My husband is wonderful. He cooks–better than I do, actually. He cleans, and I mean he really cleans. There is no job he won’t do, from scrubbing the toilets to dusting the furniture. There have been times when this actually bothered me, especially early in our marriage, because I felt he was taking over my job. But there have been many more times when I have truly appreciated his helping hands.
His mother is the one who taught him and expected him to put in some effort, so his willingness to work made me appreciate my mother-in-law (who was a very sweet woman) even more. And early on I realized that if I wanted to have good relationships with my daughters-in-law, I needed to start preparing my sons to be good husbands.
I started simply enough, when I had one. I cut out pictures of each of his toys and attached them to the toy shelves. It was easy for him to put his toys away and know where each one belonged. Of course, I still had to remind him, and I also had to keep counting all the pieces–oh, the pieces–but the point was that he was doing what he could to help.
When I had two I had to ask Ahmad to help me sometimes, maybe to bring me something while I was feeding the baby. It was a simple task but it gave him responsibility and taught him to lend a helping hand.
My husband said that in his country, the first son is considered the “second father” and the first daughter is considered the “second mother.” Early on we let our other boys know that Ahmad was in charge, and we let Ahmad know he had responsibilities.
But the other boys also had to help, and they have. Our second is wonderful at ironing clothes. I hate ironing, and when he was younger I could often get him to iron something for me because he enjoyed it and wanted to help. My third likes to cook up interesting concoctions, often mixing unexpected ingredients. And it tastes good.
All of the boys have been expected to wash the dishes, take care of the trash, clean up after the cats or other pets we’ve had over the years, and help straighten up in general, especially the living room. When he was very small my youngest hated taking baths and whoever gave him one ended up soaked, but I was often able to talk one of the boys into giving him a bath so I wouldn’t have to do it.
Sometimes my work has demanded a great deal from me and sometimes, especially lately, my health hasn’t been great. The boys have jumped in–along with my husband, of course. Whether I’m writing a book or recovering from the flu, they’re always there to help.
Two years ago I became very sick and ended up in the hospital. When I came home I was unable to handle any stairs. My oldest, who is now over six feet tall (which is absolutely amazing because neither my husband nor I has ever topped 5’4″), carried me up and down the stairs until I was able to handle them on my own.
I started out wanting to make my future daughters-in-law happy. I also wanted my sons to be able to take care of themselves and not have to depend on someone else. And now, when I need it, they also take care of me.