I’m the disciplinarian of the family, there’s no doubt about it. My kids have been taught to answer the question – “Who’s the Boss?” with a prompt and loud – “Amma (mother)!!!”
I have had to take on this role partly because it suits my personality, but also because my husband doesn’t even attempt to job-share this particular position. He travels for up to two weeks every month, so I am always left holding the fort when it comes to school runs, medical checkups, and more. Even when at home physically and emotionally, he has almost always checked out mentally. Sometimes it’s because he is reading (always news or heavy non-fiction, which puzzles me because I only ever lose myself in imaginary worlds) and is incapable of multi-tasking. Often, it’s because he is working or taking work calls (this I can understand because I too don’t like to be disturbed when working – the difference is that I wait for the kids to go to bed and stay up late, sacrificing both sleep and personal interests to reach work deadlines). But most of the time, it is simply because he doesn’t think it is his any of business.
A recurring fight in our marriage involves what I see as lack of consideration. He only does things he is asked to do, or forced to do, after every possible hindrance to him actually doing it has been cleared. I want him to take the initiative and do things of his own accord. He can’t understand what I’m going on about. In his mind, I am the CEO of the house, while he is only the executive. A lowly one, at that. He looks to the top for directions, which he carries out, but with the usual employee dissatisfaction. So he is constantly negotiating a better deal, trying to claim overtime by inflating his billable hours and comparing his lot with other employees (in other households, thankfully! There are no other employees in this household :)).
Kids are smart. At 5 and 3, ours have already read and understood the power dynamics in the household. And they know that they don’t need to win over this menial employee. The other day, I overheard a negotiation between them.
“Please can we watch TV? Just one episode of Paw Patrol. Just 20 mins.”
“I need to check with Amma first.”
“No, no, you decide. You can decide for us.”
“OK then. Just 10 mins.”
“WE SAID 20!!! WE WANT 20!!!” Tantrums follow.
“YOU SAID I SHOULD DECIDE! I SAID 10!” My husband splutters in protest. In my room, from where I’m eavesdropping, I imagine him trying to hold his ground, looking around rather desperately for me to rescue him. More tantrums.
So ultimately, they compromised and watched TV for 45 minutes.
Now that would never have happened with me. Which is probably why they skip asking me altogether and go directly to the weakest link.
The other day, my daughter overheard us discuss the protests in Hong Kong. She asked me what protests are. I thought about it briefly and explained that sometimes there are people in charge of running a country and they want things to run or done in a certain way, but people living in that country may not be happy about it, so they make a fuss and show that they don’t agree with the rules. They are protestors and what they are doing is called protesting.
By this time, both kids had gathered around and were nodding very sagely. It was rather cute to see these two, politically-wise-beyond-their-years kids.
“What have you understood?” I asked them, very amused.
“It’s very easy to understand! We see it everyday!”
“Protests?!” I panicked, wondering where they had been wandering off to when they should have been on playdates.
“Yes! You are the boss. You are always telling Achan (father) what to do and how to do things, but he is always protesting because he doesn’t want to!”
I burst out laughing and looked around to see what my ‘protestor’ had to say. He was reading the news and hadn’t heard a word. Ah well, there would be no outraged protests to that, thankfully!