The Mother as Epic Hero

by Kari Volkmann-Carlsen
September-October, 2009
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Housewives have gotten a bad rap since the postfeminist 1980s evolved into a mind-set that equates child rearing with lost ambition. Popular TV didn’t help to defuse the myth by parading stay-at-home mothers as profligate and desperate women. The final straw for Nicole Chaison, a.k.a. the Hausfrau, was hearing someone slander a friend by saying, “She was an intellectual and a really gifted writer, but now she’s just a hausfrau.” Burn!

So in 2003 Chaison started Hausfrau Muthah-zine, a feisty, pint-sized publication out of Portland, Maine, that fuels the stories in her full-length memoir, The Passion of the Hausfrau: Motherhood, Illuminated Villard, 2009).

The Hausfrau, our tale’s epic hero, chronicles the journey that is parenthood, illuminated by hilarious side-panel vignettes of her two children running amok in otherwise quiet public spaces or brandishing driftwood as swords. But daily mothering is only one trial in a very long odyssey; Chaison’s recurring challenge is to balance the proverbial self B.C. (before children) and the unfamiliar self A.D. (after dilation)—stealing time to nurture her writerly ambitions, for example. Between steady chaos and affectionate goodnights, Chaison confirms that raising a family is a skill that everyone would stand to benefit from appreciating.

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