The character we should identify with being The Incredibles’ Elastigirl, the Parr family mother. Blessed with superhuman strength to rubber-bend, she packed the screen with power. “She’sh jusht like Mummy!” lisped an excited toddler two rows ahead in the cinema hall.
I strained to hear my 10-year-old sitting beside show similar recognition. In vain, as it turned out. Which woman is worshipped on home turf, I consoled myself.
Parenting proves the point nicely. Let veterans of our gender speak for us. Journalist Bachi Karkaria says, “Our genetic hardware is honed to handle home, family and more. It makes us tackle pressure well. We shift speedily to Plan B and multi-task. Nothing in the corporate fishbowl compares with husband, baby, doorbell, steam cooker and maid going off at the exact same moment.”
Why won’t men crack this as winningly as women? While some still think the jury’s out on that one, I ask one of the most balanced young men I know. My young nephew and his university mates see men as faltering with these skills because they’re allowed to. “We’re not impressed with the ladies’ multi-tasking abilities at our age,” he says. “But motherhood seems to be that event when everything changes. Women discover they can balance their career and family life real well. Men let many things slide, knowing that whatever they don’t do will be taken care of by the wife.”
Even the hands-on dad who bathes, feeds, chauffeurs and plays with his kids finds he isn’t doing much else. Make no mistake, he tries. Yet simply can’t. It’s either an irate wife or boss. His parents feel left out or his friends do. If he juggles roles the strain shows. All that effort exhausts, exasperates, enervates. Watch him get frazzled and fuddled till you wonder whether this is multi-tasking or moving mountains.
So we back off, fervently hoping the opposite sex learns time management. Forget better fathering, many of our dearly beloveds duck attention needed to perform simple twin acts. Ladies, would we not wave a hand to hail a friend just because we’re driving with music on? A colleague and I were once crossing a street when a car pulled up, her husband at the wheel. “Hi” I called cheerily. He gave the merest nod. “Nah,” she told me. “He’s too busy sucking in his breath to get Jim Morrison’s cheekbones and chin cleft to the beat of the CD I’ve gifted. You expect him to be able to do that, mouth Light My Fire, steer through traffic and greet you!”
Men moan they can’t do everything. Women ditch the drama. Embrace several situations together. Dads flounder and flail, work up a wail when asked to act laterally. They think ‘or’. We run on ‘and’. Octopus-like, moms just know how to go with the flow. Kids loosen up rigid bones keeping us light, not tight.
Instead of renting or venting, we gain a grip on stuff spinning in madly different directions.
Now, excuse me as I gear up for the day. I’m heading for an edit meeting and to bank a salary cheque. Not forgetting the bigger reality check. This includes Open Day at one child’s school, the other’s football match to cheer, their grandfather’s 90th birthday party to plan… And before catching that Inox film post-dinner with the hubby, there’s the weekly column to finish writing. It’s about men depending on women to chart their social calendar. They too have fully functioning opposable thumbs with which to text messages, plan events. Why must they rely on us?
“Becaush they’re like Daddy” as that little girl at the movies might’ve lisped.
Meher Marfatia is the author of 10 books for children and two for parents. She has mothered her own kids well past the terrible twos and almost past the troubled teens.
Reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org