THAT TIME I ‘CONTROLLED’ MY HUSBAND
The dynamics of my friends’ marriages baffle my mother.
“You people and your London husbands,” is how she greets them when they come to my house solo, leaving their husbands at home with their children.
When my daughter was about two months old, my mother almost had a heart attack when I told her I was making a day trip to Paris for a bridal shower.
“Who will look after Pork Chop?!” she asked, like I was a single mum with no one to share the responsibility of raising my child.
I understand that my marriage and the dynamics of my household are not what she is used to. She is a sixty something year old Nigerian woman who was raised in a time where women did everything and men, nothing. Well, nothing besides being ATMs.
She pinches me if he walks into the kitchen to serve his dinner and berates me when he takes out the bin. She flies off the sofa when she hears him doing dishes and chases him out lest the water washes away his manhood.
On one occasion, she watched in quiet support while some twice removed aunt laid into him for carrying my handbag.
“What is wrong with you London people?!” the aunt asked as he helped me carry my bag into the house so I wouldn’t smudge my freshly varnished nails (you know that struggle!).
To my mother, his willingness to do household chores, serve his wife and be a hands on father are as foreign as his postcode.
She is consistent in her beliefs.
She frowned in disapproval the day I told her I was popping over to the petrol station to pump air into my car tyres.
“Shouldn’t your husband do that?”
She worried about how we would pay our bills when he was made redundant, despite my income. Yet, she managed to sleep at night when I was going on maternity leave, making him the sole/primary earner.
I am used to her lectures and pinches and I’m not mad at her because I understand that she is a product of the culture of her time just as I am a product of the culture of mine.
But one day, she stunned me.
“Why are you controlling your husband?”
I stared at her in disbelief.
“Controlling my husband?”
“Yes, you are controlling him.”
My daughter’s name was the cause of the accusation, the straw that broke the camel’s back.
I am Benin but married to a Yoruba man. The expectation (of the general public) was that my daughter would have a Yoruba first name or perhaps an English one. No one expected her first name would be a Benin one because god forbid she be identified by her mother’s tribe.
When we came up with three names for her (Yoruba, Benin and English), my husband loved her Benin name as much as I do. As soon as I told him what it means (and its significance to us), he was sold. When he suggested we use it as her first name, I was all for it.
It didn’t occur to me that anyone would have an issue with it till my mother accused me of controlling my husband.
For a time (albeit brief), she insisted on calling my daughter by her Yoruba name because she was concerned about “what people would say.” In her mind, there was no way a Yoruba man would choose to give his daughter a Benin first name so I must have beaten him into submission.
She wasn’t alone; one of my Uncles outright stated that he would only call her by the name her father gave her. It gave me great pleasure to tell him that I was responsible for BOTH her Benin and Yoruba names. He’s a traditionalist so I knew he’d rather lose a limb than use her English name…the name her father picked.
They didn’t take into account that my husband is a different kind of man to the one they are used to.
He takes out the bin and does dishes.
He helps me carry my handbag when I need help.
He changes our bedsheets because I’m lazy with that stuff.
His culinary skills are pretty limited (the chink in his armour) but he makes a mean corned beef stew.
He bathes our daughter every night and derives great pleasure (the man is strange) from changing her poopy nappies.
He helps me take out my weaves…even though it takes him forever and a day.
He goes to the butchers to buy meat.
He looks after our daughter when I need baby free time.
He looks after our daughter because she is HIS daughter.
He listens when I speak and values my opinions.
He says ‘my wife and I have decided’ because we make decisions as a team.
These are some of the things that make my mother think he is being controlled.
I know I am opinionated and strong willed but surely, it is possible for a man to be a willing contributor to his household in every way and for a woman to have a voice in her own home?
Not everything is voodoo. Sometimes, they are just great men.
Words by Naomi Ediae Durodola