updated 20 Aug 2014, 20:34
Login password or
Tue, Oct 01, 2013
The Straits Times
Email Print Decrease text size Increase text size
Time to give Papa some credit
by Tee Hun Ching

I felt a familiar flicker of exasperation when I saw my children's clothes, stained with juice and mud after a family day out, strewn all over their bedroom.

How, I wondered not for the first time, does my husband think worn garments usually make their way to the laundry basket?

"These were on the floor," I said tersely as I walked past him, the dirty clothes balled in one hand.

If he was expecting some gratitude for shepherding the kids into the bathroom for a shower while I went to put away the groceries, I was sorry to disappoint him.

My exasperation sharpened into a stab of annoyance when I realised he had forgotten, yet again, to get the towels and a fresh change of clothes ready before bath time. So there the kids were, giggling and streaking about naked, as water dripped all around the house.

I would have helped dress them, except I was halfway through trying to get the stains out from their clothes. "Here, why don't you take over - just rinse out the soap suds," I told him before chasing after my two kids with towels to rub their goosebumps away.

I was about to sink into the sofa after mopping up the puddles when I spotted the empty drying rack on the balcony.

"Where are the kids' clothes?" I asked my equally tired husband.

"In the laundry basket. You said they had still to be put through the washing machine after a manual rinse, right?"

My annoyance flared and grew into a hot flash of anger. "Are you kidding? You threw wet clothes into the laundry basket? Again?"

I went to retrieve the wrinkled lump of clothes and made a big show of hanging them up to dry as he read the papers. Neither of us said a word. I thought the message was clear. He thought I would know it was an oversight.

Inwardly, however, I was ticking off all the times he'd forgotten to do this and that despite countless reminders.

I'm not sure why it is, but I seem to take exceptional offence when the lapses concern our children. Nearly all our major fights so far have been over them. Maybe it's because I view the kids as shared responsibilities and expect him to pull his weight at all times. Or that he should be a lot more careful and considerate as they are still young and vulnerable.

I didn't realise until recently how much I seem to blame him for things that go wrong.

We had attended a marriage retreat last December called Marriage Encounter that aimed to equip couples with better communication skills.

To help us put into practice what was taught and remind us that a strong marriage required lifelong work, there is an after-programme where interested couples continue to meet once a month, for as long as they can keep it going.

At each session, everyone is given exercises on a topic that require personal responses. We then exchange the answers with our spouses, discuss and share them with the group if we so wish.

The latest topic was feelings: how to distinguish feelings from opinions and how to share them effectively with our partner. One of the exercises required us to recall an incident in the last 48 hours involving our spouses that had elicited the strongest feelings in us, and how we had expressed those emotions to each other.

What sprang to mind instantly was a series of incidents involving our kids that had needled me. I was particularly miffed by how my husband had punished our son two days earlier over what I thought was a minor misdemeanour. The unhappy episode ended with our six-year-old going to bed in tears and waking up several times that night screaming - no doubt traumatised by Papa, I thought.

We didn't manage to thrash things out that night, so I gave vent to my frustrations on paper.

But when we exchanged our responses, I felt an unexpected prick of shame. While I ranted about how and why I didn't care for his style of child discipline, my husband described his disappointment at how I had to miss a regular gathering at a friend's place the previous night as I had to work late.

"I was looking forward to going with you very much," he wrote. I was touched that my company meant so much to him.

While I had been busy debiting points from him all this while for things he didn't do or do right in my eyes, he was more concerned about what else we could do as a couple.

Stop sweating the small stuff, a voice inside my head piped up. So he doesn't always remember to pull the blanket over the kids at night, make them wash their hands before a meal or brush their teeth as carefully as I'd like. But when it comes to the crunch, I know I can always count on him.

He will clean up their barf, spend weekends teaching them to draw or cycle and rejig his busy work schedule to watch them perform at the annual school concert.

We may not always agree on parenting styles and issues - his inclination for physical punishment still rankles me - but I think we will somehow inch our way towards a compromise.

In this bumpy lifelong journey called parenting for which there is no map or compass, I couldn't have asked for a better partner.

He is the only person in this world who knows and loves the kids as well as I do. I'm a planner, he's a doer; I obsess over the details, he is a big-picture guy. Rather than blame him for not being more like me, I should be grateful that he more than makes up for my shortcomings - and does not harp on them like I do his.

After all, it is probably our differences that make us stronger as a team.

[email protected]

What do you appreciate most about your husband's role as a father? Write to [email protected]

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.

readers' comments

SPH DIGITAL NEWS / ASIAONE GROUP / Copyright © 2014. Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co. Regn. No. 198402868E.