On a day when everything in the city is closed for a public holiday, my son wakes up unwell. He screams words that spell out every parent’s nightmare : “Mom my legs hurt, I cannot walk !”. I try to swallow my panic and go through the motions of going to work. He is off school today, but I have to go to the office and the deadlines are piling up on me. I instruct the nanny to give him some pain medication, then I leave for work after I help him out of bed to the sofa. I try to tell myself it is just a muscle cramp. At the office, I attempt to prioritize and meet my most pressing deadlines, and as the day progresses, I check on my son who reports the same pain. I am now really scared, so I call the doctor on his mobile. His office is closed for the holiday but the worry in my voice gave him enough cause for concern and he made an appointment for today. I take the hobbling boy to the doctor who gives him a thorough check, and cautiously calms my fears. Watch him tonight, he says, this is probably the result of the viral infection he had, and should clear up by itself with pain medication. If not, he would need to go into hospital for further tests including a spinal tab. Looking at my son I was inclined to believe him. The boy was calm and did not scream at all when the doctor prodded and pressed his calves and legs. Whereas this morning he screamed at my mere touch on his legs.
When the panic passed and I had time to myself I sat in the courtyard of the mall, while my son attended music lesson. I let waves of exhaustion and self-pity wash over me. I always have to do it all, and there is really nobody to help carry the load. My only staff member is a meek little Kenyan woman who is more cowed than motivated by criticism. She drives me crazy with her defeatist victim attitude, and her fear of making mistakes hampers her judgement. I always have to tell her exactly what I want, and she gets stumped if there was a need deviate from the standard. It is often easier to do the job myself than to give instructions in such minute detail.
I am also away from most of my friends and family, and at moments of sheer panic, I cannot call on a mother or a friend who lives thousands of miles away, and sometimes in a different timezone. Such a call will only worry people I care about and will do little to help me. At moments like this I really feel the need for a true partner who carries at least part of the load.
Most of my male friends, including Aquarius, are allowed to under-appreciate their partners. I know of one whose partner, according to him, organizes his complicated life. This enables the man to work late, engage in sporting activities, and have loads of leisure time to spare for himself or with company. Meanwhile, I steal the time to have a little jog from my son, who gets what is left over after my work is done. He protests bitterly when I have to work weekends or at a night. And to get my attention and care he sometimes steps up his level of complaining about problems, pain, hunger, and general bad moods.
During this past week I was received with problems the moment I stepped into the house. The sick child complained while the house-help stood helplessly silent, waiting for me to find a magical solution for everything that went wrong at home that day. I just wanted to crawl under some rock and escape from it all. The stress at work, with the help and with the sick child got to me so badly. Never before had I wished more for a dependable boring but sympathetic and helpful partner. I would choose to love such a person, regardless of age, looks, and sexual prowess. This is preferable to an exciting but unhelpful lover, and definitely way better than my pseudo-lover.
Last week I finished listening to an audio book by Kim Wright, The Last Ride To Graceland. Near the end of the book a character muses about his relationships with his very much loved, but now deceased, wife. He realizes belatedly that “there is more to being a good husband than loving a woman. Loving the woman is the easy part, the hard part is seeing her as she really is, and letting her be all those things, even the ones that are not particularly convenient…”. The quote spoke to me, love is really the easy part, and while most of us women understand this, and are prepared to give support and freedom in equal measure to those we love, it is not a natural thing for men to do the same.
I was once a helpful and dutiful wife, under-appreciated and unloved. I carried my share of the load, I earned my keep, and I helped my partner achieve his dreams and got almost nothing in return. Many women around me do the same without thinking. Men are happy to take this support, the good ones try to reciprocate it with some support, affection, and/or material generosity. There are men who are helpful and supportive in varying degrees, and those who allow their women some freedom, if they stand to benefit in some way. But no man I know can aspire to the level of giving and support that women are naturally capable of providing. While men usually equate love to possessiveness, women allow their men to experience their lives in full. They wait in the margins, keeping all the tiny pieces of daily life in order. They give their men freedom to achieve bigger things, or experience more leisure. Unfortunately for me, the little chaotic pieces are the sum total of my daily life. If I go down, there is nobody to pick them up for me.
True love is having someone to lean on. And at times like this I can only turn to friends and family. I spent some hours talking to my mom, and to my best friend. I got some well-needed sympathy, and the proverbial virtual pat on the shoulder across thousands of miles and many time-zones. The women in my life understand how hard it is, they get me, while most men around me clearly don’t.