Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mars and Venus and Sick Time

Why are men and women so different when it comes to illness? Why are big, burly, manly men felled like trees when a cold or flu hits, and women seem to be able to cope better? Why is it that most men turn into children when they're sick and women keep going?

  • Women are trained from an early age to nurture and take care of others...often to the exclusion of ourselves. I'm going to be having surgery later this year for "woman" issues, which may include a 6 week recovery period. My mother is already reminding me that the day she returned from hospital after having the same surgery, she walked down a big hill with me to take me to the park. Now, in my defense I was about 3-4...and this was back in the day when she had already spent a week in hospital, instead of the 2-3 days that I'll be there.
  • Women have to tough out a variety of things monthly, from bloating to mood swings to cramps that can double you over. We learn in our teens to suck it up and keep going, because it comes back month after month...It wasn't until I had a cycle that lasted over a month and featured passing blood clots the size of marbles that I went to the doctor about it...and only because I was going broke buying feminine products and had become anemic from loss of blood.
  • If momma doesn't do it, it often doesn't get done. That includes dishes, laundry, getting the kids to and from school, daycare, activities, and food preparation. It's often easier for us to do it than to re-do it later. Moms don't get sick days.
  • Most women have a higher tolerance for pain...otherwise there would be no child born in this world...and certainly no siblings to the first one.
I have sung opera choruses with a migraine so fierce that I almost fainted, I have hosted house guests three weeks after a car accident left me with a cracked leg and hip (that at the time of the visit was undiagnosed and I was walking on it) and severe whiplash, I have continued to function despite anemia so bad that it makes me weak and dizzy, I have sung concerts on crutches, on a cane and with my right arm in a sling, I have vaccuumed on crutches and for the last two weeks, I have kept the house going, sung at 2 funerals and 2 masses and kept my work humming along with pneumonia. When the wait at the ER was going to be 6 hours, I left and came home. I didn't feel well enough to stay, so I waited and called my doctor the next morning. One of the reasons I left was I was afraid that I would be admitted, and who would look after my daughter the next morning? My husband has spent the day there a few times this year and then come home and beached in the Lazyboy with a headache or a sick stomach.

I think women can be too independent. I know that I have pushed past my limit often, powered only by stubborn and determined. My body and I have an adversarial relationship, and it will often flatten me when I take inadequate care of myself. I'm teetering on the edge right now with the evil twins of anemia and pneumonia...but I'm still on deadline, I'm still a work from home mom...and the pancakes for tonight's dinner will not cook themselves and despite my best visualization, the dishes are not washing themselves. So I will make another pot of tea, take a break to play a game with my daughter, try to go to bed early and soldier on. As Helen Reddy said, "I am Strong. I am Invincible. I am Woman." (and I'm tired...)

1 comment:

Atlantic Writer said...

Too often we make ourselves sick by over doing it (this I know from experience!). That said, most would say 'don't try to do so much' or 'take a little time for yourself.' Those of us who are raising kids, working from home, caring for sick parents, trying to run a house, be a wife, and do a myriad of other things understand that platitudes like that are not very useful. I have, however, learned that a little reassessing is important. We think we can do it all but doing so only leaves us compromised. We aren't falures if we let a few things slide. Our husbands aren't incapable of picking up the slack (it just seems like it sometimes). Take it from one who knows - pneumonia won't go away unless you are getting rest and getting better. I can't tell you what you can let slide and what you still have to get done, but you can. You may not like having to let a few things go undone but your family needs you to get better. Let that be your priority.