By Mankhokwe Namusanya:
Sometimes, your wife will annoy you. And, my married friends can just read after the comma in that opening sentence. The other word is irrelevant.
And, you will feel like renting a small boys quarter in some remote location just to use as a hiding spot – or for getting peaceful sleep – when she annoys you. But, that would mean spending almost the whole of your life in such a decrepit near falling structure.
So, you will suspend the thought and take her annoyance with grace. Or, with a bottle. Or, if you still have faith in humanity and divinity, with prayer.
You will not really know it when the pattern comes. However, each time she gets annoying, you will realise that you also get sleepy. And, there, you will have unlocked the secret to a happy marriage.
You might be unlucky. She might fall pregnant before you discover the secret to a happy marriage. You will feel punished, as if the pregnancy is something she picked on the road accidentally.
The first days, you might pretend to be kind: back rubs, feet massages and watching cartoons together. But, appropriating class is always hard, it falls off quickly, you will fall to default and maybe say, if you are unkind:
“You are not the first woman to be pregnant, drop the act…”
She will feel hurt. Deeply. Because, in her words: “for every woman that journey is different. It’s difficulties personal, the experience so tailored to the individual.”
When her husband said that to her, however, I do not think that he said in bad faith. But I do not say that loud because you do not know if a husband ever says anything in just faith to their wife.
He saw the hurt yet said nothing in terms of an apology. He, like all husbands, swept it under the rug of time. Yet she, as all wives too, stored it in some chamber. For evidence, she still remembers it to this day.
And, even when the child was born and he held her for the first time, beaming like that time they had gotten married, there swept that indignation: he had said bad things about her, the baby, when she was in the womb.
“Did you really think those words, even if unkind, were really targeted at the baby?”
She dismisses it. But, hastens to add, at that time the baby is the mother and the mother is the baby.
“You must be a pro-lifer,” I say just to stir the waters. She jumps on the tag, wears it like a badge of honour on the lapel of her humanity. I make sure we do not stay on that subject for long.
Her anger, at him for chiding her when pregnant, blossomed into daffodils. As the dawn of the daughter’s life broke and her facial features started shaping properly, those daffodils nearly choked her.
“She was becoming a spitting image of him, just with a feminine touch. You know, those daughters who look like their fathers yet come with an amazing beauty?”
He, like all fathers who cannot tell a dove from a raven or mauve from maroon, noted the semblance. He fell in love with her.
Digression: of course, fathers always fall in love with their children, but this was a kind of love that parents have for their children in movies.
Gifts? He got her. Toys? He started getting her huge Teddy bears while she could not even have hard food aka porridge.
And, children being reciprocal creatures, she picked up on his love and her jealousy – or, anger, if you are her.
“That child would be with me if it was just to breastfeed when her father was around.”
When he was not around, she was gloomy, and sad, like one who had lived a hundred lives before that all ended in a similar drastic fashion. The moment his face showed up, there emerged a baby with no care in the world.
That riled her, the mother.
The father, in honour of that bond that had festered and developed properly, changed. Where, in the past, he had watched European football from semi-lit bars, he now did at home. All the time discussing the matches with a baby.
Where he had previously knocked off at 5 and arrived home 5 hours later because queues were terrible that day, it seemed the roads in the city had suddenly become wider such that queues were a thing of the past.
“He was the husband I had always wanted…”
Except, of course, he was not really the husband here. He was the father every daughter would wish for.
She realised that too, a little late. Because, at first, she just thought it was normal for a first time parent to be that besotted with their child.
“I realised that there was no love anymore from his end to mine. Birthdays? They were forgotten, or remembered in hushed ‘happy birthday wifey’ routine messaging. The love had gone to our daughter…”
That thing, not many people talk about it because it sounds almost ridiculous. Every time one raises it, someone says “are you jealous of your own child, are you for real or this is a new joke?”
But, she says, it is a serious thing.
“And, it hurts. For me, it even felt like my husband had got a mistress, and I knew her and had to love her too…”
Sharing love? She says that would have been better. Here, it was transferred – in one tight jar. The whole of it, as if she had never initially deserved it or, perhaps, had done something to offend it.
At first it used to be a serious bother. These days, it is less of a bother. She accepted her place as a mom. Not a wife, and mom.