By Zainub Hussain
It is 9:53 pm. My husband is vainly trying to coax out every last bit of energy from our twenty month old baby by reading him a bedtime story in a voice that oozes both exhaustion and just the barest hint of please-shut-the-hell-up-and-go-to-SLEEP.
I feel a sadistic twist of happiness.
My feet ache at the toes, my house is akin to a battlefield with toys littered lifelessly over a floor that will have to be swept and mopped again. I have a sink full of dishes and I have some blueberries that I planned to squish to make a fruity face mask, but that’s not what has prompted this outpouring of forthcoming heresy. It is more that when, as I try to pee, my baby boy uses my knees as steps and clambers over me to attempt to scale the wall to get to the top of the cistern. The water below turns a pale pink and I try to shield him from the vulgar scenes of womanhood as I attempt to replace my sanitary pad.
My husband, perched on the bathtub looks on. I foolishly begin the most inadequate and hazardous line of conversation: “Can you see what I have to go through? I can’t even pee in peace”.
He nods solemnly, but there isn’t a trace of sympathy in his eyes. The baby is clawing up my thighs. I try and extricate him so he doesn’t hurt his head on the corner of a frame I have hanging nearby.
I try again to explain my woes.
“I cooked three meals, tidied up, changed linen, made the house presentable and did millions of other thing. It would be really nice if you said, well done love, you’ve done a great job. But sincerely you know, without the sarcasm”.
His eyes are now gleaming with merriment. “Thank you love”, he parrots. “You’re superwoman. Hey, I work too” He says petulantly.
I roll my eyes so deeply I feel like they may have gone into orbit. I feel a rising venom at his smirking tone. I try to explain things to him again, only this time my tone has rapidly changed from please understand my viewpoint, to annoyance.
Uh oh. This may become a fight. His smirk vanishes.
And that’s when it hits me: the patriarchy lives in my home. It inhabits my husband and thousands, no millions of men. Don’t get me wrong. I’m no feminist. I don’t even know the difference between first and second wave feminism, but I do believe in a modicum of equality that should, in my opinion, exist between the sexes. Not because of religion or anything. I attest that men have different responsibilities when it comes to things like looking after their families, a role which far supersedes that of a woman who, according to Islam, has her own set of responsibilities, but because of plain damn decency.
I could go on a rant about why I believe that if I should wash my own dinner plate after eating, so should my husband, but that is too progressive for most people. Our community can’t handle that sentiment as yet. Granted, there’s no issue with spouses looking out for the needs of the other, but whatever it is, plain old decency should prevail, especially in the household. I mean, why not wash your own dinner plate? Why leave it there with the curry leaves clinging to the leftovers? The fact that you just expect it to be washed by someone else means that you have this sense of entitlement which is a symptom of a far larger problem.
And that’s my gripe.
I don’t mind looking after your child or taking on a million other things, but am I not entitled to receiving appreciation. And no. I’m not whining. I’m being realistic. There is no human on earth who feels good being unappreciated.
So back to my story…This is what I’ve realised: My husband feels that it is my duty as a woman to do the things other women have done for centuries. In fact. I was probably getting off really light. It is not his fault really. This is what he was raised to believe, but now the big problem sets in: how do I get him to see the light? How do I get a creature that has been honed, over centuries -ironically by women, no less- to lose this goddamned sense of entitlement? When men do a chore, they want gold stars and applause. Yet, the same chore done by an exhausted wife barely warrants a thank you.
I can’t live with it. The tide is going to turn. And i’m going to start with my son. Who, incidentally, is still not asleep.
I hear a crash. Then a howl.
The patriarchy is crumbling. Ha, ha.