Dominican College Sion Hill,
Not long ago, the homewares company, Practica, appeared poised to dominate the market. Today, its stock price plunged by over 90% after announcing its bankruptcy. Shareholders blame it on the resignation of founder and CEO, Mariam Khan, three years ago. The circumstances of her departure remain unclear.
For the third time, my eyes scan the article’s opening paragraph, hidden beneath the fold of the newspaper. Just as I begin rereading it again, a tug at my side snaps my attention back to the kids. Both of them are pulling impatient expressions, completely uninterested in perusing the news. For what feels like the hundredth time today, I let out a weary sigh, and chuck the paper back on the rack.
The timing leaves my mood sour. And much to my chagrin it rubs off on the kids as well.
It is unfortunate that children are so socially attuned. Even worse is their tendency towards self-absorption. If I even as much as let out a hint of annoyance, they instantly assume I am mad at them, and then it only follows that they are sulky for days on end.
Today, however, I simply do not have the energy to put up with such charades. A part of me doesn’t even want to go home and cook dinner and check their homework and make sure they brush their teeth.
“You two,” I hiss as they find a distraction in the candy isle, “Stop that right now.”
My voice goes unheard, and instead both plead for sweets. I can feel my temper rising from having to scold them, and when their pleas turn into cries, I nearly want to drop the shopping and leave.
A passing man eyes the kids and I with annoyance, and I almost scoff right back at him. He turns around before I can, intently examining the label of a litre of soda. The children have now been forgotten, still throwing their little tantrum, and I can only stare at this ignorant man with disdain. How dare he huff at me? How dare he look down his nose at what I have to contend with daily, when he most likely has never been forced to deal with wailing and obstinate children?
I take a deep inhale and bite my lip, if only to be a semi-decent role model for the girls who will probably not even remember my restraint in this moment.
But then he throws a glance over his shoulder, letting out a miffed sigh. And for me, that is the last straw today.
So I grab the kids by the wrist and wrangle the two of them away from the shelves, abandoning the groceries, and march out of the store absolutely seething. Both of them are startled out of their fit, finally falling into silence.
We reach the car and I throw the door open, gracelessly tossing them into the back. Then I slam it shut and strap myself into the driver’s seat. I want to pound the steering wheel, let my fury loose, shout obscenities at every part of my life, but I can’t – because of the kids.
I can’t do anything because of kids.
“Mommy?” I hear a little squeak from the back. I don’t even look up, just grunt in acknowledgment. “Mommy, we’re sorry,” the elder whispers. Now they are both softly crying, I notice, and my heart wrenches in frustration.
It’s not their fault, a tiny voice of reason quips in my head.
Another heavy sigh echoes in the silent car.
“Let’s go home.”
“Why is it empty?” the husband asks, standing dumbly in front of the refrigerator as if food will magically appear if he stares long enough.
“I left the groceries at the store,” I reply simply.
“All of them?”
“Yes, all of them. What does it look like to you?” I retort.
“Hey, don’t give me attitude,” he spins around, “I actually did my job today.”
“That’s a low blow,” I say, punching in the number of a take away place into the phone. It’s one of the only restaurants the kids will eat from.
He lets out an exasperated grunt, and the fridge closes with a thud.
“Seriously, what the heck did you do all day?”
I let the question go unanswered, and put on a mock-nice tone while reciting our order. The husband just continues to stand rooted to the same spot, pursing his lips in a tight line.
I double check the whole order again, for good measure.
By the time I hang up, irritation drips from him.
“Are you going to answer me?” he repeats.
I turn to face him in a tired motion, “Let’s just drop it, alright? I ordered dinner and the kids are finishing their homework. Whatever type of day you’ve had, can you set it aside?”
He stares at me hard for a moment, before a look of disbelief rises in his face. We’re both glaring daggers at one another, neither wanting to be the first to submit.
“This isn’t about Practica, is it Mariam?” he spits.
I inhale sharply at that.
We never bring it up. We never utter that word. We pretend it’s all dead and gone.
I suppose it is now.
“Why would you say that?” my voice hardly sounds, caught in my throat. I blink at him, my breath growing heavier. “No seriously. Answer me.”
I stand up in my seat, the scrape of the wooden legs on the floor, and now our eyes are level.
“I never chose this,” I growl lowly, “I was never asked if I wanted to throw away my ambitions. My life. I never had that privilege.”
“You could’ve said no.” He rears back, poking my chest with his index finger, “And it’s not my fault that you didn’t! Even if you regret quitting and getting married, don’t take that out on me or the kids! These are the consequences of your decisions, so face up to them.”
He’s practically foaming at the mouth as he hurls heinous insults at me. My eyes are watering from unbridled rage, but no tears fall. I grab his hand by the wrist and fling it away from me. It falls to his side like a rag doll’s arm.
“You don’t understand. It’s not a woman’s choice. She doesn’t get to decide if she wants to have a career or an education. I would be ostracised. My parents would tell their connections not to do business with me. They would try to sabotage me.”
He rolls his eyes, “You’re being dramatic. They’d go to jail if they tried to sabotage you.”
“That’s exactly what you don’t see,” I shoot back, a bitter taste lingering in my mouth, “It’s a man’s world. My parents hired someone to stop me from meeting an investor, for crying out loud! They would go to any length just to keep me as a wife.”
“And this is my fault?” he exclaims, “Because you’re afraid of dealing with hardship in life, you’re going to blame it on me?”
“What do you know about hardship? You’ve gotten everything you ever wanted since day one. And you’re going to stand here and criticise me for not cooking you dinner? For not hiding my sorrow and misery enough? Well, I’m sorry to have to inform you, but I’m a human too, and yes, I get to be upset about what happened to my company,” my voice wavers with emotion. “I have the right to be upset,” I repeat again, more to myself than to him.
He sucks in a breath, as if he was going to spit another cruelty, but thought better of it.
“This is ridiculous,” he finally whispers.
So that’s the best he could think to say.
“Go and get the kids,” I command, making my way out of the room, “I’m not eating with you tonight.”
He murmurs something, but I don’t hear it, already down the hall and pulling my coat on. I shove my keys and phone into my pocket before stepping outside where a cool breeze rustles through the sparse foliage.
My legs start to walk. I don’t really know where, but I can’t find it in me to care either.
I can feel my phone start to vibrate incessantly, so I turn it off. Staring at the black screen, I can see my reflection. The eyes of a weary woman peer back at me curiously.
Maybe I have been holding myself back. Not because he’s right. Rather, because I never let myself be happy after the kids.
It doesn’t have to be that way though, does it? A woman and her children aren’t the same people. I am a person. I deserve to be happy for my own sake. A cold chill blows over me as the realisation hits.
I am allowed to have a job. I am allowed to have my own pursuits. I am allowed to have a woman’s dream.
Fighting Words CLG. Company Registered in Ireland 437119 Registered Charity CHY 18262. Copyright © 2018.