Singaporebrides | Relationships

November 2011

Confessions of a Modern Wife

As you’re preparing for your wedding, there must be one thought at the back of your mind that you’re afraid to address: Will your role as a wife be any different from what it was when you were a fiancee, or a girlfriend? Most of us barely even noticed we’ve transitioned from a girl to a woman, yet we are ready to be a mother. Adora Tan-Richer tells us she’s never been happier.

Before Max and I tied the knot, we had a serious talk about what we expected of each other as man and wife. I think I listed down a few things while my then fiancé dozed off on the couch. The whole “pregnant and barefooted in the kitchen” thing clearly was not how I had envisioned my married life to be. But here we are, five years into our marriage, and that’s exactly what I am: Preparing dinner with a three-year-old yelling “Mama, help me, I’m stuck in the toilet bowl again!” and my swelling belly getting in the way of easy access to the sink. So things change along the way, as they often do, and we had to make adjustments.

My husband and I got married on—as I like to call it—equal grounds. At the point of marriage, we both held similar educational qualifications and contributed equal amounts into our joint account. So he did not yell “Honey, I’m home!” and I did not rush to clear his socks off the floor and present him with a cool drink, dressed in my apron. We thought of each other as equals, so our roles at home were not so much the roles of a “husband” and a “wife” per se, but more of partners in the same relationship. Thus, objectively, we were able to contribute to the household based on our individual strengths.

50 years ago, women were less educated than they are now. They knew that when they got married, they were subjecting themselves to a life of washing, cleaning, cooking and picking up after their men. Perhaps it is because women often thought of themselves, or perhaps the society moulded it such, as inferior, and that’s why they took it upon themselves to care for the home while their husbands brought home the bacon.

I grew up in the ’70s and ’80s, but in a slightly different kind of environment – my father was the one who managed the household. He woke us up, brought us to school on his way to work, signed our spelling sheets and distributed the weekly allowance. He knew who to call when the toilet choked or when our living room tiles popped in the dead of the night. He bought breakfast on Sunday and took care of the finances. He made all our doctor appointments and it was him, not my mother, who held my hand as I cried while I got my wisdom teeth removed at 16. My mother loved us, but her inability to cook and her fear of blood just meant she showed her love in other ways.

Confessions of a Modern Wife

So all along, I thought it was the man’s job to handle the day-to-day household operations (and no we’re not talking about housework. Yet). It was only in recent years that I realised my father belonged to a rare and endangered species, and almost everyone else I know had mothers who took care of everything. My parents have four kids, but my dad always says that he counts himself as having five, because he treats my mum as the biggest kid, and never burdens her with any responsibilities. She sure is one lucky woman.

So you can imagine the shock I had when I first moved in with my husband and realised that he didn’t exactly behave like my father. I had to re-learn everything but it was good that I was brought up that way, because I could then apply what I have learnt from my father, onto our marriage.

In my opinion, a wife should show her husband love and support him — but within reason. When he wants to take on a new job that pays less but is in a field that interests him more, I support him. I say “Go for it, you deserve it” because I mean it, and I know it will make him happy. But if he wants to take a six-month break from work “just because”, I will slap him on the back of his head and tell him “Sure thing bro, and then when you wake up from that sweet dream, you can bring that bamboo pole of t-shirts back in.”

What about something closer to home, like housework? We’re very practical about it. I hate ironing so he takes care of that. Besides I have few articles of clothing that require ironing anyway.

He’s not a big fan of cooking so that’s my job. I grew up envying friends who had mums who made double-boiled soups and had home-cooked dinners every day. It showed that the cook had gone through the trouble of planning the meal and slaving over the stove just so her family had a healthy meal at the end of the day. My mother was a modern mum who had a full time job, so I never experienced a mother’s home-cooked meal. So to me, when I do that for my husband and my family, it symbolises the love I have for them. And I’m more than happy to do it.

Confessions of a Modern Wife

Do I pack my husband’s lunch? Sometimes. He brings leftovers to work once in a while, and again, it’s about practicality. He even gets little love notes from me, just like our daughter does. I do it to make him laugh. I do that a lot (try to make him laugh, not put love notes in his bag).

Do I do the laundry? Sure I do. Could he have done it by himself? Yes, of course. But would it slip his mind at times? Probably. So I do it because I remember these things. Do I enjoy it? Not so much. But do I see it as demeaning? Nope. I see it as making sure my husband has clean socks and underwear for work every day. But we do fold the clothes together after it has dried, late at night, while watching our favourite TV series together.

What about the miscellaneous household things, like making sure the air-conditioner is serviced twice a year, or that the plumber is called in when we need to fix a broken pipe, or making sure our bills are paid, or arranging for furniture to be delivered? How about finding a good pre-school for our daughter, the booking of plane tickets and hotels for holidays, and buying Christmas presents for our mothers? I do all of that, not because I see it as a “wifely duty”, but because I am more meticulous, have a better memory, and am more particular about getting better deals. It’s all about practicality for us.

I also plan surprise parties for Max’s birthday. I save us money by looking for the best bargains. I edit his scripts and Powerpoint slides when he has a big presentation. I bring him around to introduce him to the different sights and sounds of Singapore and immerse him in local slangs since he is not local, and today, he can confidently say “Lim peh’s Hokkien is sibeh tok gong!” In return, I learn traditional recipes from his mother and make them when he gets homesick.

I may not be a typical wife, but there is one typical wifey role that I particularly enjoy, and that is nagging. I do it often to make up for my lack of “wifey-ness” in other ways. And now it is time for me to remind my husband how lucky he is. After he picks his socks from off the floor.

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Confessions of a Modern Wife