Hubby emailed earlier today to tell me that he thought he was coming down with a cold. Nothing else. No greeting, just that. “I think I am getting a cold.” I should not have been surprised then, when he walked through the door coughing, sputtering, sniffling and doing this little whine/moan thing he does when he wants sympathy and to be let off the hook from all responsibility. I’ll admit it - I was feeling hostile. I had been scouring the house from top to bottom with my sidekick in tow all day. Took her to her tumbling class and then on a quick errand to pick up a few things for my eldest’s birthday party that is five days away. Oh, and getting ready to teach from home tonight, making dinner, taking the kids to the playground and cleaning up after dinner. Now I’m not saying that I don’t think he worked hard all day, of course he did. But his day ends when he walks through the door moaning and I guarantee that before the oldest two are asleep, he will be out. And I will be wrapping up class and cleaning up, getting things squared away for the morning and finishing up a few other household chores that need to be done.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my husband dearly. He is a wonderful father, amazingly supportive and kind and, well, everything good a husband should be and I know that he puts up with more than his fair share of my own faults (should I be hoping that he never blogs about me?). I am no saint. I’ll give him that. But why is it that men feel they have the right to become an extra child in the house when they are sick and yet if I were to be ill, I would still be doing everything that needed to be done for everyone else in this house. There was the time that I was incredibly sick with strep last year when I did have a few days ‘off’ (I still had to get the kids ready and out the door as I was barely able to stand and was running to the bathroom to hurl and desperately trying to reach him on his cell phone - oh and I was still breastfeeding the youngest). Or maybe I don’t cut myself slack?
It has been interesting to me now that I am aware of this fault of mine, my inability to show true sympathy to my husband when he is sick, to monitor myself and my responses to him. Like when he stood up from the dinner table and asked if I wanted him to help clean up (hey, he asked and I DO give him credit for that!) but knowing full-well that he was only phrasing his statement of “I’m heading up to bed now” into a question to make it sound better. Of course part of me wanted to snap a come-back about feeling over-burdened. But I was good, I said "no, you go upstairs, I’ve got this.” I am aware that my reactions are negative and counter-productive so I am working on being more kind. I am trying.
Still, I hear the gross man-cold sounds coming from upstairs and I shudder. I have to ask myself why is it that someone else being sick is so irksome to me? Maybe because it does not fit my pretty picture of how I want life to be? Is it because I have perfectionist tendencies and anything that falls outside of perfection is just not cool with me.
I do tend to try to deny my kids’ ailments, I like to assume that there really is not anything wrong with them, at least nothing bad. “It’s just nerves, you don’t have a tummy ache” (followed by child puking on me as if to prove their point) “it is just a little baby sniffles” (followed by baby hospitalized with RSV) “oh, you’ll be fine, just shake it off” (okay, this one I have thankfully been right about so far, knock on wood!). I have been really lucky that my kids just do not get sick much at all. Luck, genetics, healthy eating, hand washing, a combination perhaps.
I do believe that to a degree it is a control issue for me. Nerves we can work on with some breathing. Boo boos I can kiss better. Most things that reach beyond this make me feel out of control. If a kid were sick enough to stay home from school, it would throw the whole day into chaos. I don’t dare imagine worse scenarios.
A husband who is always there helping clean up and folding laundry and helping with bedtime and piano practice and who is now coughing and stuffy and moaning in head-cold agony leaves me feeling like the world is up-ended. My helpmate is temporarily out of service and I don’t function as well without him.
I do get the feeling that I am not the only Mom/Wife out there who tend to feel more angst that sympathy for her husband when he is ill. Knowing that I am not alone (I hope?!) in this helps me to a degree but also knowing that I am aware of my not-so-sympathetic tendencies and trying to be intentional about changing this will hopefully make me a better wife. Because he does deserve that. After all, I need to stop making a liar of myself. I promised.