What type of son are you raising? By Funke Egbemode

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By FUNKE EGBEMODE

‘I knew she was home. She was peeping through the window blinds in their bedroom upstairs. She knew I knew and she still didn’t let me in. My own daughter-in-law, in my own son’s house? I didn’t know whether to cry in shame or scream in anger. I had never felt that diminished in my 58 years on earth. Even their gateman couldn’t look at me. He ran back to his room as soon as he told me ‘Madam no dey house’. I stood there like a beggar in a home where I once issued instructions and did whatever pleased me. Tears streamed down my face until I eventually found the strength to order ‘Bolt’ to take me back home.’

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Janet’s tears were bound to stream down her cheeks. She should have known the days of pain laid ahead. She did what she should not have done while she left undone what she should have. So, before you start raining curses on Mimi, her daughter-in-law, who locked her out of their home, you should ‘be calming down’, hear the full story and learn the lessons therein. Not that I agree with Mimi’s disrespectful action but today’s children are not as accommodating as their mothers, least of all their grandmothers. They are reading different books and running their marriages using these sets of operating manuals that are difficult to understand.

A man who leaves his bills to be picked by his woman will soon have his trousers replaced with a wrapper.

Okay, here’s the point and the story. Janet raised a spoilt son. She spoilt Ben, maybe because he is her only son, as if spoiling an only son would make him become two sons. Many of us are guilty of the same offence too. Ben got whatever he liked and wanted. His sisters did the cooking and laundry. That also happens to the best mothers, right? But Janet ought to have noticed that Ben was lazy in more ways than one. She ought not to have paid for the special center for Ben to write his UTME or enroll him in an out-of-town secondary school to re-sit his O’levels. Perhaps, if Janet had watched her son closely, she would have noticed that he was one laid-back overgrown boy who felt the universe owed him and must pay. Maybe she felt he would grow out of it and catch up with his peers who were pulling up themselves by their bootstraps. Days turned into months and years and Janet continued to make excuses for her over-parenting excesses. She took his job application letters to her friends and contacts. She called in favours for Ben and somehow, they all yielded results. Ben got a good job, all right but rising through the ranks was hard because he had to do it himself, alone, without mummy dearest.

Ben and Mimi met, fell in love and married. As usual, Ben’s parents proudly picked the wedding bills. Then came the morning after. As we have established, a wedding ceremony does not make a marriage. One is a party, the other is a lifetime commitment. Ben was used to a life where the women in his life; mother, sisters, girlfriends, pick his bills and pick after him. He simply, as a married man, passed on the responsibility to his wife. He wasn’t used to sharing his money or paying for much. He lived at home until about six months to his wedding. So, now, it is strange to him that housekeeping allowance is monthly must and it does not exclude other expenses around the house. He did the right thing for a couple of months and bolted, mentally. He started dodging the duties of the man of the house. Soon, his wife was buying food items, fuel for the generator and paying their domestic staff. Two children came in quick succession, increasing the burden on Mimi.

 What Ben lacked in financial commitment he made up for in the bedroom. Never laid back in his conjugal duties, he did all his good deeds in-between his wife’s legs. Perhaps, the efficacy of Ben’s third leg at night was what kept Mimi mild and pliable during the day. Women, they tend to forgive most of the sins of a man who knows how to deploy his staff of office but even then, there is a limit to how deep a staff of office can dig.

A man who leaves his bills to be picked by his woman will soon have his trousers replaced with a wrapper. Such was the case of Ben and Mimi. The agreed monthly allowance soon dwindled and eventually stopped. Like a good wife, Mimi filled the gap and bought the groceries. Ben stopped coming through with the salaries of the maid and the gateman. Like a well-brought up girl, Mimi stepped in. When estate dues became an embarrassment, she also paid them every month. Ben always had an excuse, a joke about how Mimi is a help-meet, according to the Bible. It was when the rent became an issue that Mimi knew she was in trouble. The poor girl had to quickly apply for a loan to save her family from getting thrown out in the streets.

‘Maybe because I was picking virtually all the bills in the house, Ben felt he could spend his own money on designer watches and shoes. We were both holding down good jobs but I was doing all the heavy lifting. It was scary but who should I have told, my mum, my friends or his mum who kept on throwing her weight around a house she didn’t know how I maintained? I prayed for strength but I buckled under the strain when my mother-in-law added her own load to the ones I was already carrying. First, it was her little niece she wanted us to enroll in a private school. Then, her nephew was about to lose his admission because his parents couldn’t pay. And then she raided my store on each visit! I bought most of the food items in the house on credit from the company’s cooperative shop. I took salary advance to pay the rent in two instalments. I was always broke even on pay day. But on the day that I locked Mama out, I had just bought food items and ‘provisions’ for the children on credit again and she would have taken a chunk of them. I was desperate and angry and I did not want to join the ranks of nagging wives. I simply told Musa to tell her I was not at home. I am just tired of being both husband and wife and worrying about all the bills.’

So, dear mummy, are you proud of the sons you raised? Are your daughters-in-law proud of the man you handed over to them? Is your boy a testimony of good parenting or he is the poster boy for bad behavior? He may not be slapping his wife around physically but if he leaves all or most of the family bills to his wife, it is still some kind of abuse. If your son’s wife can’t fix her nails or make her hair because she is conserving money to buy fuel for her car and to pay for the noodles, beverages and bag of rice she bought on credit, you should cover your face with both hands. If your son is making money but prioritizes his designer wears and hanging out with his friend over and above his children’s school fees, you did a poor job. A wife is a help-meet, not a beast of burden. She is somebody’s daughter and you should expect that the hand you deal your daughter-in-law is the hand they will deal your daughter in her home. It is called the law of harvest.

Let’s teach our sons how to be kings in their homes because there’s more to a man being on top of his game than his being on top of his woman.

If a man is old enough to be called a husband, he should know the title comes with responsibilities. It is not an honorary one. A man who wants to share all the bills in equal halves with his wife should also know that there will be consequences. The Yorubas call such arrangements ‘oko-gbe’gba-n’gbagbon’, translated literally ‘my wife, carry the calabash, I’ll carry the basket’. A man who uses that operating manual when he can afford to carry three-quarters of the responsibility will soon unleash that side of a woman that can stay hidden forever when the man plays the man.

The lesson in this homily? Raise your sons to be heads of their homes. Raise future husbands that you and God will be proud of. Teach them everything from cooking to family planning although I’m the first to admit that boys sometimes conveniently forget how to cook when they have sisters but whatever you teach them come handy when they are stranded and alone in the kitchen and tired of eating noodles. Let’s teach our sons how to be kings in their homes because there’s more to a man being on top of his game than his being on top of his woman.

*Egbemode (egbemode3@gmail.com)