A telephone conversation with my sister-in-law, who flew over from Holland yesterday to spend this weekend visiting her mother, giving her some quality time with her 18 month old grandson;
Me: "So, are you packed?"
Her: "Oh, just about. I've got a couple of things to do, ironing and stuff..."
Me: "Why don't you just iron when you get here?"
Her: "Oh, not ironing for me. No, for R (her husband, who was staying behind)."
Me (blankly): "I'm sorry?"
Her: "Well, he needs shirts..."
Me: "You are joking, right? Why can't R iron his own shirts?"
Her: "Well, he's not very good at it (she pauses as I snort), and - and - if I don't do them, he'll take them to his mother to do!"
Me: "And this is a problem... why?"
Her: "Well, I don't like her to, she'll think less of me, and she only lives around the corner and I don't want her to... well, then she'll be here every moment and... "
Me: "You're mad. If your mother in law offers to do your ironing, let her for chrissake. It's not like you don't have enough on your plate already (s-in-law is just pregnant for the second time). Why make more work for yourself?"
Her: "I don't know..."
Me: "Listen to me. I have been with your brother 14 years and never ironed a single one of his shirts. He is just as capable of making an inadequate job of it as I am. Luckily for him, the cleaner now makes a better job of it than either of us, but still... there are limits. I cook, I clean (in-between the cleaner's visits, admittedly), I do the shopping, I look after the children, I do the school runs and the taxi-service, I do the admin, I do the laundry, I do whatever needs doing outside, and pretty much everything else. The least he can do is iron his own shirts..."
Poor Sis-in-law. She was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. I mentioned in my last post that I've been reading Wife in the North, and am currently going through a phase of 'Oh my god, that's me!' about every second page. I've lost count of the times that I've read something and had to stop myself highlighting the passage and racing in to Husband (when he's here, that is), shouting 'Look! Look! Look at this! That's why I get so cross!'
Now, obviously my Husband has not forced me to abandon my beloved London town and move hundreds of miles away. (Though it's not beyond the realms of possibility). No, I'm talking more about her observations on men and women's different approach to family life. For example...
'I believe there is an army of angry women out there. Each rage different but a common theme - the high-earning husband, clever, ambitious and obsessed with work. This obsession drives the man to work through nights and weekends, year after year..... Throughout this time, his resenting wife will do that thing commonly described as 'picking up the slack'. This generally translates to 'looking after the children'. Morning, she will get up with the children to allow her husband to have an extra hour lie-abed to make up for how late he stayed at the office. 'This job is killing me,' he will tell her, his eyes closed. His staggering wife, already clocked on for her all-day/all-night shift....' (Judith O'Reilly, Wife in the North)
This book is by no means all so grim. Much of it is hilarious. But she does tell it how it is, and it's been a while since I sat down and thought of it like that. In much the same way as Wife in the North, I don't want my husband to change. He is who he is; I knew that when I married him. And he does pull his weight within our family. That's not the issue here.
What is the issue - and apologies for repeating myself, as I know it's an old recurring theme with me - is that sometimes it just gets right on my tits (there is no other way to put it) that all my experience, education, and work-related abilities are sitting at home fallow for the forseeable future. I know, I could go back to work. Believe me, I've thought about it. But with a travelling husband this is the best way for our family for now, there is no doubt in my mind on that matter. And besides, I enjoy being home with the Boys. Well - most of the time I enjoy it. Some of the time it's just about OK.
And let's not talk about the rest...