At 31, Janelle Hanchett found herself pregnant with her third child and newly reunited with her husband and children after a long struggle with drugs and alcoholism.
As she tried to balance work, grad school and family and maintain her sanity and sobriety, she began searching parenting blogs and magazines for guidance or some sense of connection. But the mothers depicted there all seemed too perfect.
“I couldn’t find my story anywhere,” says Hanchett, a native Californian. “I just started to wonder, am I crazy or is the rest of the mothering world crazy? Are there other mothers like me and they just aren’t talking about it?”
The experience inspired her to launch a blog, Renegade Mothering, that has drawn thousands of readers with its raw, hilariously honest take on the joys, tedium and frustrations of parenting and daily life.
While the blog is frank about her past and her personal failings, her new memoir, “I’m Just Happy To Be Here” — which she’ll discuss at Book Passage in The City on Thursday — goes even deeper.
It describes a harrowing progression, from her accidental pregnancy at a young age to regular drinking and partying to a descent into full-fledged addiction that led to several stints in rehab, trips to the emergency room and the loss of her two young children and husband.
Hanchett, unsparing in her depiction of how low she sank and how close she came to never coming back, hopes her story will help others in the same position.
Many addiction memoirs are about motherhood from the perspective of the child, or from women who clean up when they have a child, Hanchett says.
These stories ignore the reality that for women with a serious addiction, motherhood is not enough to help them stop. “Once you reach a certain stage of alcoholism, you’re not getting sober because you love your kids,” Hanchett says. “The fact of the matter is that sometimes love is not enough.”
Even for those who have never experienced addiction, the book offers a relatable portrait of motherhood stripped of sanctimony and pretense. The larger story, Hanchett says, is about how we grapple with our own personal sense of inadequacy as parents.
“For me it was alcoholism, but for other mothers, it’s going to be something else. How do I take on this most important job in the world, when I’m just myself?”
Response to the blog and book has convinced Hanchett that she is not alone.
“There are a ton of us out there who feel this way, that we’re kind of ill equipped for this job and we’re done pretending,” Hanchett says. “You don’t have to become this super sanitized version of yourself just to be a parent, or a mother.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Book Passage, 1 Ferry Building, S.F.
When: 6 p.m. May 10
I’m Just Happy to Be Here: A Memoir of Renegade Mothering
By: Janelle Hanchett
Published by: Hachette Books