Before my daughter was born, my husband and I were fairly healthy people. But since having her, we get sick more often and stay sick longer. I’m sure other parents can relate to the toll that can take on a relationship.
It seems that my husband and I aren’t the only ones: Parents of small children are sick more often, both because of exposure to the petri dish that is daycare, and because of weakened immune systems from sleep deprivation and stress. The Washington Post had this to say about it.
Attachment theory (the underpinnings of emotionally focused therapy) tells us that a secure emotional bond between partners reduces stress, in addition to many other benefits. But when one or both partners are sick, who has the energy to emotionally connect?
And when you’re feeling bad physically, it’s easy to become short-tempered. Being the other partner (the one who has to keep up with all the caregiving and chores) can make you short-tempered, too. Illness alters family dynamics, and places strain on everyone.
My husband has been hit harder than me this cold and flu season. But I’ve rarely been feeling 100% myself, and the burden of additional caregiving for our daughter falls to me. Generally, I’m compassionate but I have my moments when it feels like too much.
Last weekend seemed interminable. My husband was MIA (understandably so), and my daughter was cranky (probably feeling sick herself.) The bad mood was as contagious as the illness itself. I snapped a number of times–at my daughter, at my husband–and then suffered the guilt for it.
When I got a minute to myself, I realized just how much support my husband ordinarily gives me, emotionally and practically, and how involved he usually is with our daughter.
It’s the old adage: You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. I couldn’t go and complain to my husband, or hand off my daughter, or snuggle up and laugh together. It was a draining experience, because it felt isolating. I missed him.
I’m lucky to have a husband who’s so miss-able. It’s good to have that reminder. But it can easily go the other way: When you feel disconnected, isolated, and overwhelmed, you might want to lash out. As I said, I’ve had my moments. With a bit of reflective distance, I can see those for what they are.
The years with young children offer lots of rewards, but they take their toll, too. Recognizing the stress and adapting to it and still having a happy marriage–there’s the challenge.
Sick woman photo available from Shutterstock
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Last reviewed: 10 Feb 2013