Daughter: Mom, what is marriage?
Mother: Marriage is just a fancy word for adopting an overgrown male child who cannot be handled by his parents anymore.
Ha! Ha! Right? We’ve all seen this meme or some variation of it. We’ve all met someone (or been someone) who claimed they had an extra kid in the house who happens to have to legally pay taxes and shaves his butt crack once a month.
And then, thanks to the marvel of algorithms this popped up next: ‘Study shows that husbands stress women out twice as much as children do.’ (Click bait headlines clearly work. I ended up reading a 2013 article about a survey — not a study — conducted by a US talk show.) Of the 7, 000 women surveyed, 46 per cent said that their husbands stressed them out more than their children, and that they rated their stress level at 8.5 on 10. Ha! Old survey. Another country. This isn’t relevant.
But, it got me thinking — if we asked women now and here in India the same set of questions, how different would the results be?
A friend complained last week about how she had asked her husband to do one thing — “one thing” she moaned - when she stepped out. Of course, he got it wrong. “He has three degrees, manages a team across two continents and yet, he couldn’t get this one basic thing I asked right. I was furious. I am NEVER asking him again. I’ll just do it myself.” she fumed.
See, now this is where we go wrong. a) Mothers have decided for some reason that our way is the best way and anything short of that is useless b) We only give our partners one chance to do things, and then when they — in some cases on purpose — do it wrong we never ask them again. If they were actual children (which we must constantly remind ourselves they are not — one look at that hairy butt crack is proof enough), we wouldn’t do that. We give real children many chances to get things right. So we must give pretend children the same benefit. As hair pulling, silent screamingly infuriating as it may be. My son still can’t remember to start sentences with capital letters and end them with full stops. I don’t snatch his pencil away and do it for him. I remind him.
My friend was right though — how is it that people with multiple degrees, multiple intelligences and multiple brain cells suddenly find their grey matter has atrophied under the intense pressure of grocery shopping, child care and putting things away?
As a mother one of my fears is that one day in the future, my son’s partner will give me that look. The one that says ‘You should have raised them better.’ or ‘This inability or lack of interest in pitching in is YOUR fault.’ Because let’s face it, mothers get blamed for most things.
So let’s start now and get our kids into shape. Get them to make their own beds, pick their wet towels off the floor, help set the table, put their own plates away and pack their own bags. If you have a middle-aged person in the house masquerading as a toddler, you can issue instructions to them too. It’s never too late.
The writer’s philosophy is: if there’s no blood, don’t call me