The Bitch In The House – APW Book Club Meetups!

{Bitch In The House, by Christy of Moodeous Photography in Denver. We love her.}

After last weekend’s APW Book Clubs, we’re back with a discussion of The Bitch In The House, edited by Cathi Hanauer. First, I want to start out this write up by mentioning how crazy diverse the APW meetups were, and what an honor, and total mind-f*ck it is to be the-woman-running-the-site-that-spawns-the-meetups. I’m not sure if that’s something I’ll ever fully get my head around, and I think that’s an OK thing. But I’m beyond honored to get to be the lady who shares these amazing stories with you.

{APW Baltimore. They went to a lingerie shop. As you do. Layout by Katie Jane Photo in NYC}

So, some stories: the Baltimore book club had a nice long boozy chat… and then went shopping at a lingerie store that was going out of business. One of the brides-to-be bought her ‘something blue’ (cough, cough). Boston discussed safe words (but not like you think… apparently…) The upstate New York book club met on a working farm, and everyone went home with eggs from pasture raised chickens after mucking about in the mud.

{Upstate New York ladies on Zan’s Farm. For serious.}

And then there were the funny stories, like the-big groups-of-women-being-comically-underestimated stories. Katie of the DC meetup, told me “A pair of guys taking a smoke break saw our big group of gals and asked if we were discussing Sex and the City.” And the Cincinnati meetup took pictures holding copies of the book, and then a guy asked to take a picture with “these b*tches.” So without further ado, let’s delve into some of the discussion had by “the APW b*tches” (as Cincinnati is now calling themselves).

{Boston: The real Bitch In The House}

APW Boston: Lauren of Suburbalicious Living told me: “One of the main takeaway points of our discussion was that counseling, both alone and as a couple, is a great idea even in the good times, because it makes the bad times more manageable. We talked about how coming up with “safe words” (but not like that) to let your partner know that you are serious, can help you get your point across, even as you are laughing something off.  There was a lot of discussion about how our lives didn’t turn out they way we thought (whether we’d always planned to be a stay at home mom and now needed to be the primary breadwinner, or whether we got married much younger or older or to the other gender than we were expecting) and how to manage and embrace your new life while also taking time to wonder what happened to the one you thought you were going to have.”

{Boston is still mad about the time I called them wholesome. And then they heard about the sparkles happening in New York so they were like, f*ck you, we have hats}

“And we spent a lot of time talking about sex, baby.  We talked about having it, and not having it, and being the one who wants it and the one who doesn’t, and how it isn’t always a deal-breaker but can at the same time make or break your relationship.  We want to spend more time talking about sex, and are plotting a group-anonymous post for APW, so look forward to that sometime soon. And we may have proposed that our next book club meeting be at a sex toy shop (Editors note: Can. Not. Wait!). Just kidding. Kind of.”

{Clockwise from the top left: APW Bay Area, APW Lincoln Nebraska, APW LA, APW Denver}

APW Bay Area: Sharon at Bride Sans Tulle reported: “We were all initially trying to distance ourselves from the experiences of the writers of the book (i.e. we talked about how a lot of us were raised by parents who both worked and how that changed our expectations about household tasks, choosing not to believe that we can “have it all”) since it was scaring the crap out of most of us. But even as we were all (naively? optimistically?) proclaiming that we didn’t think this kind of anger is inevitable. One of the women present brought up that we are often trained to discount, excuse, or repress our anger, and that perhaps there’s something really empowering and strengthening about a group of women who choose to transgress that particular bit of “gender wisdom” and express anger in a way that brings about positive change.”

{APW Baltimore, in the bar}

APW Baltimore: Ellie at Wedding For Two sent in the story, “We spent a lot of time discussing whether our own marriages were reflected in the stories, or whether we thought they would be when we had children (since none of us do at the moment).  We ultimately ended up talking about what women in their mid-twenties always talk about when they get together: how to combine work and family and have a successful career and kids, all at once.  We talked about the merits of working part time or working from home or staying at home and which partner in our partnerships would be more likely to do that and why.”

{Clockwise from the top left: APW DC , APW Cincinnati, APW DC, APW Seattle}

APW DC: Katie told me, “Nobody had kids, yet, and much of the discussion was about career/home balance.  As McNeil put it, you’d read through all these women’s experiences hoping they’d reveal a magic bullet that fixes the problem, but, alas, no real solutions. It came up that, if anything, knowing your expectations is a huge factor. There were also lots of talk about having a strong community to raise a family, whether it’s a neighborhood or family support.”

{APW Denver, taken by Moodeous Photography}

Which brings me to what I think is the real takeaway discussion from The Bitch In The House. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say we can’t have it all. Period. It’s not going to happen. If there is anything we’ve learned by whatever-wave-of-feminism-we-are-now-on, it’s that there are only so many hours in the day, and so many days in our lives. We can’t work 60 hour weeks, while we spend copious amounts of time with our children, meaningful relationships with our partners, have sex seven times a week, and oh yeah, sleep. It’s not going to happen. I learned this in my grey faced days as a martyr. I learned that, for me, I have to prioritize what does matter in my life (work that I care about, time with my husband, exercise, sleep) and let the rest go (corporate career, keeping a perfect home, cooking… ever, and more).

I can’t have it all, and I’m fine with that. But I want to have enough. I want to try to have what matters. And for me, it’s a constant quest to figure out what works.

This year, I took the leap to work for myself full time. That wasn’t just a fluke, the building a website and selling a book and hiring an accountant and a lawyer and taking the leap. That was part of my master plan, that I was lucky enough to eventually make work (it only took 10 years). I went to college and majored in a creative field with the idea that one day I would work for myself. I knew I wanted to… well… make things (which is currently taking the form of books and blog posts), and I knew I wanted to have babies and have a flexible schedule, and I wanted to find a way to make it work. And I knew for sure, that for me, the black and white dichotomy of working mom or stay at home mom was lose/lose. If I couldn’t have it all, I wanted a little of both.

And while this book provided some models for women who were stumbling through making it work, the general consensus seems to be that the book also had a lot of gloom, and not a lot of answers.

So how do we tackle this? How can we work towards having enough? What is enough for you? What parts of having it all are you personally willing to let go of as not that important? What do you really want to ask the generations (a little or a lot) before us? How do you cope for those inevitable days when you become the bitch in the house?

Pictures from the APW Flickr stream, where you’ll find much more book club goodness

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