We all know by now that men and women are vastly different from each other and the way we handle being sick is no exception. When a man gets sick he never tires of having you check up on him, asking him if he needs anything and attending to his every whim the second he calls for you, not to mention that he expects to get to lay around as much as possible without being bothered by the children. But when a woman gets sick she better have to be hospitalized before the average man will do anything to help her with the chores or the children. Somehow women are expected to still do everything they ordinarily do regardless of whether or not they are sick. I've recently had some experiences with this exact issue.

Im not sure what has been making me sick lately, but I have been sick off and on for the last 4 months. Not to get too graphic or anything, but this all started with an unusual period that lasted over a month and darn near killed me... Im very slight of build and tend to be anemic anyway but that type of blood loss over such a long period of time is particularly bad for someone as small as I am. I was getting heart flutters, dizzy spells, black outs, I was always cold and hardly had the energy even just to eat. After some intense iron supplement therapy the bleeding stopped and I have regained some semblance of my former strength but my immune system was certainly compromised by this sudden decline in my health... since then I got some kind of stomach virus or parasite that has made a come back 4 times now. This virus causes intense nausea, vomiting and frequent watery stools. I lose a few pounds each time it happens and have been struggling to gain it back. Normally I weight around 125lbs but currently only weigh 114. I haven't been that thin since high school and it scares me. In addition to this I have been fighting allergies, upper respiratory infections, just got over pink eye and had a miscarriage (we weren't trying, and I probably miscarried due to my current poor health)... not to mention having to care for my daughter who is entering the terrible twos phase, has also been sick and is probably teething. Needless to say, I have been horribly exhausted lately, and my husband isn't much help.

As a result my house has suffered. I try to keep it decently tidy but some things have piled up (like laundry- its clean but is sitting on the couch unfolded) and my husband has taken to nagging me about getting the house cleaned up.

My response is a metaphoric middle finger. I just tell him that I may be feeling better than I was but I have been so sick for so long because I keep trying to keep up with all of the house work instead of staying in bed and getting better. He still complains but I just gently remind him that the house will get better when I get better, and his nagging isn't going to speed anything up. I also suggest to him that if he would like me to get better sooner he could do the dishes or help fold the laundry. He hasn't taken me up on this yet, but he is complaining about the house less and less and actually bought some medicine for me the other day without me having to ask him to. Obviously he does care that I am not feeling well but is crap at expressing it.

Ideally he should be picking up some of the slack, and I always suggest that he do exactly that but it never happens. This is mostly because he comes from a small family. He is the middle of three children, with a 5 yr gap between each child. His older sister was 10, and he was 5 by the time the youngest was born. His mother had plenty of time to adjust to each child and learn how to handle the extra work involved before the next baby came along. So I have no doubt that his memories of always having a tidy house when he was a kid are pretty accurate. But he seems to be forgetting just how hectic things were when the next baby first came along. Not to mention the fact that his family eventually was wealthy enough to hire a cleaning lady to come in once a month to do the heavy cleaning. His mom has had YEARS to perfect her cleaning routine, in addition to having professional help in recent years. John and I have only been married 4 years this October, and Elsa will be 2 this July. I haven't had time to fully adjust to the constantly changing demands of my house and family, especially when you take the health issues into consideration. Additionally, I have a different standard of what a clean house is. I grew up in a family of 6 people. There were 3 of us older children that were responsible for keeping the house clean as well as doing the laundry and dishes. I had help. The only cleaning I did on my own was clean my room and whatever room of the house I was assigned to. Laundry, dishes, and deep cleans were a family affair. And since there were so many people living in such a small house, the cleaning was just an on going task. I cannot honestly say that my house growing up could be described as tidy, except for the occasional dinner or party. But it usually was pretty clean. There is a big difference between clean and tidy, and if you're not from a big family that concept may boggle your mind, as it does my husbands. To him, if the house is unorganized, its messy. But to me if things are not coated in dirt or other unsanitary debris its clean, whether or not its tidy. But anyway, keeping my current house clean... I have to do it all on my own. No help from any one. And with the way I am accustomed to cleaning (being able to delegate some of the work to other people) it can seem rather overwhelming, especially when I'm not feeling 100%.

That aside...Yes, its true, my husband and I live a rather 1950's style existence as far as home life is concerned. I am a stay at home wife and mother and my job is to keep the house clean, take care of the kids and make sure dinner is on the table most every night. I know this doesn't work for everyone, and that's fine, and when I am well I do enjoy the lifestyle and its what my husband grew up with so I don't mind providing that. Its just that there seems to be a bit of a breakdown in my husband's understanding of what actually goes on here while he is off at work all day. He regularly tells me that I don't have any idea of what he deals with at work and that I need to be more supportive and understanding that he cant give me everything I need right when I need it, to which I reply that what he just described is the story of my life. I could argue and say that he doesn't get what I go through, or know how difficult my day is but until we can trade places for a month I don't think he will ever accept that I really do understand that he has a difficult job... and so do I. The house may not look any better than it did when he went to bed last night, but it certainly looks better than it did just before he got home! 

Now I do try to tidy up as the day goes on, but my daughter is just like any other almost 2 yr old. She enjoys getting into everything, particularly the things she knows she isn't supposed to have, and somehow manages to get things I was certain were out of her reach or in rooms that are normally kept locked. She almost never eats while in her high chair, and since she doesn't eat much anyway I try to get her to eat as much as I can any way I can... even if it means getting crumbs all over the carpet or in my bed. She also likes to help herself to whatever is within arms reach in the pantry, usually resulting in rice, bread or cheerios getting dumped, by accident of course, all over the kitchen floor. AND Elsa hasn't been napping lately so I have even more messes to clean up and without the 2-3 hour child free window I ordinarily have. So I focus on the essentials... or rather the messes that if not cleaned up pose a health risk. If and only if I have the time or energy do I work on organizing things or cleaning up the 'tidy' messes. So when John complains that the house is a wreck I'm totally baffled because when I look at it I see a clean house with a little laundry on the couch and a couple dishes on the counter that are only there because there wasn't room enough in the dishwasher that is already full and running.

So how do you handle being sick and being expected to keep up with so much? Basically, you just have to learn that your husbands complaints, while they might be valid, come from a totally different expectation than what you may have for your house. It might be helpful to discuss these differences and try to come up with what you both expect as the minimum requirements of cleanliness in your own house. When your spouse complains, which they probably will from time to time, remind them that the way you feel is directly connected to the way the house looks. If you feel good the house will look good, if you feel bad the house will look bad, and if your spouse wants to help fix that they can either help you feel better, or put on some cleaning gloves. If they aren't willing to do either then they need to just keep their mouth shut. And then just focus on getting better. I can tell you its not easy, but your health needs to come first. You're no good to your husband, your children, yourself, or your house if you're sick all the time.

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