“Look Mummy,” the kids shriek excitedly, yanking me towards a surprise waiting on the coffee table. It’s big, square and covered in a blanket. My first thought is, it’s a budgie. My second is, there’s no such thing as a no-fault divorce.

If that's the Brie I bought last night, you're in trouble mate. Pic: Thinkstock

My husband’s been campaigning for years for a second pet “for the kids”. I’ve vetoed the rabbit (“I’ll stew it”), the Mexican walking fish (“Will you get a mullet, too?”) and the budgie (“I’m sure your next wife will love one”).

I stumble through the door after three weeks away, and what’s he bought? A rat. Yep, vermin. Except this precious rodent cost $25, with $80 chucked in for the Hilton of cages, complete with a shelter, a mirror and a wheel he’s evidently too thick to use. (Of course it’s a he – they chose the one with the biggest balls on the grounds that females are “hormonal and bitey”.) Did I mention the cage is maroon? A colour I hate possibly even more than rats.

“The kids were missing you terribly,” says the husband.

Fabulous. In lieu of me (kind, smiley, good at cuddles), they get a rat (smelly, useless, good at pooing). “Which part of ‘I’ll move out if we get another pet’ didn’t you understand?” I mutter irritably.

While they show me what tricks he can do (none), how cute he is (not) and how small his droppings are (get him off my new rug), I furtively Google “life expectancy of a rat”. Three years. Three years! I also bookmark a pest exterminator.

The next day, a friend drops by for a glass of wine. Her children cluster around the creature (he does have a name, but to share it with you would suggest I care).

“You’re kidding,” she says, when I point out the husband neglected to consult me. She’s an interior stylist, so is equally offended by the maroon. “You could spray paint it yellow,” she says. Mmm. And perhaps I could order a miniature Marimekko rug and a Villeroy & Boch food bowl. “Don’t worry,” I say. “He won’t be staying.”

Normally, this sort of dictatorial decision-making really gets my goat (wouldn’t mind one of those – preferably a pashmina). Chez Mollard has always operated as a democracy. Ergo, we discuss the big stuff. But, as in the ALP, it seems we’ve developed factional divisions and they’ve driven a carthorse (definitely not) through my One-Pet Policy. I tell the family that, in China, they’d be heavily fined. Or forced to eat the rat.

“You weren’t here to consult and it was the last one in the shop,” argues the husband.

“If we’d gone a day earlier, we could’ve bought two,” pipes up the youngest, as she cradles Stuart-bloody-Little in the pocket of her hoodie. “They could’ve made babies.”

Only the cat is on my side, but he’s not exactly a member of feline Mensa. He sits on top of the cage, seemingly lobotomised.

For a week, I steel for a fight. “Is he still there?” enquires my friend the next Friday.

“Who – husband or rat?”

The truth is, I won’t pick an argument. If I want to be part of a family that supports my dreams, sometimes I need to indulge theirs. Communication, collaboration, consultation – it’s all very laudable, but every now and then, you just want what you want.

I still loathe the rat. A little less now he’s been shampooed. And, since I know you want to know, his name is Wilbur.

Catch Angela Mollard every Sunday at 8.45am on Weekend Today, on the Nine Network. Email angelamollard@sundaymagazine.com.au. Follow her at www.twitter.com/angelamollard.

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52 comments

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    • acotrel says:

      08:30am | 10/06/12

      After 32 years of marriage, I came home from work one day, and my wife said ‘I think I want a divorce’.  I did not cheer, and shout “YES !! There IS a God !’  I simply answered ‘you’ve got it’, and we then sat down and split everything right down the middle to the last penny - no solicitors, no acrimony, no fights. We divorced, and I remarried three years later to a beautiful catholic girl, and I lover her and her kids and the extended family with all my heart.
      Fathers who belt their daughters should be jailed for the problems and outright misery they cause other people.
      Sorry Angela, I wasn’t referring to you and yours, you’re probably very nice, but in some marriages the shit is totally outrageous. I object to being isolated for years on end over some imagined slight. And I will not be an object of mental abuse as restitution for some other idiot’s behaviour towards his kids !

