It is amazing (and amusing) the way women around you react to your husband sharing work that is perceived as a woman’s by society. Smirks, loaded questions and insinuations, helpful (not) suggestions, orders, admonitions are ways used to try and shame you. I have heard them all. Isn’t it wonderful how so many women are concerned about the welfare of MY husband?
The mother-in-law of course did not look too kindly on her son helping me with anything around the house though she was not averse to him doing the same work for her. Her reactions were understandable though not acceptable. But what about all those others, the extended family members, the *friends* and acquaintances, the practically strangers, none of whom had a place in our ‘family picture’?
From day one of joining the L & M at his workplace, which was some months after our wedding, he had been extremely busy. Add to that the army operations of the time which took him away from home for long periods of time. It was no different in later days when I joined him with the baby. He just about had time to settle us in the quarters before rushing off to where his army unit was stationed. This being the case, and because he liked to, as also because he felt I was doing more than my share of work all on my own in his absence, he helped the utmost with taking care of the sons and the housework whenever he was around. Still does for that matter.
He always carried the sons around during their younger ‘carrying’ stage, fed them, rocked them to sleep. This gave rise to some rather *interesting* comments from women. Yes, it is always the women. At a party, the commanding officer’s wife admonished me, for ‘making’ the ‘Dad’ take care of the one year old son and carry him for far too long, forgetting that when said Dad was away for long periods of time, the Mom did the carrying and taking care ALL the time. When we traveled home on leave, the cousins and aunts had their share of insinuating questions to ask, “What will you do when your husband has to go somewhere?’ and ‘How do you feed him (the child) when your husband is not around?’ I was young and naive too, so did not think of telling them, “I just don’t. I dump the baby in a corner and wait for my husband to come home after one or two weeks and feed him.”
Then there are the snide remarks thrown my way (and the looks, oh, the looks exchanged!), to my face and/or behind my back because the L & M helps with the housework. At dinner parties that we give, when he sets the table and helps me by arranging the dishes (all of which I have slogged over because cooking is not the L & M’s forte) on the table, the invited women in the group inevitably jump up offering to help (which is fine, good manners and all) admonishing me for ‘making him work’.
The result? I have to suffer people who know nothing about how we had planned our presentation, thus effectively ruining it as also making it more strenuous for me by pushing the one person who could be of help out of the kitchen and uselessly crowding me. Why can women not relax and enjoy the evening? Why do they feel obliged to run around and *show-off* how efficient they are? Why can they not accept that the host and hostess as a team are managing well enough without their bungling interference?!
Once while going somewhere or other, we stopped to collect a shirt from the tailors. The L & M stopped the car and got out to cross the street to the shop. I felt someone poke me in the ribs. It was my friend who was also with us. “Go and get it!” she whispered to me fiercely, “Why are you ‘making’ him go?”
The best one was what happened once on the day the L & M came home on annual leave. The children and I had gone to pick him up and on reaching home we walked around the house while I showed him the new plants etc. Then I just plonked on one of the chairs kept in the verandah while he continued standing beside me, one foot on the low parapet, leaning against the wall, and watching the traffic. The initial avalanche of chatter had reduced to sporadic bursts, and then we eventually had slipped into a shared companionable silence. Along came a relative in residence with me at the time. After the hellos and how are yous and the general fawning women reserve for men other than the husband (I kid you not. It is a general ‘disease’ that almost all of the *traditional* women suffer from, the fussing over men other than the husband, and which makes me want to giggle uncontrollably) she turned to me and asked, in a superior manner, “Why are you ‘making’ him stand?! Give him a seat!”
I could go on if I tried, pulling out one memory after another, but you get the idea. The common thread running through them all is the accusation of ‘MAKING’ the husband do something or other’. Sacrilege, their demeanor and words suggest. Doesn’t the he in our equation not have a mind of his own? Why is it me ‘making’ him do things? But most important of all WHY THE HELL are these women bothered? Are they caretakers of ALL the men in the world? Is it their duty to see that men remain ‘the served’? Isn’t it enough they have a man in their life to to bow and scrape to, take care of to their heart’s content, and be servile to? Isn’t it enough for them that they don’t respect their own selves? Why do they feel so threatened as to want me also to be like them? Is it my sense of self-worth that accepts what I have as my right, and not something undeserved which I should be grateful for, that rattles them?