Wendyl Nissen
Wendyl Nissen on being 'The Supportive Wife'

Wendyl Nissen: Modern man demands more than crisp sheets

I think I've changed for the better, but the feeling isn't mutual.

His point seemed to be that this year-long challenge has really been more supporting the wife I want to be. Photo / Thinkstock
His point seemed to be that this year-long challenge has really been more supporting the wife I want to be. Photo / Thinkstock

The wonderful thing about being a supportive wife - my challenge for a year - is that you get to wear a self-bestowed halo for the good work you are doing.

It is a rare thing in this age of equality to think of someone else first, to start each day wondering who else you can help, what else you can possibly do to make someone else's life easier.

So far - 11 months and counting - the extra commitment to dishes, vacuuming, window cleaning, laundry, cooking, tidying and generally being a '50s housewife extraordinaire has been tiring but ultimately satisfying.

I have friends who have steadfastly refused to believe that I am doing it, hinting that this column is merely some form of humour. An exercise in extreme cynicism on my part. They claim that in reality I do nothing supportive and merely pretend that it is happening for the sake of writing about it every week.

But, as the year-long challenge draws to an end I can honestly sit down and know that I have changed for the better. I have become more giving, more interested in the dusting and the general upkeep of our two homes. And I shared this sentiment with my husband, who was forced to disagree.

"It is true," he said, puffing on his pipe while enjoying the comfort of his warmed slippers and reading with interest the evening paper. (I made that bit up but it helps paint the picture.)

"You definitely spend more time doing the things you like doing to be supportive and that I'd never ask anyone to do. I didn't even know there was such a thing as dust until 11 months ago," he went on, as our two spaniels gazed at him adoringly. "The things you don't like, well they just never happen."

I was justifiably outraged. The thought that I had let myself down in my challenge struck deep at the heart of my over-achieving, former Head Girl self.

"That is a lie!" I replied as I deftly dusted the uppermost corners of the lounge with my new extendable multi-coloured feather-like duster bought at the Briscoe's sale.

"I have performed my supportive wife tasks without complaint and to perfection."

"Yeah ... nah," he said.

Apparently, on several occasions my husband asked me to help him out in his uber busy life and I have been unwilling to do so, owing to my own busy life combining '50s housewifeing with a writing career.

There was a time when he needed a lift into town but I had to be across town at a meeting at the same time before fitting in a massage before lunch.

"It was impossible to do, it couldn't be done, I had a meeting," I said in my defence.

"Yes, I get it ... no hard feelings, but hardly supportive is it?"

On the day in question my husband had to take a taxi, the poor dear.

The other examples were of a similar nature where my career requirements - meetings, interviews, deadlines - had clashed with his. And in one case an offer to talk someone into a book he is working on was just not done.

My days of cold-calling people and persuading them to do stories are well and truly over. A fact he must have missed.

"You just ignored me and never did it," he said.

"I simply forgot. Ironing your shirts is an all-encompassing task."

"Don't take this the wrong way," he said, a statement which always precedes something he knows I will perceive as a telling off, which it is.

"But when you started this challenge I thought the premise was that I came first.

"You supported me, like a '50s housewife, which was very strange at the time. Also I don't need my T-shirts ironed.

"What has actually happened is that you have done the things you enjoy like blueing the sheets and making cider vinegar from scratch and baking bread, but actually the real support has been a bit absent."

His point seemed to be that this year-long challenge has really been more supporting the wife I want to be, rather than actual supportive wife.

When the challenge is over I will continue to blue sheets and bake bread and he can go back to supporting himself.

- NZ Herald

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