I’ll start by explaining what a small house is. A small house, in my view, is a woman who is in a relationship with a married man and receives similar benefits to those of a wife. These benefits vary according to the means of the man providing them. They can be as basic as groceries for her house, or as extravagant as the house itself, preferably in some green leafy suburb.
Small houses from a man’s point of view
Why do men have small houses? I have heard all sorts of reasons which include, but are not limited to the following:
- Just for the fun of it (read, wife is boring)
- Because he can afford it. And even if he can’t, he thinks he can.
- Not enough sex – or variety – from wife… she’s just no acrobat or a freak between the sheets… PE was never her strongest course at school.
- He needs something different from wife… Yes, we women are like plates of sadza and meat; a man can’t subsist on the same diet day in and out, so please give him some chicken or madora every now and then to keep his palette interested!
- Wife not able to have children. Too bad about your tubes honey, but the family name must go on at all costs.
- Wife no longer attractive. Everything he once held firmly in his hands now pours freely like a leaking tap.
- Wife stressing out husband, so husband looking for some quiet time… with another woman.
- Wife can’t cook, or just can’t cook like his mama.
- Everybody’s doing it. No, he’s not a teenager but he’ll still use the peer pressure excuse when it suits him.
- It’s cheaper – and less messy – than divorce… for some
- Wife is a psycho; a screeching Banshee who doesn’t let him be the man in the home. When he can’t be the head of the house, he sure can be the head of the small house!
When a man decides to marry a woman, there are many things that contribute to that decision. And we all know men are simple creatures and that their decisions are usually based on the superficial things; beauty, a slender body, promises of unending sexual ecstasy, a clean house and good food.
Pure and simple.
And it is the responsibility of the lucky woman (yes, we women are lucky when a man decides to put a ring on it; there’s such a global shortage of good single men!) to make sure that all of these things continue to exist in the marriage.
Super Woman, or Super Stressed Woman?
Unfortunately, it is not always possible for the wife to maintain her beauty and figure, as well as cook, clean and care for children and provide for her husband’s needs. After all, she isn’t Super Woman and something is bound to suffer. And once that something does start to suffer, the man’s image of his wife begins to change… She no longer represents his perfect goddess.
He feels cheated, bamboozled and hard done by the false promises that his wife was not able to fulfil. His solution? Get another woman, one who will live up to his expectations.
Once the man has found this new woman, he wants to offer her what he once gave his wife. It is only fair, after all, that the woman who is ideal also receives similar benefits.
And of course being simple creatures, it is not always possible for a husband to maintain the balance of providing for his wife and providing for the small house equally (financially, emotionally or physically).
Someone will suffer.
If the wife starts to suffer, she will complain and nag more; and the more she nags, the more the husband can justify having a mistress! Ah, the joys of the never-ending cycle of blame. It’s always a woman’s fault in the end.
The ‘perfect’ wife is at risk too!
So what about the rich man with the perfect wife, mother to his beautiful children and carer of his stunning home? Why does he get a mistress when his wife is meeting all of his expectations? Well, usually in this case, it’s a status symbol. I don’t know how or when it became cool to have extra marital affairs but apparently it is!
Men brag about their mistresses and what they are providing them with; they pay for their shopping trips overseas (read Dubai and China) and take them with on business trips; and of course, they brag about the kinky things they do which they would never dream of requesting from their wives. Such tigers!
It’s “our” culture!
There are so many reasons why men keep small houses and they typically hide behind the “tradition” clause of some unwritten law to African culture that states that “in our culture” it is acceptable for a man to have multiple women.
But let’s think backwards and answer this question: What was behind the early traditions of plural wives? Was it not because tribes were small and men were encouraged to have multiple wives so that many children could be produced? Was it not a primitive sign of wealth? Were wives from different tribes or regions not married as a political strategy to form alliances?
So what would the modern day “traditional” reason be for a man to have more than one wife?
A wife’s view of things
What about the wife? Where is she in all of this? Women in African society are raised to accept that it is normal for a man to have extramarital affairs; and as long as she and her children are provided for, she has no cause to be concerned. She is in fact encouraged to turn a blind eye!