    • McDuff says:

      01:49pm | 10/06/12

      I guess you had to get that off your chest, relevant to the article or not.

    • colroe says:

      02:52pm | 10/06/12

      What religion was your first wife?  Is “catholic” relevant to your story?

    • acotrel says:

      06:20am | 11/06/12

      Religion is important when it pertains to education.

    • Debbie says:

      09:01am | 10/06/12

      Ha ha, made me laugh, I got Guinea pigs while my husband was away and he had a fit. So he insisted that he could get a pet rat as well. Although I was dead against it, we ended up with 2 rats, Remy and Ratbag and I grew to love them over the time we had them. But be warned, you’ll end up like this household with 2 dogs, 1 cat, 3 guinea pigs and 3 rats! I’m thinking of opening a small petting zoo in the holidays.

    • iansand says:

      06:21pm | 10/06/12

      Imagine the My Family stickers.

    • Emma says:

      07:16am | 11/06/12

      We still tell my brother’s kids the guinea pig is on holiday after it choked on some food. They are not very robust.

    • philip says:

      09:27am | 10/06/12

      whats the problem rats are surprisingly clean, not too mention they are very affectionate and smart and easy to keep bout the only thing that we do weekly is clean the cage.

    • M says:

      07:06am | 11/06/12

      They smell atrocious.

    • gobsmack says:

      09:28am | 10/06/12

      Typical.  It’s all about you. 
      Though they hardly get a mention, it sounds like the kids love Wilbur.

    • Robert Smissen of country SA says:

      12:51am | 11/06/12

      gobsmack, you are surprised at this? ? It is ALWAYS about them, ALWAYS

    • Emma says:

      07:18am | 11/06/12

      The article was FUN. Get over it. I personally loved the line “I bet your next wife will love one”.

    • gobsmack says:

      02:01pm | 11/06/12

      @Emma
      I get that the article was intended to be mildly amusing (whether or not it was “fun” is a matter of opinion).
      However (and at the risk of sounding like a certain person who used to post regularly on the Punch), this “oh look how stupid my husband is” brand of humour has become increasingly prevalent in articles, TV shows and advertising.
      Similar humour denigrating wives stopped years ago because it was branded sexist.

    • Stephen says:

      10:12am | 10/06/12

      I wonder what reaction a similar article would receive if titled “I Smell A Dog, And She Answers To Wife”.

      How about a little less deprecation of males when writing your trite nonsense?

    • acotrel says:

      06:26am | 11/06/12

      Stephen, I totally agree - the denigration is unacceptable, even if Angela’s husband gets right up her toffy nose.  It is really stupid stuff and designed to hurt.  Women don’t know how to handle the situation where their husband simply walks away after they’ve copped enough shit.

    • Mayday says:

      10:13am | 10/06/12

      Angela some of our families funniest memories are of our pet mice escaping and us trying to recapture them. 

      The dog got in on the act too, we’d often used him at one end of the room to corner the “escapee” who would eventually return to her cage for a feed and a sleep.

      The kids came up with some ingenious ideas setting up cages with toilet roll cores and lots of little boxes for the mice to nest.  Observing the mice interact was fascinating and my boys enjoyed looking after them themselves because it was manageable, the dog was a too big.

      I suggest you buy another rat, Wally would pair nicely with Wilbur and when he escapes you can play that great game"Where’s Wally?”

      Good luck Angela!

    • Dood says:

      10:20am | 10/06/12

      I had a pair of female rats as pets a few years ago. Great pets. They kept themselves clean with no smell as long aa you keep the cage clean. Since you got a male, my advice is to get him newted since it does calm them down.

      In the en, they are much better than any other member of the rodent family as a pet.

    • McDuff says:

      01:52pm | 10/06/12

      ‘get him newted’. I think the rat is causing enough family tension without them also getting a newt as a pet.

