Click here for shortcuts to regional language blogs and city-specific events.
Last evening, my wife and I had an argument. Not a bitter one, but definitely an intense one. I suppose you could call it a tiff. There was a lot of angst in both of us, and we were venting that at each other.
It started when I asked her not to keep disturbing me with trivial things when I am writing. I said it affected my flow of thought, my creativity. Don’t just keep coming into the study asking me about what to have for dinner, I said. And for heaven’s sake, don’t get irritated if you find clumps of clothes lying around or unwashed vessels in the kitchen when you return from office. As a writer, I have an erratic thought flow and so, I can’t stick to a predictable routine every day. I have to write when the mood seizes me; otherwise the momentum will be lost. I will get to the dishes in time, don’t worry; just that, it may not happen before you come back from work.
She countered saying there she doesn’t get irritated every day, but only when it happens three or four times in a row. And then it gets to her nerves and she has no way but to vent. Also, that there was nobody else she could ask for suggestions on dinner or a gifting idea. She ended by saying she needed me to help her in domestic matters and that she couldn’t handle it all by herself.
‘You say your mind should not be cluttered. But do you know how cluttered my mind is?’ she said, looking at me intensely. ‘After finishing work in office, I have to start thinking about food for us, what to pack in Chikku’s lunch box, whether there is enough dal and vegetables at home, ….. On top of that, I have to spend time with Chikku. I really want that, he wants that; but I have no energy or time for it. And after all this, I have no time for myself...no time to rest.’
Well, we kept at it intermittently for more than an hour, but I am just giving you the long and short of it here.
I stewed in my anger for a while. Desperate to clear the fog in my mind, I stepped out to the balcony. I turned to the calm skies and the fleecy clouds for some succour.
This conversation had left me seriously disturbed. There was something here I could not put my finger on. Each of us felt we were right, and that we were doing the right thing. But, there was this unshakeable feeling that something was definitely wrong. What was it that I was missing?
My wife and I love each other. Criminally, achingly, totally, joyously, with abandon. And both of have always shared everything in life – right down to household chores. Being involved in the so-called ‘household duties’ came naturally to me. Heck, people at home laugh at the way I go after unwashed utensils. They say I was born to do dishes.
Then, why were we quarreling like children? Perhaps, because we are children at heart? We had argued about this same matter earlier too. Were we (or at least one of us) not seeing the whole picture?
I stood in the balcony and took a few deep breaths. I could feel the turbulence within me subside.
And then, the realization came to me gradually. The realization that neither of us was wrong, but that there still was a gap that needed to be bridged. The gap lay in the way each of us looked at things and prioritized what needed to be done. To put it simply, she prioritise housework over most other things, while I put my writing over everything else. Also, her tolerance to dirt and disorder is far less than mine is – which is why she feels the urge to keep cleaning up and putting things in their rightful place. You could say that I look at things the 'man's way', while she does so the 'woman's way'. There is a grain of truth in this, but to a large extent, the matter also depends upon our individual personalities.
There is, I knew, another angle to this whole issue. The societal pressure most married women feel to live up to expectations and to perform according to a given job description. To some extent, this is true of my family too. My parents, uncle and aunts do expect my wife to put the interests of her husband and son above hers. They feel she should go to any length to ensure that we were clothed and fed properly. The fact that she is a person too, and that she has her own needs does not matter much to them. I don't want you to get the wrong impression. They are definitely not vile people who keep going after my wife with a hammer. They enjoy a good relationship with her. Still, these expectations lie deep in their hearts and are given away by their words and actions. After all, the elders in my family are no different from the society they live in - a society that lionises sons and always tries to show daughters their place.
In the nine years that we have been man and wife for, I have always fought this attitude, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with her. It becomes so much simpler for a woman if her man stands alongside her. And so, I have shared responsibilities with my wife wholeheartedly. My parents do not like this, but I have continued doing it nevertheless. Not only because I love her, but also because I knew that this was a fight millions of women fight every day. In my mind, I was, in my own small way, standing up for all of them.
Coming back to yesterday's tiff. What should I do now, I wondered.
For me, the filter has always been simple. How much do I love and respect my wife? Do I see her not just as my wife, but also as a woman, as an individual? Do I love and respect her enough to rise above my ego?
And I realized that yes, of course I do.
This was the clincher. I decided that I could and would do more to help out at home. I’d try harder to ensure that our home was not in chaos when she returned from work. I’d try harder to put the kitchen waste out on time. I’d try harder to keep our son engaged by myself, so that she can get more time to paint. I’d try harder to not get irritated if she interrupts my writing (not that she does it often anyway).
I’d try harder, I’d try harder…..
These things may seem trivial, but they are not. If something is important to our wives, it had bloody well be important to us husbands too.
It is time we men stepped up for our wives. It is time we threw out our prejudices, our inflated ego, our feeling of entitlement, our superiority, our bullshit out of the window. We must realize that our wives are equal to us. However, they are grappling with an unequal share of the burden.
We should help change that.
Let me know if you enjoyed this post - or not. If you did like it, please do 'follow' my blog. You will be notified every time I publish a new post.