In a strange sequence of events, the man I married came up for scrutiny every single day after we made a baby together. He still does. It is a fact that has crept into my head in an insidious way particularly after I read one of his comments on Facebook which said something like “Interesting how most of marriage is spent plotting how not to get screamed at by the wife.”
This needs damage control, I thought. The husband believes that he has the unique power to annoy me even when he’s not in the room, and I think he may have a point. In my overwhelming pursuit of being a good mother, I had clearly lost out on being the good wife.
I married a man who doesn’t cook, walk or exercise. Someone who always thinks of vegetables as the dressing for something more succulent, preferably with legs. One who hates trains. One who wields an electric racket to kill mosquitoes (yes!). One who was gifted a Nintendo by his father at age 14. One who may skip a bath but never forget his hat. One who could easily declare someone he met three weeks ago as his best friend. One who doesn’t read or play any sport, unless it involves a controller. One who is still afraid to pull over a T-shirt around the boy’s head, thinking it might hurt him.
After a child, everything that a man used to do semi-okay is now wrong. Women feel that men were already stupid to start with, and after producing a child, the last brain cell also vanishes. And so we are often guilty of trying to fix our men through our children. ‘Re is so perfect, his father better match up,’ is what I am thinking most of the time.
As for the men, well, one day they are the sperm, and the next day they are the parent who knows zilch about parenting. At least, women have the hormones that make motherhood a little more organic than it’s purported to be.
Some men beatifically fake the holding of the baby in the first few weeks and change a total of six diapers before they realise that this is not really their calling. And there begins the War of the Roses.
Women raise the bar for men after having mothered their children. Men are so overwhelmed by the complexity of post-partum behaviour that the only thing they are looking for is a place to hide. Since most of us didn’t marry with checklists and did it for larger causes like love and hormones, it might be a tad shocking that the product of our conjugation is very often greater than the sum of parts. I think if we have rigid ideas about how we should raise our children (bathing and brushing is sacrosanct, eating junk is sacrilege) we should have these conversations before our libidos get into a blur and the baby is already made.
And so I plead guilty on the following counts:
1. Maybe, when I expect you to take the ball and run, I should at least tell you where the ball is. Or what it looks like.
2. If I was so averse to technology, I should have told you right at the start, before our remote controls produced babies and grandchildren.
3. Somewhere, I fear that your tech toys may have a greater power of seduction on the boy than my books. Or cupcakes. Or salads.
4. I suck at drawing so I was hoping that you would doodle for the child and make dogs look like dogs and lions not look like hyenas. It was presumptuous.
5. I thought your OCD for orderliness would also translate into organising the child’s toys, clothes and books.
6. I celebrated your transition from PS2 to PS3 to Xbox360. Why now am I mortified by the PS4?
7. Someday, I decided that television was not okay. I should have told you then.
8. I know you don’t do parks and playgrounds but I was not counting on building Lego parks on the iPhone as outdoor stimulation.
9. I thought having a chirpy morning child would turn you into a morning person. I was wrong.
10. Sometimes, I am angry with you just because you can switch off. Maybe, I should find my switch-off button too.
Yes, I admit, we have never fought as much before as we did after the baby. But we never wanted to make up as much either. Maybe Re has helped us grow. A wee bit at least.
This post first appeared as my column in the Indian Express on 3rd March, 2013