I have been waiting for this book for 16 years. The summer of 2002 I sat on a Rhode Island beach ignoring my kids, who were probably not strong enough swimmers to be left unobserved, so that I could laugh out loud at with the woman who had managed to put my entire life between to hardback covers. On every page of I Don’t Know How She Does It, I recognized my life.
I had lived in London for over a decade with my growing family.
I had worked on a trading desk without another woman in sight.
I had felt like I was melting down on an almost daily basis.
Kate Reedy was my avatar and Allison Pearson had brought her to life.
Now Kate is back.
If you turned the last of page of I Don’t Know How She Does It, or watched the movie with Sarah Jessica Parker, and wondered why you had never thought to pass store-bought baked goods off as your own and what happens next if you do, we are here to help you out.
While, How Hard Can It Be?, won’t appear on bookstore shelves until June 5, we have Advanced Reader Copies as gifts for Grown and Flown readers.
Here is a short excerpt. Enjoy.
Allison Pearson is the author of How Hard Can It Be?: A Novel
I made Emily go to school the day after the night her bottom went viral. Maybe you think I was wrong. Maybe I agree with you. She didn’t want to, she pleaded, she came up with every reason under the sun why it would be better if she stayed home with Lenny and caught up on some “homework” (binge-watching Girls, I’m not that stupid). She even offered to tidy her room—a clear sign of desperation—but it felt like one of those times when you have to stick to your guns and insist that the child does what feels hardest. Get back in the saddle, isn’t that the phrase our parents’ generation used, before making your child do something they don’t want to became socially unacceptable.
I told myself it would be better for Em to run the gauntlet of crude jokes and smirking whispers in the corridors than throw a sickie and hide her dread under the duvet at home. Just as when the seven-year-old Emily came off her bike in the park, the gravel cruelly embedded in her scraped and bloody knee, and I knelt before her and sucked the tiny stones out of the wound before insisting that she got back on again in case the instinctive aversion to trying what has just hurt you were to bloom into an unconquerable fear.
“NO, Daddy, NO!” she screamed, appealing over my head to Richard, who, by then, had already bagged the softer, more empathetic parent role, leaving me to be the enforcer of manners, bedtimes and green vegetables—tedious stuff lovely, tickly daddies don’t care to get involved with. I hated Rich for obliging me to become the kind of person I had never wanted to be and would, in other circumstances, have paid good money to avoid. But the molds of our parental roles, cast when our kids are really quite small, set and harden without our noticing until one day you wake up and you are no longer just wearing the mask of a bossy, multitasking nag. The mask has eaten into your face.
Come to think of it, you can probably date everything that went wrong with modern civilization to the moment “parent” became a verb. Parenting is now a full-time job, in addition to your other job, the one that pays the mortgage and the bills. There are days when I think I would love to have been a mother in the era when parents were still adults who selfishly got on with their own lives and drank cocktails in the evening while children did their best to please and fit in. By the time it was my turn, it was the other way around. Did this vast army of men and women dedicated to the hour-by-hour comfort and stimulation of their offspring cause unprecedented joy in the younger generation? Well, read the papers and make up your own mind. But this was our story, Emily’s and mine, Richard’s and Ben’s, and I can only tell you what it felt like to live it from the inside. History will pass its own verdict on whether modern parenting was a science or a fearful neurosis that filled the gap once occupied by religion.
Yes, I made Emily go to school that day, and I nearly made myself late for my interview because I drove her there, instead of making her ride her bike. I remember the way she walked through the gate, head and shoulders down as if braced against a gale, although there was no wind, none at all. She turned for a second and gave a brave little wave and I waved back and gave her a thumbs-up, although my heart felt like a crushed can inside my chest. I almost wound down the window and called after her to come back, but I thought that, as the adult, I needed to give my child confidence, not show that I, too, was anxious and freaked out.
Did it start then? Was that the root of the terrible thing that happened later? If I’d played things differently, if I’d let Em stay home, if I’d canceled the interview and we’d both snuggled under the duvet, watched four episodes of Girls back-to-back and let the caustic, jubilant wit of Lena Dunham purge a sixteen-year-old’s fearful shame? So many ifs I could have heeded.