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Marriage Is Not a Husband-Care Centre

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The assertion that marriage is not a rehabilitation centre for poorly raised men still holds. Marriage is not a ‘husband care’ centre. Click To Tweet

You might have heard of it at your cousin’s wedding, or read about it.

Or maybe, your favourite aunt might have mentioned it to you.

She might have added that it’s what makes a marriage; what keeps a marriage – the idea that your husband is your first child. That he’s yours to take care of. That if you don’t, someone else will. You might, unfortunately, like me, have been taught this and you believed it. You didn’t question it. You thought it was what you’re supposed to do. You thought it’s only natural; the way things are done – have been done. Until one morning, while packing your husband’s suitcase ahead of his travel, you asked yourself why you were packing for a grown man. You questioned if really that is what makes a marriage. You asked yourself – and maybe him – if there’s any reason why he can’t pack his suitcase for himself.

You are a good wife – you know it. It’s not because you’ve grown ‘horns’ that you’re asking these questions. It’s not because you got a little more education, and you feel like you’re equal to the ‘head of the home’. You’ve not been reading a lot of Chimamanda or listening to a lot of Beyoncé. And you know why? Because you’ve been too busy ‘taking care of him’,  like you were told to. You’ve been too busy ‘parenting’ him.

Since I can only speak for myself, I have no problem taking care of my husband. In fact, many times I relish doing things for him. I take it as a duty to be a partner to him; to help him, cheer him on, do nice things for him, make him happy.

I do it out of my love for him. I only draw three red lines at where it ceases to be a partnership and becomes a parent-child taking-care-of.

I asked myself these questions when my husband said something that I questioned after the conversation had ended: something on the lines of his mother having handed him over to me to finish what she had started. It was to the effect of ‘teaching’ him; guiding him where I thought he was falling short.

Later, I thought, “actually, no”. Well, not that I shouldn’t point out such things or help him become a better version of himself, but I thought there’s irresponsibility that comes with that thought. I thought about it deeply and tried to dig out the roots. Much later, I randomly came across a clip of a pastor sharing that men like ‘kudekezwa’ and that they suffer if they’re not. He also declared that your husband is your first child. I couldn’t help asking why and how, and most importantly, what does that mean?

The wedding speeches are mostly addressed to the women, already establishing the woman as the primary doer in the home – an unequal balance. There’s little talk about “care for your wife” as much as there is husband care. It’s what we – I suppose Africans – do best: preparing the female for a marriage whose definition is ‘taking care of the male’. And the man only needs to show up to be taken care of. Maybe the man would think: I have arrived. I’m being taken care of. All I need is to provide, and I’m taken care of in every other way – cooked for, cleaned after, reminded of where I put things. So, he forgets or feigns forgetfulness: forgets how to fry onions, how to hang a towel, how to unbelt before removing his trousers. He forgets how to take care of himself because he was promised that his wife should take care of him.

If you both come home at the same time, guess who’s likely to go into the sitting room and who is likely to head to the kitchen. That’s not a problem on the surface, the problem is that such messages enforce gender roles which are not always fair. Girls are raised for marriage, but boys are not. Caring for your husband is natural– except it’s not.

So, I’ve come to the acceptance that it is not my responsibility to consistently correct his behaviour or keep track of the whereabouts of his belongings, pick up after him, remind him to take his meds, always ask him what he wants to eat, remind him of his allergies, remind him to wear a sweater even when he knows he’s susceptible to catching a cold, remind him to put his dirty clothes in the laundry basket… All these things, however minor they look, translate into mental workload, and the result is one partner ends up feeling overworked and short-changed. Surely, he can pack his suitcase, and brush his shoes, like any adult. But does that mean that I can’t help him if, for instance, he’s running late? Of course, I’d love to. And I do.

My husband is an adult who doesn’t need ‘taking care of’. What he needs is a partner, a friend; and to that end, I’m a dope wife. Being an adult means being responsible first for himself, knowing how to prepare a meal for and by himself, knowing where he puts his things, cleaning after himself, and taking care of the children as a parent should. It means knowing that providing the money doesn’t equate to parenting. As an adult, one doesn’t get to say that “you’re better at cleaning than I am”. Cleaning is just cleaning, I certainly know of no one, male or female, who has been to any cleaning school.

There’s the normal concern and care for one’s partner but there’s a point where it mutates into parenting and the line is nearly invisible. Even then, the care must be mutual. There must be interdependence. Realise I said mutual, not 50-50, as in ‘if I do the cooking he must do the dishes’, that would be petty and impractical. There’s such humility, such joy in taking care of one’s husband but there must be a place where we should draw three red lines.

Parenting a partner translates to a lack of respect and trust that they can and should take care of themselves. Also, when you’re parenting him, who is parenting you? Or have you heard of a groom being told that the bride is his first child? He’s not your child, you’re not his mother. Realise how weird it would be for him to be your ‘father’? Exactly.

Some things are more egregious than others, and they play out differently for different couples. I think it’s unfair for one partner to turn into a human hard drive or a calendar with reminders. To do a chore they promised to, take his medication to him, remind him of his passwords, where his wardrobe essentials are – even when they really are right in front of him. Sure, you can misplace your keys like a normal human but she’s not your human memory card, she’s not the Siri of your home. How can it be that I’ve read and heard of so many stories about husbands not finding their things? Surely it can’t be a gender issue. It can’t be part of being a man’s DNA.

Let’s not talk about gender roles in this age. We have a lot to focus on: from climate change to wars to new world powers and what that means for us as Africans. Besides, it’s not about gender wars, it’s about all of us being responsible adults. I would rather talk about supporting each other, taking care and looking out for each other.

Why is this important? Because we must keep questioning and evaluating. And because I want to teach my daughter to ask questions, to think through because we can’t afford to raise more societal robots who do things because ‘that’s how it’s always been done’. Also, for the love of humanity, let’s raise better future husbands. The assertion that marriage is not a rehabilitation centre for poorly raised men still holds. Marriage is not a ‘husband care’ centre.

Or wait, maybe we should really stop calling them ‘baby’, they might be taking it literally. I am my husband’s partner; I can never be his mother and I should not be expected to be.

Also Read: The Lies Perpetuated by Sexual Purity Teachings

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4 responses to “Marriage Is Not a Husband-Care Centre”

  1. Phanis Obwaya says:

    You unpacked this quite carefully, knowing how hard it is to talk about patriarchy without fueling gender wars. This was a beautiful read.

  2. Annie says:

    The last paragraph; “maybe we should stop calling them baby…” Is hilarious. Your thoughts make a lot of sense.

  3. Grace says:

    Mic drop!Great read!!!Sending to all sons of……

  4. Diana says:

    Morning complete! Brilliant article. Captured my thoughts and more! Sharing pap!

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