The Mother as Epic Hero

| September-October, 2009

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.

9/23/2009 12:33:47 PM

Family is one of the few enduring things that one has. A choice to cultivate that rather than earn money, is a wise one to me. Money spends only once but a family bound together by strong ties will support again and agian. I am a single mom and not the sort of person that could just stay home, but at one point I supported my partner and he stayed home. We both are nostalgic for those days. Having a homemaker really brings a warmth and heart that can't be found in any other way.

Julia Jones
9/18/2009 8:22:13 PM

History tells us that the only roles for respectable females has always been hearth keepers and nurturers. Those who have chosen not to be hearth keepers (such as queens and other infamous females)are classified as harlots or madonnas. In today's world it is perfectly permissible to choose careers over hearth keeping but many women have both jobs. When you consider the responsibilities that go with both an outside job and a home job combined, there is no wonder that women are on tranquilizers and anti-depressants. It takes courage and intelligence to choose either a career outside the home or a career inside the home and much energy to choose both. All women should be allowed to make that choice on their own without pressures from society. Chaison made her selection to try both and has succeeded probably beyond her wildest dreams. It can be done!