Tag Archives: fathers

Homework and the Monster Mommy

Study

Homework is usually my domain, though the husband does chip in a fair amount too. However, every once in a while it does lead to a you-do-this situation.

Like one Saturday, a few weeks ago, there was some Hindi homework that my ten-year-old daughter needed to get done. Now I am quite aware of the fact that homework is for the child to do and all that, but the truth is that when it’s Sunday night and the blank sheet stares you in the face as your lachrymose daughter informs you, amid bursts of tears, that the work most definitely needs to be given in the next day, somehow the bigger picture that she-must-learn-to-be-more-responsible blurs and all you want to do is fight the fire at hand.  Having been in a few of these situations, I try and not let homework linger on till Sunday evening – the afternoon being the absolute cut-off.

This particular Saturday presented a somewhat tedious Hindi homework and since I was busy with the younger twins’ respective work-sheets, I asked my husband to help the older one’s work. Or, to tell the truth, after an aborted attempt at starting the homework with her and my husband wondering aloud about why mother and daughter were fighting again, there was a slight change in plan on who would tackle this behemoth.  Little did he realize that his question would land him the unenviable job of supervising the Hindi homework. After a few exchanges between us about the merits of patience and of letting her figure it out, I handed him the sheet and said “all yours”. He looked at me helplessly at first and then, in a show of bravado, said that he would “make her do it without a problem”. I smiled and left the room with the alacrity of a cat that had licked the cream. I knew just where this was heading.

I returned twenty minutes later to find my daughter staring out of the window and my husband reading something about start-up ventures on the web. It seemed to be a serene and happy kind of coexistence. There was such calmness in the air that I, for a moment, contemplated leaving them in this idyllic state and returning to the twins’ homework. That noble thought, needless to say, passed quite quickly, and the peace was soon shattered. Father and daughter, lost in their own worlds, didn’t quite realize that monster mommy had made her dreaded entry, so I had to announce it myself. When I asked for a progress report, my husband jumped out of his chair and said “she’s almost done”. I looked at my daughter’s desk and saw the worksheet, clean as a slate. She looked at me with her large, eloquent eyes and said “I am thinking mama”. My husband sensed my mood, looked at my daughter in suppressed panic and asked her what happened to the useful inputs he’d given her. She looked most alarmed and said “dad, you didn’t tell me to write anything!” Ah! this was just the Claire-in-Modern-family-moment that I’d been waiting for– the time when my husband would face the same aggravation as I do with the kids (now you know why mommy yells?) But, there was no yelling, no stamping of feet, no, you-better-look-at-me-when-I-talk-to you exchanges. The air was tense and there was some fraction in the ranks, and while that briefly put into question the enduring unity against the common enemy, which would be the bad-cop, aka mommy, it didn’t last long enough for me to celebrate the sweet reversal of fortunes. The situation was quickly stabilized as my husband clarified that they had mentally gone over what was to be written and all that remained was to pour it out on paper. My daughter was quick to pick up the cue and wholeheartedly endorsed this fact. I rolled my eyes, sighed and gave them an ultimatum. I was to return in twenty more minutes and the pouring-out on paper better have happened till then.

Fifteen minutes later, as I was telling the twins to put back their pencils in their drawers, father and daughter entered the room holding the finished sheet, save for one last question. They said that they’d done it all but needed my expert guidance on one question. It was evident that this had been planned in an effort to make the home/cabinet secretary feel that any task was incomplete without her astute leadership. They both looked at me helplessly, and I played my part with such skill that it would have put Michelle Pfeiffer to shame. I heaved a sigh, took the paper and reluctantly agreed to complete the task.

“Thank you mama”, said the father-daughter-duo, “we were a bit lost without you”.  The battle won, I agreed to put the matter to rest, but not before I’d given my husband the look. The score stood at the usual – Mommy one, daddy Zero, as Salman Rushdie would say.

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When both work, who takes care of the baby?

There are some people whose shoulders others cry on. I have one of those shoulders. For all my life, I’ve had people, friends and strangers alike, telling me their woes and asking me for advice, which I feel most unqualified to give, but find it difficult to communicate that convincingly for the fear of seeming uninterested or unwilling to help.

Anyway, to come to the point, a friend came over the other day, looking a little upset. I didn’t probe but I could guess what it was. She’d been talking about her husband, who I’ve never met but can picture – your typical I-need-my-three-hours-of-watching-sport-so-don’t-get-in-my-way kind of man, the kind someone like me would’ve left at the alter provided I was foolish enough to have made it till there, but, in my friend’s defense, it’s possible, as it is with most men, she didn’t know his various sides before she married him. Anyway, he sounds quite obnoxious so I was sure he was the cause of her sad face. And he was.

She runs an event management company that mostly handles birthday parties. So, on the days that she has to go on site, which, in her case, is the party, she takes her two-year old daughter with her. I’d wondered why she did that, for it was work for her, but never asked. It turns out that her husband refuses to babysit, telling her that since her work is “light and just a hobby” it’s perfectly ok to take the daughter with her -while he enjoys his peace at home watching TV!

Hmm..I wonder what I would’ve done had my husband said that to me (and at that moment I thanked God for him!!) I probably would’ve cut the cable wire and let him stew (I like that thought!!) But, my poor friend is a little too soft for her own good. She told me that the previous evening she had to go for a party that she had organized for a client and it was a little far, so she told her husband to be with the daughter, and the maid, at home. He refused, saying that he was watching an important match on TV and could not attend to the child, and that she should take her to the party, which was to end late.

So, the little girl accompanied her mother and they returned past midnight. The next day the girl was tired for school but that didn’t seem to bother the husband..”children need distraction” he says to her being tired and refusing to go to school. Then he adds that if the child does not want to go, then she should not be forced to and tells my friend “you just want her to go so you can carry on with your hobby”. Agh. Just writing about this is making me mad, so I cannot imagine what she would’ve felt.

I have little patience so maybe I am not the right person to ask for advice. But I told her to tell him off the next time he calls her work a “hobby”. He needs to respect what she does and it’s for her to decide what it means to her. Men need to be told firmly, the more you allow them to get away with, the more they’ll push..

I hope I never meet him, because if I do, my acid dripping tongue will find it hard to hold itself back!

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