• You will mistreat your husband

    This is one of the commandments of maternity. You can deny it all you like, you can say this won't happen to you. But it’s a fact of life, and the high divorce rate in couples with small children only goes to prove it.

    I’ve already mentioned in other chapters how young mums feel tired, irritated and frustrated, and guilty. Tired because of so many nights without sleep and the extra work that comes with having a baby. Irritated because the kids so often push our patience to the limit. Frustrated because we want to do so many things – we want to be perfect mothers, wives and employees, but inevitably something has to give. Guilty because we often feel like running away or going back to the times when we didn’t have to worry about anyone except ourselves.

    And as most mothers are actually quite well-balanced individuals, they don't offload these burdens at work (although we often feel like ripping certain co-workers’ heads off, it’s true), or on the children (who may often be the cause of all the irritation with their tantrums and fixations, but they didn’t ask to be born after all), or our friends (we don't often see them these days anyway). Who’s left, then, to soak up all that negative static that we accumulate over the course of the day/week? Our poor husbands.

    I can almost hear the applause of all those men who’ve felt so wronged all these years. ‘Finally someone understands us,’ some men will say. ‘I always knew that but I never told anyone.’ ‘Well well. It wasn’t just me, then.’. But wait a minute, gentlemen. You aren't getting away with this so easily.

    On behalf of all women, even the ones who say it isn't true, I admit we will inevitably treat our husbands badly at some point in our lives (or at some point in the day, to be honest). You, fathers, are our punch bags. You are the ones who are at our side on the sofa at the exact moment we need to let some fury vent. Yes, it’s wrong for us to take out all our rage on you, and we regret it often enough, and realize we’ve been bitches. Although we’ll rarely admit that to you. But there are so many times when you lot deserve every extra decibel, every glass smashed against the wall, every ‘You can’t do anything right.’

    The fact is, no matter how ‘participative’ they may be, men can’t think beyond their own belly buttons. They just don’t think of the thousand and one things that need to be done in relation to the kids and the house, and that’s what pisses us off. You want some examples? I’ll give you some examples:

    Going on holiday
    Mum’s trying to pack her own bags and the kids’ bags too, with a three-page list in her hand to make sure she doesn’t forget anything, what with medicines, favourite toys, sunhats, towels, cardigans, chargers for this and that, toothbrushes, snacks for the journey, baby change bag, etc. etc. etc. Dad’s got his own bag to pack. He goes to the computer to look up the route or check the temperature at our destination or some other less important thing. Halfway through her three-page list, mum still finds time to pick out what she’ll wear for the journey, break up a fight over possession of the remote control and take the crusts off the little one’s toast, because ‘Daddy didn’t’ – and Daddy knows (or bloody well ought to!) she’s funny about her toast and won’t eat it any other way. Obviously it’s a question of minutes before mum comes out with ‘Do you mind leaving the ****ing computer for a minute and helping me out here?’ Dad’s taken aback. ‘You could have told me you needed help.’ Really? Did I really need to tell you?

    The end of the day
    Dad gets home. The kids are playing quietly in the living room, fresh from their bath. Mum’s making dinner. Dad comes in, helps set the table and sits down on the sofa. Two minutes later, in comes mum, shouting. ‘Look, why don’t you take your backside off the sofa and get the washing in off the line? You could at least put your own clothes away, they’re folded on top of the bed. Did you buy milk? Didn’t you? Don’t tell me you didn't notice we finished the last packet this morning? Why is it me who has to think of everything? Christ, you’d think you didn’t live here!’ At this point the reader may be thinking, ‘Isn't Mum overdoing it a little here? The poor guy’s just got home, he’s only taken a minute to relax on the sofa after a hard day’s work...’ Perhaps, reader. Perhaps. But what you don't know is that while Dad comes home in the same clothes he left in, Mum has changed three times that day already: the first time after a disastrous incident with a small child and a shower head, the second after the younger one threw up his milk, and the third after one of them flipped a plate of soup in the air. She’s also been mopping up a waterlogged bathroom, and making a new batch of rice after burning it the first time. If, instead of flopping out on the sofa, the gentleman of the house had gone straight to his wife and asked ‘ What can I do to help you?’, he’d have earned a smile – and some domestic harmony.

    Sunday outings
    Dad gets up quite calmly, on mum’s third attempt to awaken him, and notices his ‘Good morning, sleep well?’ goes unanswered. She’s woken up in a bad mood, he thinks. Oh no, my friend. She didn’t wake up in a bad mood. The reason she’s in a bad mood is she didn’t get much sleep, what with getting up to change one of the kids’ beds and shush the other who’s had a nightmare, followed by an early awakening with ‘Mummy I’m not sleepy and I’m hungry but it has to be you who makes breakfast because Daddy doesn't know how I like my cereal.’ Then she’s hung out the clothes she washed during the night to make sure they’re dry enough for pressing in the evening. And while His Lordship loafs on the sofa watching sports programmes, she’s picking out clothes for everyone and making sure there’s a change of clothes in the baby bag because we’ll be gone all day and while I’m at it I better pack biscuits, and a sunhat, and the football in case we go to the park, and a jar of fruit pudding in case we’re late getting lunch.

    Women do mistreat their husbands. Once they’re mothers. It’s unquestionably true. They’re not as gentle, not as available for love, less interested in their husband’s day at work, less alert to his needs. Yes, we should examine our conscience from time to time, and say sorry, and be more tolerant and understand that men don't have the same natural way with kids that we have. For the kids, there’s nobody quite like mum. But guys, you could grow up a little and stop acting the victim. Open your eyes and enjoy the view beyond your belly button. And if you really are incapable of thinking about the duties your children and your home impose on you, even the most basic stuff like checking to see their pyjama bottoms haven’t slipped off during the night or making the bed every day, then ask. And above all, before you flop down on the sofa with the iThing, offer to help. It’s an offer that will be greatly appreciated, and you’ll find you’ll be mistreated less.

    illustration by Sofia Silva
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