One of the first things I set out to do as a new bride was to make my marriage my own. I wanted my home to be distinct from my mother’s.
She is a wonderful wife and mum, but in many ways she’s very old school, with traditional values and methods I consider outdated.
So, I was determined that there should be a marked difference between her style and mine, in every way possible. I didn’t think it would be so hard, considering our different personalities. Then one day, just two months into marriage, I realised that I was not as different from my mother as I liked to think. Without my being aware, many of her values had somehow become my ideals and some of her flaws as a wife, my own shortcomings too.
Maybe you thought you would be a very modern wife but now you don’t want him to take his food from the pot, preferring to serve him yourself, and you find yourself informing him before you do something or go somewhere (you swear this is different from “taking permission”) and if he doesn’t want you to, you won’t.
Or maybe you decided before marriage that you would be the model wife. You wouldn’t give your husband the silent treatment, nag, withhold sex as a means of punishment, or do any of the other unconstructive things wives have been known to do. Now you’ve discovered that the road less travelled is less travelled for a reason, and there’s a reason women have resorted to these things for decades, and you better understand the constraints and motivations that lead to these.
You now not only know that it’s amazingly easy to give in to the urge to do these things, but that they can also prove to be very effective, unfortunately. After all, the nagging they accuse us of is simply asking for help, and keeping at it until hubby does what he was asked to do, abi? And it’s hard to chat or make love with someone you’re mad at, who hasn’t apologised and probably doesn’t even want to, so what is the fuss about silent treatment sef?
Yes, while we take what we perceive to be the high road in some areas, in others we act just like the women before us. And it’s not just the “negative” things. Even in mundane things like housekeeping and budgeting, we tend to carry over traits from our mothers, biological and otherwise. When I realised what had happened, I panicked, my very soul kicking against the thought of being a traditional, conventional, old school wife. No, no, noooo!
Eventually, I calmed down. I calmed down because, upon further self-examination, I saw that while I haven’t been able to shake off influences from my mother which are now ingrained in me, there are areas where my individuality shines through.
Unlike my mum, I’m very vocal and enthusiastic about sex (she once tried to quell my excitement, promising me I would get so tired of it that it would come out of my nose hahahaha!), so much so that I have a Twitter handle dedicated to #marriedsex. Unlike my mum I use lists — weekly meal planning lists as well as shopping lists. I also have a flexible food time-table, whereas my mum never used time-tables of any kind. And although I’ve still found it necessary to incorporate some of her tried and tested formulas and condiments into my own recipes, I’m far more willing to experiment and try out new recipes than my mother ever was. This is the kind of balance I embrace, and it comforts me.
I calmed down because, when I really look at it, I could do a whole lot worse than turning into mumsy.
In the beginning I was ready to battle the temptation to give in to stereotypes. Everything that reeked of “tradition” would be traded for more contemporary alternatives. Yet here I am, still choosing to wait for hubby to come home before I eat dinner — something that, to me, had subservience written all over it when mum used to do it.
Somehow it all makes sense now, and not just when it comes to eating together. There’s so much wisdom in many things mothers do, but they will only add up for us when we discover them for ourselves. And my sister, there’s no shame in admitting mum was right, or that her patterns are better than those we try to invent for ourselves.
What about you? Which of mum’s methods clung to you, and how are you putting your own stamp all over your home?