The weekend the husband baby sat and the price I am paying for it

Shunali Khullar Shroff

April 24, 2012

A few weeks ago I decided to travel out of Bombay leaving my kids and husband behind to bond with one another. This was a luxury previously unknown to me as I willingly signed up for the traditional role of the homemaker soon after the stork had visited us for the first time. Even though we have both stuck to our roles of breadwinner and homemaker with unmatched zeal and commitment the monotony of our respective roles does take its toll on us at times.

The husband is the ‘Up in air’ guy. I don’t mean I am married to George Clooney (sigh), but the gentleman who is the father of my children and my husband spends the better part of his life at airports and in planes.

Therefore this two-day get-away was just what the doctor ordered and the husband and I looked forward to the approaching weekend of role reversal with much enthusiasm.

That weekend, it felt wonderful to not have to be bothered by the kids since I was convinced that the husband would be doing a fabulous job as a hands-on daddy.

Usually the kids begin to ring me with all sorts of annoying issues ranging from not wanting to eat “dal subzi” and “where have you hidden the ipad” to “she is not letting me do my homework mamma”, as soon as I have stepped over to the other side of my threshold.

But this time, the phone did not ring even once. No complaints about the food, about each other; no pestering to allow me to let them watch television for longer than their appointed 30 minutes or to convince me about the futility of a daily bath. My god it felt incredible to have happy kids for a change.

What was the husband doing to keep them so happy I wondered as I congratulated myself silently on his success as a weekend daddy?

The weekend daddy too sounded chuffed having spent time so fruitfully with his girls, fostering the father-daughter bond between them.

I came back to Bombay full of gratitude to the husband and with promises to myself to leave the kids in his good care and travel more often.  When I reached home I met a very self-satisfied father. I would even go so far as to call him self-congratulatory in fact. “The girls behaved impeccably in your absence,” he informed me after our initial tête-à-tête. I beamed from ear to ear taking this as a personal compliment. So all my effort in child rearing over the years was beginning to pay off.  The sacrifice of my productive youth over the altar of parenthood had not been in vain.

I was savouring the compliment when he started to speak again thus, “I feel they are far better behaved in my presence than they are when you are around.”

Whaaaaaat? Did I hear right? So all that praise was being lavished on himself? I had to get to the bottom of this. I enquired about how time had been spent in my absence. Here is a summary of what happened after I left on Friday evening.

The girls watched television for over an hour (??!!), ate their dinner without blinking in front of the TV, cuddled up with their father and went to sleep as soon as they were told to. Hitting the sack as soon as they were ordered was unusual indeed.

On Saturday after breakfast they were driven to a mall where they were allowed to eat whatever the hell they wanted and buy whatever the hell they liked. Their father showered them with love and affection and got it back in an unusual measure. The daddy took his girls on roller coaster and carousel rides the girls took him for a ride in return by throwing tantrums inside the toy store. Unlike me, he is a doting parent and he succumbed.

That same night were asked to eat whatever was cooked at home for dinner without cribbing and they obeyed like newly recruited military cadets working overtime to make an impression on their new training commander. They knew that their good behaviour would not go unrewarded the next day.

Sunday followed and they spent hours swimming together. The younger one had a cold and she was especially pleased to be rid of her mother for the day because there was no one to prevent her from getting into the water.

After lunch the girls convinced their father to take them to yet another mall, one they had never been to before. The new mall was practically empty and the salesman wore forlorn expressions for want of business. Their worries were put to rest by the three members of the Shroff family who wasted to time in helping them out by purchasing a bag full of accessories, shoes, tiaras, handbags etc etc.

The girls fought over who would hold their father’s hand and he was so overjoyed at his new-found popularity that he just stopped short of having a nervous breakdown with too much happiness.

The kids nanny was most amused by the activities over those two days and told me the children were on a constant sugar high and were even giggling in their sleep in my absence.

And now, the husband loses no opportunity in reminding me that the girls don’t listen to me and that they are the modicum of perfect behaviour ONLY in my absence and due to his presence. Sometimes he finds a way to say this to me even when he calls me from overseas and we are discussing the weather. “Tokyo is freezing. It is 3 degrees. The girls don’t listen to you at all. They did everything I said at once. I am going to try the bars at Ginza. I bought you some rice cakes…blah blah”.

I was about to lose my endurance last night when he said the same thing to me for the gazillionth time.  I was tempted to tell him that “one swallow does not a summer make” but then, that is not the wisest thing to say when you want to go to Marrakech on an all girls trip for a few days in April. Or is it?