Recently a Facebook friend confided in me that she has been putting up with domestic violence for a while now. She has been married for around 6 years and has a 3 year old child. Although she is qualified enough to get a job and fend for herself, she understandably feels lost when it comes to thinking about getting a job after being forced to give up her career soon after marriage because the in-laws saw it as a disgrace to their affluent selves to let their daughter in law go to work.
Marriage is such a gamble. You never really know what you are getting into, because some people change drastically after marriage when a relationship demands more than showing up on time for dates or looking good for each other. Love makes perfectly logical people complete idiots. It makes an educated, capable woman set aside her career goals and her financial independence. Blame it on love, which makes her believe that her needs will be taken care of, forever. Blame it on blind trust, that to her, a child that they bring into their ‘world of love’ is a welcome addition in their lives.She may never understand that to her husband, their child is another ‘responsibility’. Another weight on his already burdened shoulders.
My mother is the strongest woman I know. I may never really understand the pain, the heartburn involved in bringing up her children singlehandedly because her husband never did enough to provide for his wife and family. Some day I will get around to writing a lot more about her, to capture a few fleeting moments of glory for her and the way she brought us up against all odds. Far too many women like her live and die without being adequately appreciated.
She has told me several things about a time when we were living in Sharjah and my father had no steady job. We kids grew up seeing our parents bicker all the time. I never agree with people who say that the world gives money far more importance than it deserves. Because I know the true power of money and have seen how the lack of it can wreck a person’s home, family and spirit.
My mother used to work as a secretary at a law firm. Her salary wasn’t enough to feed and educate the four of us, pay the rent AND pay off the debts that my dad constantly piled up. I wish I could understand his thought process but from the face of it, he probably believed that taking loans from every friend and colleague to manage expenses at home and take more loans to pay off old ones was still a way of ‘providing’ for his family.
She had cut off the wires to the calling bell because everytime the bell rang, her heart would pound with fear of having to face angry people asking where her husband is and when he would return their money. We kids would find a corner to sit quietly in and watch from behind the furniture while she stood at the door, unable to answer for her husband’s actions.
On many nights when she felt there was no hope for us she started plotting a way of escaping that life – killing all of us when we were asleep and then, herself. She didn’t want to leave her kids to the mercy of an irresponsible father. She knew he wouldn’t be able to deal with the responsibility alone. So she began planning how it should be done.
She though the best way would be to set the house on fire so none of us would escape. She would douse the bed and then the whole house in enough petrol to ensure nothing was spared and then set the bed on fire while we kids were asleep.
She told me it was impossible to get enough petrol to do it without arousing suspicion. So she would have to buy and stock small quantities of petrol until she had enough. The best way for her to do this was to buy small amounts of petrol from the petrol pumps on the way home from work. She took a taxi home everyday, so she planned to stop far away from a petrol pump each day and walk towards it with a container that would hold a decent quantity of petrol. She would wear her specs to look like a serious, professional woman and tell the attendent that her car ran out of fuel on her way home so she needed just enough to fill the tank to get her home. She’d make it sound like the car is parked a little away from the petrol pump so that nobody would suspect she is making it all up.
She told me she spent many sleepless nights planning to do this. I do not remember what reason she told me for not going through with her well thought out plan. I think it was because she managed to land a better paying job that would ease the noose around our necks just a little…just enough to manage a little better.
My mother was a meek, frail, undergraduate who couldn’t speak English. She thought she could give up the struggle of being a working woman and just look after her husband and kids. Life mocked her simple plan and threw unbelievable challenges her way. She went on to work for a renowned Lebanese lawyer, handling all the office work including legal documents better than a management graduate would.
When I ask her in awe, how she managed to do it, she smiles and says she just did. She sometimes says that when God gives us burdens, he also gives us the strength to bear them. However she may have done it, at the end, what matters is that she did. And if she could, every woman should TRY.