Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

email: margalitc at yahoo dot com

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Why do men behave like babies when they are sick?

I've heard it a million times. I've read it even more. "My husband/boyfriend/significant other is such a baby when he's sick." Most men I know certainly follow that statement to a "T". But I don't know why. When Mommy is sick, she gets up, does her job, and makes it through her day without collapsing in a puddle of tears. Mommy has to. There isn't a choice.

But when Daddy gets sick, the whole world stops and starts revolving all around him. "Get me this, get me that, ohhhh I'm dying..." are common refrains from sick men. We all find it annoying but I want to get to the heart of the matter. Where does this behavior come from?

The Boy has been sick for a couple of days. You would think that earth is about to implode. He's got a fever, a cough, and a sore throat. Chest congestion. Some times a headache. He does not have broken bones, cancer, kidney failure, or heart disease. He has a cold. A freaking cold.

I try to be sympathetic, but my God, that kid is milking it for all it's worth. He lays on the sofa moaning and groaning, snorting up disgusting amounts of phlegm, hawking coughs, and begs me to do every last thing for him. And when I mean every last thing, I mean picking up the telephone that is directly next to him because it's too much of an effort for him. I mean getting him tissues that are sitting on the table in front of him.

If I'm busy and tell him to do it himself, he screams at me. I'm the worst mother in the world. He's dying, don't you know. It's funny how by day 4 the empathy seems harder and harder to eeek out. He's grumpy, grouchy, and kind of mean when he's sick. He doesn't seem to understand that other people have needs, too. Yesterday he didn't want me to go to the bathroom because it would disturb his position on the sofa. I think that is crossing the line into terminally needy.

I don't get how his sick behavior has grown into what must be called "typical male" behavior. Is this genetic? Where do men learn to be pathetic louts the second they get a bit of a head cold? Who teaches them this stuff?

Is it that they feel entitled? Is it that they typically have to fall down dead before they admit illness? I know it isn't a direct result of his mothering because I'm his mother and I'm not going to indulge this demanding and spoiled behavior. Especially when I'm so sick most of the time and he complains bitterly if I ask him for a glass of water.

I try to help him out. I make a pot of chicken soup when he's sick. I give him lots of juice and vitamins and suggest that he might want to take a cold remedy. I let him watch TV the whole day and sleep on the sofa for hours at a time. I even let him use the computer for hour upon hour to watch movies. I'm nice enough, but I'm not overindulgent. I never have been. I've always been stuck between the huggy cuddly mom and the go do it yourself mom. I think men need to learn that they can do things for themselves when they're sick. Or else they'll end up as someone's sick husband driving Mommy crazy.

I really want to know where this entitlement comes from. I just don't get it. The difference between the two kids is palpable. When his sister is sick, she likes to take care of herself. She doesn't want me hovering over her. She wants to eat what she wants, and she gets it herself. She doesn't spend the whole day moaning and groaning and sobbing about death's door.

They were raised the same way. Really. I've been as gender neutral as you can be with them. And yet, he's a big baby when he's sick. WHY?

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Blogger bethany actually said...

Excellent question! If you figure out the answer, let me know.

As an aside, there are men out there who don't act like babies when they're sick. My husband is one of them. But he rarely gets sick and when he does he gets over it quickly. It's very annoying to me, since I get every bug that passes around and spend weeks getting over each one. I'm much whinier than he is! :-)

11/2/09 12:22 PM  
Blogger Daisy said...

My daughter emailed today; she has mono. I asked if she needs to come home from school; nope. She'll take care of herself, get to as many classes as she can, explain to the profs, yada yada yada... I hope she doesn't implode from taking on too much.

11/2/09 9:28 PM  

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