their graduation, at age twenty-one -- three years younger than I am today. After college my father went to graduate school and eventually became a history professor; my mother worked as a schoolteacher for a while; they bought a cheap house in the countryside and started a family. Presto, the American Dream.
When my older sister was born, my mother stopped working out of the house and became the mom I know her as. The mom who maintained a spotless house and a balanced checkbook and found the time to praise and nurture two growing children, all while having dinner ready and waiting, on the table, every night by 6:30. The mom who put off a career until her mid-forties so she would be available to her family -- which she still is -- though that is not to say she didn't work. My mother's job included, but was never limited to, pickling cucumbers, making jam, doing laundry for four people, changing diapers, teaching two children to read, doing all the grocery shopping for a family, cooking three meals a day (making sure a vegetable was included at dinner), cleaning the house, doing art projects, building snowmen, feeding a dog, driving to the doctor's office, picking kids up from piano lessons, going toparent-teacher conferences, sewing hems in school uniforms, ironing men's button-down shirts ... and so on. I think there are few résumés out there that could top my mother's were she ever to think it worthy of writing -- which she never would.
As a young child -- naturally, I suppose -- I don't really remember being aware that my mother existed between the time I left for school in the morning and the time she arrived at the bus stop to meet me coming home. Laundry and dusting and shopping were far outside my elementary-school-age mind, and if chores were done when I got home, it certainly didn't catch my attention. As I grew older, however, my awareness of our household began to change. My mother went back to school and, at age forty-five, became a special ed teacher. After that, she often came home exhausted at 5:30 and began making dinner. Saturdays and Sundays she woke up early to rush all over, cleaning, cooking, shopping, organizing the calendar. Monday mornings she'd be up at 4:30 to write a report that had been neglected over the weekend, then she'd make me breakfast before school and zip off to work. Gradually, I began to notice that she never seemed to have a moment to herself. Simultaneously, I realized that my father, who took care of all the "manly" household chores -- chopping wood, killing mice -- still had time for a well-respected career and a whole slew of regular hobbies. The setup began to seem drastically unfair to me. Free time, to my high school mind, was an absolute necessity, and I was witness to the fact that my mother seemed to be getting none of it.
This is not to say that I suddenly dropped to my knees before my mother, realized the saint that she was, and thanked her. Instead, I became disappointed in her and -- to my current shame and regret -- ridiculed her for being so undemanding about her own needs and so willing to dedicate herself to maintaining the house and serving us. I became angry at both of my parents: at my father that his chores (take apart and reassemble the kitchen sink, work in the garden, snow-blow the driveway) seemed interesting and challenging and were always impressive to friends and relatives, while my mother's endless chores seemed layered in routine and monotony. Both my parents had careers now, but it still fell to my mother to do every trivial and mindless thing that needed to be done, and I was frustrated with her for never seeming to mind this or to demand more help from my father.
I spent hours as a teenager talking to her (rarely listening) about why she was so accepting of her role in our family. I would recount the way my father would stride into the house after work and she would politely have dinner waiting for him; the way there was an unspoken sentiment in our house that his career was more important than hers. "Why don't you divorce him and find a husband who will offer to clean up the kitchen after dinner and let you sit down for once?" I would yell; or, "How come his job takes precedence over everything else while yours has to fit around all the other things you do and have always done?" Somehow, my mother was always able to shrug me off -- to reply that she was fine, that someday I would understand. But I wasn't at all sure that I would, or that she was. What's more, I believed myself to be a feminist, and I vowed never to fall into the same trap of domestic boredom and servitude that I saw my mother as being fully entrenched in; never to settle for a life that was, as I saw it, lacking independence, authority, and respect.
I met my own boyfriend, Paul, during my senior year of college. He was absolutely the furthest thing possible from my father, which was exactly what I was looking for at the time. Though I love my father passionately, I was certain that the man of my life would know how to cook dinner and clean the house, would offer to do the dishes, would fold the laundry without being asked. My goal was to avoid the domestic life that my mother had found for herself; the first step was to have a liberal, open-minded boyfriend. I found one with dreadlocks, a nose ring, and a passion for that most nonacademic of subjects, music -- just the opposite of my traditional and overly intellectual father.The Bitch in the House. Copyright © by Cathi Hanauer. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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