She looked directly into her husband’s eyes and asked him, “what do you do for our children?”
“Enough”, he answered, taking a sip of his brownish drink, the ice clinking together as he brought the glass to his lips.
She took a deep breath, remembering the many times he criticized her while she stayed home on maternity leave to care for their baby. The many times he came home after work to find her still in her pajamas, hair unwashed, smelling of spit-up milk, sleep deprived, and accused her of being lazy. She remembered how he told her she is “getting paid to do nothing” post-partum, and how he walked past the baby and straight to the couch. She remembered the look on his face, pure disgust, when she showed him the pregnancy test she had taken, proving they were going to have a second child. How he told her, “this isn’t gonna happen.”
But it did happen. He couldn’t stop it from happening. Even though he took great pleasure in moments that led to it happening.
She felt the heat rising from inside her chest, into her cheeks, into her brain.
“I do everything for them”, she said to him, her voice quiet but laced with contempt.
“No”, he responded, “if you do everything, that means I do nothing.”
Her mind raced, as she thought of all the things she did, day in and day out, night after night.
Breastfeeding, bottle feeding, diaper changing, walking around all night to sooth their crying baby, bath time, reading books, playing down on the floor, balancing a cranky baby while cooking or doing laundry, going for walks with the stroller (and later, a double stroller), buying new clothes every few months, making baby food, cleaning baby food, ensuring they get all their vaccinations, dealing with illnesses and doctors appointments, picking up their prescriptions, arranging play dates, finding a suitable daycare. Then, as they grew up, making sure their children got into good schools, attending all the parent-teacher interviews, all the school performances, taking them to birthday parties, planning their own birthday parties, paying for school trips, chaperoning school trips, paying for extracurricular activities, arranging music lessons and swimming lessons and never missing a recital or performance, taking all their photos and making photo albums, arranging for family dinners and get togethers so their children got to know both sides of the family, reading books every night and helping with homework. Wiping their tears, cuddling them, sleeping with them, waking up in the middle of the night when one of them has a bad dream, massaging their legs when they have growing pains, giving them medicines to fight fevers, taking time off work to care for them, fighting with the bus company when the school bus was late, making daycare payments, making dentist appointments, finding the warmest winter jackets and hats and mittens and neck warmers and snow pants, taking them to the movies, taking them out to eat, packing their school lunches at 5am, playing with them, taking them to the park, building snowmen with them, breaking up the sibling rivalries, scrubbing their vomit out of the carpet, having dance time in the kitchen, scrapbooking their artwork, taking them to the library, being silly with them, being serious with them, answering all of their questions, teaching them how to become good people, how to treat others with kindness…oh the list went on.
She knew there was so much more. And there would continue to be more. She smiled to herself as she watched him drink.
Let him think what he wants. I’m the one making memories while it all passes him by. He does nothing. He has nothing. I have all of the moments of magic and wonder. Moments he missed out on and will never again have the opportunity to experience.
She took pleasure in knowing that one day their children would come to the same conclusion she had. She watched him drink, wanting to throw it in his face. But she wouldn’t. She gets the memories. He gets misery. That’s his own punishment.
“Mama!” she heard her children call, “mama we need you!”
She exhaled, drawing away from him, turning her back on him, leaving him alone with his drink.