Friday, July 18, 2008

Wife Vs. Mother

A friend of mine has a fantastic food blog. In the kitchen, she is a true domestic goddess, cooking and baking and even making her own bread. I follow her culinary adventures online and take down lots of recipes, most of which I've not yet had time to make.

When Big A and I first moved in together, our apartment had a tiny kitchen and an ancient oven that made us afraid connecting the gas would cause the building to blow up. Plus, we both hate it when the smell of cooking food permeates throughout the house, and the tiny kitchen was not sealed off from the main living/dining area. Add to that the fact that I worked 3 simultaneous jobs, hence the move into the heart of the city where both of us could walk to our respective offices, meant very little cooking was done in the 2 1/2 years we lived there.

Marriage meant moving to a bigger flat, one with a "proper", though not much larger, kitchen. By this time I was working only one day job with flexible hours, which meant cooking was now possible.

So cook I did. My husband is very unadventurous gastronomically, so I had to make the things he'd been eating at home for years and staple Filipino food for most meals. The 2 days a week he would play golf though, I could push the envelope a little and make myself more interesting food. My repertoire increased from just "survival food" (pasta of all sorts, and roasts) to things like Eggs Benedict, Beef Stroganoff and Spanish-inspired bean stew. I baked banana bread and sticky toffee pudding from scratch, and made my own sangria when friends came over. While there were still many recipes I hadn't tried, I seemed to be on the right path to domestic goddess-ness.

Nine months into the marriage, I got pregnant. One day after the pregnancy was confirmed with our first ultrasound scan, I had some bleeding and was put on a week's strict bed rest. That meant absolutely no cooking, and this was a problem because Big A's culinary abilities are limited to making rice and heating up things that come from a can. I did the cooking and the washing up, but we had a lady come in twice a week to do the major cleaning, laundry and ironing. 

Bed rest meant that in the mornings before leaving for work, Big A would bring me a drink and something purchased from Starbucks the night before, like a muffin or a croissant. At this time, he only worked mornings, so at lunchtime he would come home and heat the food his parents or mine had left in our freezer, then do the washing up (I assumed). Dinner was a repeat of lunch.

A week went by and I was still told to take it easy because bouts of spotting would come and go. I was to spend as little time as possible on my feet, so preparing meals and washing up meant sitting at a stool in the kitchen.

In the second trimester things went back to normal, thankfully, so I continued my progress toward Stepford wifedom. The third trimester meant frantically finishing off my work, or trying to, as I would be officially unemployed once the baby came, and finding a place for all the hand-me down baby items my sisters passed on. In the run-up to the 40th week, I cooked madly, making and freezing as much as I could because all the reading I'd done said that there was little time and energy for housework when a new baby was born. (Little did I know that this would become a longish-term situation.)

Once Little A was born, things changed.

Suddenly I was a mother, and all mothers know that babies are quite demanding. We hired a daily girl whom I taught to cook and clean, as she didn't even know how to make rice, let alone use a toilet brush. As my job had disappeared and Big A started working 12 hours a day, we decided not to hire a nanny, which meant I was a full-time mum.

It was then that I realized that the roles of wife and mother are not particularly complementary. I had to be a mum first, and therefore had much less time to be a wife. Big A and I could no longer go out for meals, see a movie or paint the town red the way we used to BB (Before Baby). As Little A grew and Baby Einstein took over the television set, Big A and I couldn't even watch DVDs together anymore. 

The demands of his new job were such that in spite of the long hours at his desk, Big A had to entertain clients in the evenings at least once a week. On weekends, he wanted nothing more than to rest. Those twice weekly golfing afternoons were gone, as well as time previously spent at the driving range of with his friends. Since he spent so little time with his son, he wanted to make the most of weekends with the family. It was almost a good thing that we never had time to do husband-and-wife things together anymore.

While we both agree that Little A is a fantastic addition to the family and probably love him more than we do each other, there is no denying that the parameters of our marriage have had to adjust. No doubt these will change again as he gets older and becomes more independent, but in the meantime we're taking things day at a time. I look forward to the day when I can be both mother and wife, equally.

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