    • Emma2 says:

      03:59pm | 10/06/12

      Neutered*

    • Susan says:

      10:24am | 10/06/12

      I look forward to your next installment ‘How do I get rid of the smell of rat urine from my nose!?!’  Long live Wilbur.  Serves you right for not negotiating when you had the chance. smile

    • Greg says:

      10:42am | 10/06/12

      lol, Soon you will notice that Wilbur will come out to you when you pass by the cage and clearly look pleased with your presence. Then you will be poking the scarp of left over carrot into the cage. Soon you will face defeat because rats have known how to live with humans for quite a while now….

    • Geoffrey Chaucer says:

      11:07am | 10/06/12

      Absolutely hilarious. Best article in a while.

      The fact that you surrendered in the end is a tad disappointing, but then three years will go fast and you are outnumbered anyway.

    • Ginger Mick says:

      11:10am | 10/06/12

      Well I guess it must be legal in NSW but from memory it is illegal in QLD to have a rat or a rabbit as pets.

      Should have bought a guinea pig,( after consultation with you).

      At least they can help keep the grass down.

      What are you getting him for father’s day?

      Revenge is best served cold, use your imagination, I’m sure you will think of something appropriate.  grin

    • xar says:

      06:48pm | 10/06/12

      not illegal to have a rat in QLD at all, but you cant have a ferret or rabbit

    • Zdacey says:

      11:21am | 10/06/12

      A year ago, I was like you. Couldn’t handle the thought of a rat, let alone a pet rat. I"ve never been a ‘pet person’, and after two failed experiments with a dog and a cat, I was determined we would remain happily pet-free.

      Then I was cajoled - or conned, take your pick - by two children, who had a friend with 17 baby rats which were destined to become snake food if they weren’t adopted out.

      11 months later, I have fallen in love. Cleoratra (no, that’s not a typo), Bellatrix and Meg are now a big part of our day-to-day lives. They sit on our shoulders or tucked inside our pockets around the house. They come when their names are called. Cleoratra watches my son play video games. Bellatrix soaks up the tears of my hormonal 13 year old daughter when she is devastated by the breakup of her favourite band. And Meg is sitting on my shoulder watching me type right now.

      Their father died a few weeks ago. I only agreed to get them because of their short life expectancy… and I’m already panicking at the thought of waking up one day to find a reminder of my Year 12 dissection class, cold and lifeless in the cage.

      Give Wilbur a chance, and he’ll steal your heart.

    • stephen says:

      01:52pm | 10/06/12

      Whose father died ; yours, the kids’s, or the rat’s ?

      And if anyone else has a trio of rats they’re gonna tell us about, I hope they’re called huey, luey and duey, or moe, larry and curly ... or some such sensible attire.

      ps never in my entire life have I suspected a typo in a ratname, and I hope I never again will.

    • Zdacey says:

      09:05pm | 10/06/12

      It was the father of the rats who died. I kinda thought that was obvious from the context, considering the next sentence.

      You didn’t grasp the joke about a rat being called CleoRatra? I bet you’re fun at parties, Stephen. Insert eye-rolling here.

    • stephen says:

      10:27am | 11/06/12

      Well, actually, I am indeed fun at parties : I am the bloke who always gets on better with wives than their husbands do, (that might be because I ain’t married to them) and then on the way out the front door, (if they’re pretty, I’ll use the back) I get,
      ... ‘where is that dirty rat with my wife ?’

      By this stage, however, I have made my purchase elsewhere ; us rats have cargo stashed that no chubby hubby could ever rat-out.

      ... but I can’t roll my eyes.
      my glare is straight, just like my stare.

    • Lloyd says:

      11:39am | 10/06/12

      They are filthy creatures. You should kill it.

    • xar says:

      11:40am | 10/06/12

      aww but ratties are lovely pets truly. Give him time to win you over, they are actually sweet little creatures, they creep into your heart and then you start to wish they had much longer than 3 years.

    • Beck says:

      11:55am | 10/06/12

      Geez, you sound like a total kill joy.