But is it ever her fault that her husband has decided to get himself a small house? Maybe she has stopped looking after herself the way she did before and her body has gone from sexy hour glass to Teletubby; she no longer enjoys going on adventures and nights out in the club and maybe her mealtime classics only consist of sadza ne nyama nemuriwo.
Her personal hygiene may have also greatly declined and when she lies next to her husband in her gravy-stained body armour (no, she doesn’t want you fiddling under that heavy pink cotton night gown!) she no longer exudes the fresh just-showered fragrance she used to.
But are these really the reasons why men go out and get themselves a mistress? Have women not received advice ad nauseam on what makes a man happy and what you need to do to keep him from straying?
Women are willing to move hell and high water to keep their men. And more often than not, it doesn’t make a difference what they try because if the man is inclined to stray, he will do so no matter what gourmet meals you prepare for him at the table and in bed!
Many a wife has to deal with her husband forgetting to provide for his family because he now has a small house; these women also have to explain to her children why daddy doesn’t sleep at home sometimes and at times, why Mummy is now sick and losing weight, since daddy decided to live dangerously and go ‘skinny dipping’.
Why women become small houses
So we know where the man, as well as the wife, stand. But what about the small house herself, the Mistress in Chief? There are many reasons why women become small houses. Sometimes it’s for financial gain, sometimes its meeting the love of your life after he has gotten married to someone else… sigh. And sometimes, there are those women who are not interested in playing the role of the traditional wife but just want the perks that come with it.
There are women who become small houses knowingly and with no concern for the wife at home, and there are those who do so out of desperation as they also need a man to call their own… even if he really is someone else’s. And then there are those who unwittingly become mistresses due to their naiveté and failure to recognise that their man already has an attachment.
At the end of the day, economics play a great part in these women’s lives. I have often felt that being a mistress must be such a horribly thankless thing. You play a big part in making this man happy and yet you get no credit for it, nobody knows you and those who do look down on you for being a home wrecker.
Not always a winning game
If she is lucky, a small house is spoiled with gifts, money and shopping sprees. But if the man is of limited means, she might only benefit a few bills being paid, or some groceries and a dirty weekend away every once in a while; or worse still, she might benefit nothing.
There are small houses who get absolutely nothing in return for their role, and in fact find themselves feeding the man with groceries bought with their own hard earned money!
A small house has to work doubly hard to keep her man because she has no legal ground on which to stand; and her man can walk away and usually does, taking all his gifts with him. The small house cannot nag or complain and must be satisfied with the sneak peeks or stolen moments she gets.
Being a mistress means you don’t get those late night phone calls because your man is at home with his family and you never wake up with him lying next to you since he turns into a pumpkin at midnight and has to go home.
It means not being able to walk in the street hand in hand with your man for fear of being seen. And if you get sick in the middle of the night, you have to rely on your friends to help you get medical attention. Darting out at 3.30 am for a drink with the boys just wouldn’t pass the truth test in any book.
It’s the children who suffer
Many small houses are also mothers to the children of these men. This makes the situation even more complicated as the children will always be hard done by this situation.
They grow up with a father whom they barely know, who can’t come and watch them play sport at school; they are not able to fully enjoy the benefits of what their fathers can provide because they are a secret. They never get to spend holidays with their fathers and they grow up with the stigma of being the other woman’s children.
I’m sure we have all heard of the stories of the children who rock up at funerals after the death of their father to the shock and disbelief of the legitimate family. What about the man’s legitimate children themselves who wake up one day with three or four extra siblings they never knew they had, and the realisation that their father had a whole other secret life?
Small houses are a reality. You might think this is the part where I give you a brilliant conclusion that answers all your questions on this phenomenon but alas, I am not able to because there is no conclusion. And neither is there a solution that exists that I know of.
This article serves to set the scene for some discussion; and maybe through this forum we might come up with the answers to some important questions: Who is to blame for small houses? Are men genetically predisposed to wanting many women? Why do women become mistresses? What about the children? What about the health risks?
Let’s get talking!