Chapter 2: The Pity Party (Unpaid)

“Geez, how insensitive! How do you put up with it?” Sarah’s younger sister, Iman, exclaimed.

Sarah flipped her long, black hair back and switched her cell phone to her other ear. She took a deep breath. Even though Iman was single, it felt overly comforting to hear someone’s support.

“Well, I guess he’s stressed out,” Sarah added shyly, believing it was fair to say something in her husband’s defense.

“Still! It’s unacceptable. You’re just as stressed. Surely he can’t think that taking care of two children is easy, especially with a hyperactive son like Abdullah.”

Sarah smiled at her sister’s comment. Abdullah was definitely a handful but that’s what made him so loveable.

“I know…” Sarah’s voice drifted. She wasn’t sure what to say. It was pretty unfair.

“If I were you, I’d give him a piece of my mind!” Iman snorted.

Sarah tilted her head to the side, debating whether that was necessary.

“I did tell him that I was stressed too and if he would just get more organized, these things wouldn’t happen.”

“Definitely,” Iman chimed in, “It doesn’t take that much effort to schedule in a reminder these days.”

“That’s exactly what I was thinking,” Sarah said in a quivering voice, holding back her tears. “Do you think he loves me? I mean, why doesn’t he put more effort into our relationship? It’s me that had to find Mrs. Bradley and drag him to the first appointment.”

“This is precisely why I’m not marrying a Pakistani! My dream guy is definitely a convert. Look at all the men in our family. They just expect their wives to wait hand and foot on them. I’ve never heard any of them say a thank you to their wives! Sometimes men can be selfish and self-centered, even dad…”

“Iman…” Sarah protested. “Don’t go there. It’s the last thing I want to hear about.”

“Well it’s true,” Iman huffed. She quickly changed the subject.

“Look at what’s happened to you Sarah,” Iman added in a soft voice. “You were the star of the family, the first woman to graduate from university and become a doctor. Now you’re just a housewife. I’m worried about you. I miss my sister, the champion woman that I know her to be.”

Sarah silently listened to her sister’s words. She knew Iman was right but she was torn. She loved her kids and leaving her job to take care of them was the best decision she made, but it was her husband’s unsupportive behavior that was the problem. It was difficult to get through to him, to make him understand what she was experiencing in her life, and convincing him to help her out.

“I just don’t know what to do. He doesn’t talk much and when I try to prompt him, he’s short with me. I just want him to open up to me. Ugh, it’s so frustrating!” Sarah leaned back in her chair.

“Well that’s why mom is always complaining about dad. He just won’t compromise. Things have to be his way. She feels like he never considers her preferences, and it’s only when she nags him to death that he yields.

“When we were younger, I didn’t really notice what was happening between the two of them, but now that I’m in my twenties, I can see things for what they are. I’m surprised they are still together after forty years with the way dad acts.

“It’s also why I am thinking of not marrying. When I hear that you’re going through the same thing, it makes me think that all men are the same. Why bother!”

“There are benefits to being married, Iman,” Sarah noted.

“Like what?” Iman challenged. “All I see is that you gave up everything to please your husband and he hasn’t lived up to his side of the bargain.”

“Well, for one, you can’t have your own kids without getting married.”

“Okay so I won’t have kids. There are so many in the world anyway. Why not help those that are having a hard time, like orphans? That seems more pleasing to Allah. Think about it Sarah. I can contribute my time towards charity and make a bigger impact on the world. I’m not going to spend all this time studying just to become a stay-at-home mom,” Iman insisted.

“Whatever Iman,” Sarah said, rolling her eyes. “Superwoman is for the movies, not real life. I have to run. Talk to you later inshaAllah.”

Sarah knew that her sister was still immature and inexperienced with love. She believed that at every woman’s core, her deepest desire was to fall in love, share her life with someone, have kids, grow old, and live happily-ever-after.

Iman was temporarily blinded by the assortment of opportunities in front of her, but she would eventually reach the same realization that Sarah did: a stressful career is not worth it and married life is. She just didn’t know how to get Ahmad to feel the same way about their marriage.

Sarah pressed her back comfortably into the chair, reflecting further. She replayed the scene with Ahmad over and over in her head, analyzing it from every angle possible. She couldn’t see where it all went wrong and why he would suddenly turn angry over certain things she said. They couldn’t relate to each other outside of the children’s interests.

Iman’s words echoed in her mind. Sometimes men can be selfish and self-centered, even dad…

Sarah looked outside the window, chewing on Iman’s comment. Her father was a kind man, but he definitely had his moments of challenging behavior. She remembered finding her parents in a heated argument when she was ten years old returning home from school one day.

Her father was speaking in a raised voice, telling her mother that he was going to put his foot down with her. She recalled his fists shaking in the air and the intensity of his facial expression.

Her mother was not the least bit intimidated. She stood glaring back at him, as if he was a little child who needed disciplining. “Just save some money on the side!” her mother protested. “The children need savings to go to university! Can’t you find a better job and make more money?”

Sarah’s dad let out a cry of frustration, turned around, and stormed off. Her parents didn’t talk to each other for a few days after that, but things eventually returned to normal. Sarah never mentioned what she saw to anyone, but that memory made a strong impression on her.

She would often feel upset at her father for how he treated her mother. It was a heaviness that she carried with her and still felt until this day. She couldn’t make sense of his moods. They appeared completely unjustifiable to her. Ahmad was similar to her father in this regard.

Sarah wondered if their marriage would also be like her parent’s own forty years down the line. She prayed that it would be different, but it certainly seemed to be heading down the same path. And after speaking with Iman, she felt doubly sorry for her situation.

 

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