    • M says:

      07:09am | 11/06/12

      Sounds like she has control issues huh?

    • JB says:

      12:33pm | 10/06/12

      Rats are incredibly intelligent. Learn to love him.x

    • Robert Smissen of country SA says:

      12:57am | 11/06/12

      Very true, there are a far higher life form than journalists, cleaner too

    • Gregg says:

      02:12pm | 10/06/12

      It seems some people really love your writing Angela as much as others love rats and reckon you’ll become a convert.
      You’ve had the great end of the deal, back all refreshed from trekking in Nepal and all you have to deal with is a rat and a smelly bloke but just think of us poor blokes, my other half two weeks into three away in Europe and I’ve got the dogs to care for, one nearly fifteen and the fish to be fed…......

      And then won’t I be considered the scruffy one looking for a doghouse because my house cleaning isn’t up to scratch!
      But I’m with you, no rats thanks and so if you want a rat free household, how are the cleaning skills?

    • Ala says:

      04:13pm | 10/06/12

      Let them keep the rats so long as you can have a large snake, let them both loose and bye bye rat problem.

    • Milly says:

      05:07pm | 10/06/12

      When we moved to North Qld, my husband took the kids ‘tadpole hunting.’... now the tadpoles we’re talking about aren’t the cute little froggie tadpoles, (we were familiar with down south) these tadpoles are ugly black cane toad tadpoles, that grow into… yes, cane toads, big ugly cane toads.  I tried to convince him not to bring the things inside, but no, it was a great learning experience for the kids. ... so I relented.  Yes, it was very interesting watch them grow little legs.  I kept saying, they need to go out before they turn into toads, OK?!  One night we were watching t.v., my husband suddenly leapt up looking somewhat horrified.  I wondered what the issue was… at first he tried to distract me, but it didn’t take long for me to notice some little black visitors hopping through the lounge room.  Our cute little tadpoles, had grown into cute little cane toads!  Yuk!  All I could think was how many more of their siblings are presently taking up position in every nook and cranny of the house!  Suffice to say, that these cute little visitors were given emancipation the following day!

    • Gregg says:

      07:31am | 11/06/12

      I think we can thank our lucky stars Milly that not all toadie tadpoles seem to mature into adults.
      One year I was looking into a little channel between our dam and the neighbours and the water was black with swarms of the tadpoles, so many there must have been hundreds of thousands if not millions of them.
      A different year there seemed to be plenty of baby toads, about thumbnail size about at one time and with the numbers of both those instances, I reckon if they had all matured into adults, we would have been looking at horizon to horizon carpeting with toads but it has never been that way and not even every year do you get that squishing on the road or see so many flattened bods about.

      Another neighbour once offered the thought that they may be canabals and possibly something in that.
      My wife had another interesting thought and that it was not their fault they’re here and they can’t help being an ugly frog either!, just a pity that they cause decimation of frogs and other wildlife that happen to feast on them but I think other species may be starting to realise not to mess with them.

      Two dogs we’ve had both seemed to naturally know that they ought to ignore them, maybe a smell or something and yet anything else that moves like a lizard, mouse, rat, bunny, bush turkey etc. they’d be after quick as a flash.

      I was on Fraser Island a few years back and came across a toad there and just hope the island does not become too inhabited by them.

    • Denmark 1 Netherlands 0 says:

      07:40pm | 10/06/12

      Rats are more faithful than husbands and make less mess!

    • stephen says:

      10:20pm | 10/06/12

      How do you know they’re more faithful ?

      Have you been ratfinked ?

    • Paul M says:

      12:05am | 11/06/12

      Rats are awesome. Curious, active. The varieties bred as pets are nothing like wild ones, of course - there are actual physical differences (smaller adrenal glands, etc.). I can’t keep pets, on account of I am extremely vague, but I’d almost consider a couple of (desexed) rats.

    • acotrel says:

      06:53am | 11/06/12

      Do you know what the word ‘autolysis’ means ?  If you like rats you should look it up.

