Friday, August 3, 2012

Your Wife Is Your Second Mother

A WORD TO MARRIED MEN: When you underwent pre-marital counselling, I am sure your counsellor did not tell you that in marrying a wife you were acquiring a second mother. The only difference is that when you met your first mother, you were a little baby and so she could experiment on you as she pleased and you did not have much of a choice. After all, all you could do was to kick up tantrums (i.e. her understanding of your refusal to accept her will without putting up a gallant fight).

Now you are an adult. You have a mind of your own. You think you know what is best for you. However, in comes your second mother—your wife. She is concerned about your bulging waistline, your sagging cheeks, or your thinning hairline, and she expects you to take her efforts at addressing this without adult tantrums (again, her understanding of your refusal). That is where the problem is.

It goes something like this. Your wife spends an afternoon with her friends—perhaps at a church outing—and, while they are gossiping about men (just as men do about women), they express some of their concerns about their husbands. Those who have been more successful than others share their magic formulas with those who have been less successful. “Try it,” they assure their friends, “it works wonders!” And, sure enough, your wife resolves to “try it” on you!

When you were a baby, you were too young to notice that your mom had decided to suddenly change your skin lotion, the colour of your clothes, or your meal patterns because of advice from friends that she had met the day before. After kicking and screaming for a few minutes you simply accepted that this was your fate in life and you adjusted to the inevitable. After all, she was your mother.

The problem is that now you are an adult. When your breakfast menu changes from a full three-course meal to a solitary banana sitting on a plate, you do not take that lying down. “Where is my breakfast?” you ask. “You haven’t seen it? You’re only having a banana for breakfast today,” your wife answers from the kitchen. One solitary fruit for breakfast is not your idea of breakfast and so you put up a gallant fight. “Yah, but where was the decision made to change the menu? I thought I was the head of this home… blah, blah.”

Okay, I know it does not get to this extent!

Perhaps you are about to go out for some event and think that your favourite blue shirt is just right for that occasion. You search for your shirt but cannot find it. Finally, you ask your wife if she has seen it and her response is, “I decided to give it away. I felt that you had worn it enough times and it needed its well-deserved rest. So, I gave it to your younger brother when he was last here.” “Excuse me,” you blurt out, “who decides when a shirt has been worn too many times? I thought I was the head of this home… blah, blah, blah.”

Such remonstrance does not achieve its desired end because… a wife is a second mother. She knows what is best for you—at least, so she thinks. She knows how much you ought to weigh, what clothes you ought to wear, the amount of exercise you should have per day, the amount of food you should eat, the hour you should get home from work, how many hours you should put into your office work, how many hours you ought to sleep, how warm your bedroom should be, which women you should keep a distance from because they are bad company for you, etc.

Hyacinth helping Richard with his tie in Keeping Up Appearances
Anyone who has ever watched the television comedy series Keeping Up Appearances can see the second mother in Hyacinth. Her husband, poor henpecked Richard, just never seems to get anything right! Hyacinth is the one who knows what impression to maintain with the neighbours and she makes sure Richard toes the line. What makes this comedy so hilarious is that Hyacinth exaggerates what many men often have to live with in their homes. It is the phenomenon the Bembas call, “Tachimoneka bwino” (English: “It doesn’t look nice”). 

If you are a husband, then you must be familiar with the following comments and questions from your wife: “I would have thought by now you knew where to put your dirty pants and socks.” “This room is stuffy; you mean you couldn’t open the windows?” “Did you take your morning bath?” “No, no, no, you can’t put on that shirt with that trousers; the two do not go together.” “Have you eaten your breakfast?” “Another helping?! No, that's too much!" "Here. Have some more vegetables. They are good for you." "I don’t like that friend of yours.” Who do these comments and questions remind you of? Your mother, of course!


  1. I think none of us are commenting because our wives have Internet access. I'm not certain but it appears to me that you are venturing close to a region known as 'the valley of death'. Lead on brother I will support you from a distance.

  2. Ha! I'm fairly certain I have seen one or two of these scenarios in our home, just from a different perspective... My mother says to me, "I keep giving papa fruit with his breakfast but he eats everything else instead!" (at which time she mournfully points to his plate, that now only holds the left-over fruit.) The scary part of this is when she then turns a speculative eye on me, and says "You know, you didn't eat any green beans or broccoli last night with dinner. Those are good for you!" After tactfully pointing out that I am *practically* an adult, I do the best thing I can see-- Beat a hasty retreat!

  3. I would take offense at this, but I must get back to writing out my husband's schedule for the week.

  4. This is a great article. I would like to see a Part 2 of it though, that nows provides further guidance after this realisation.

  5. I wrote this blog post on a flight to London and posted it on arrival there. Felistas, my wife, was with me on this trip. She read the post a few days later and did not comment. One day, while still in London, someone mentioned reading it while she was standing next to me. She then whispered in my ear, "I read the blog post. I will leave it for now so that I do not spoil your trip. I will deal with it when we return home." That statement had a familiar ring to it. In my childhood, someone used to say that to me. Can anyone help me to remember who it was?