    • Emma says:

      07:47am | 11/06/12

      I would love to have a pet. Not a big one because I live in a flat and I wouldnt keep a dog in a small flat. But I had a budgie as kid and loved it dearly. My rental agreement says no pets though. And I like to travel a bit, so it would not be responsible. Its a shame. Seems like you can only have pets when youre as settled as my grandma? Does anyone here have a budgie and knows if you can leave it alone over a long weekend on occasion?

    • Greg in Chengdu says:

      09:32am | 11/06/12

      I don’t know what I’m more in disbelief about, That you thought this was news worthy, or that you were discussing designer label furnishings the bloody things cage

    • stephen says:

      10:52am | 11/06/12

      Hell I was gonna ask Angie for another rat-special, as this one was a hoot and I spent all last night writing funnies for this page ... none of which was printed.

      ps she must love rats, after all.

    • Baloo says:

      11:33am | 11/06/12

      I watched Pirates of the Caribbean last night.

      Now I want a pet monkey so damn bad!
      I just thought I’d share that.

    • stephen says:

      12:22pm | 11/06/12

      Good grief ; at The Flinder’s Medical Centre the Doctors are using rat saliva to inject into the heart-attack effected heart, to re-generate damaged muscle.

      ps I’ll have no choice then feeling hungry on my bike.

    • I just dont care anymore says:

      12:29pm | 11/06/12

      I know it’s not the same but we have a tank of guppies. We got them after my goldfish died after 7 years and my wife insisted on getting “something tropical” After 6 years of doing the weekly clean religiously every weekend with the occasional (one in fifteen yes I kept track) bit of help I told the my wife that she now has the next year to do the tank as I am taking a break from dutys for a while.

      So far she managed to clean it on average once a month, We have had a 50% mortality rate in this time. Where I would donate on averge 100 fish every six months and the plants that I had to remove to prevent choking the tank are dying off.

      I know I should take over again but I will be honest after over 10 years of combined tank cleaning I just don’t care anymore.

    • stephen says:

      12:49pm | 11/06/12

      Put a dead rat in the tank.

      She’ll either have to clean it, or you’ll have to look for another wife.

    • Nyx says:

      12:47pm | 11/06/12

      Wow Angela, I feel incredibly sorry for poor Wilbur being stuck in a house with someone as negative as you. Not to mention he’s all alone in his cage. Rats are social animals, you really should consider getting him at least one companion.

      For the record I currently have 2 male rats, who make wonderful pets. They’re utterly adorable, quiet, and as long as you clean the cage regularly (same as ANY pet) clean and not smelly…I’ll also be adding to my mischief in the coming weeks with 2 more boys rescued from a local TAFE.

      I belong to a local rat rescue organisation, and its attitudes like yours that lead to these animals being dumped in parks and the like in ice cream containers. Or worse, left in appalling cage conditions by negligent people. There’s a reason that rats have such a short lifespan, and that reason is greedy backyard breeders who pump out babies with no concern for genetics, and ignorant owners who can’t spend 5 minutes learning about the new animal in their lives who relies on them for survival.

      My advice to you is contact your local rat rescue and hand Wilbur over. He deserves a chance at a happy life

    • stephen says:

      02:27pm | 11/06/12

      In Hamburg they have a rat problem, again, and they are thinking of putting back into service The Pied Piper.

      They could make it a Musical ... ‘Kylie Minogue’s Still Lucky in Love.’

    • Tatty_Anne says:

      05:29pm | 11/06/12

      Angela, you got off lightly.

      My daughter and her husband found a tame cockatoo on the front lawn and it stayed with them for a couple of days before mercifully figuring an escape route.  But during that time grand-daughter fell in love with it and was so upset when it left that daddy snuck out and bought a replacement.

      It’s allowed free rein of the house, it poops everywhere and it shreiks at an eardrum piercing level AND those bloody things live for decades.

      I’ll swap you for the rat.  grin

 

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