If He Won’t Take Care Of Himself You Should Do It As His Wife!

There’s nothing wrong as such, to be entrusted with the responsibility of your spouse’s good health. But never has any doctor or nurse or relative asked my husband to take care of mine despite my worse health problems!

Now, this is very recent and has been happening for a few weeks, and I wonder how much of this I would be taking, in the days to come.

I have been at the receiving end of some unsolicited advice and comments, intentionally or unintentionally bordering on misogyny. From family and surprisingly from medical professionals, for a condition that my spouse is suffering from.

High BP detected at a pre-insurance medical check-up

Well, it so happened that my husband visited the nearby hospital for a pre-insurance medical examination, and an hour later, called me up. He calmly informed me that the physician wouldn’t let him return on his own, so I needed to pick him back.

I could hear my heart thumping, all the way to the hospital. He had not revealed much over the call, and I had no idea what was happening.

Turned out, when they checked his BP for the treadmill test, it was alarmingly high. So much so, that apart from canceling the test, the examiners weren’t willing to send him home alone.

We waited in the hospital, and the BP was checked again, but it refused to come down. All the time I sat with him, I guess I had stress written all over my face. Yes, perhaps a bit too much. Obviously, because if your husband, an otherwise healthy person who until now displayed no symptoms of any sort of illness, suddenly shows an abnormally high BP reading, you as a wife end up getting anxious. Period.

“Ma’am, don’t give tension to Sir!”

As we rose to leave, the medical staff who was monitoring the process, casually advised me, “Don’t take tension Ma’am. Aur aise Sir ko bhi tension mat do! (Don’t stress your husband).”

I stopped for a moment, wait, did he just say, my husband’s high BP was my doing? But honestly, I was in no mood to argue.

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As recommended, we made an evening appointment with a specialist. I have to say, I wasn’t in the best of my spirits and I’m not very good at hiding my fear, or rather, I can’t always put up a brave face. I was in shock.

The reading was high, the doctor obviously prescribed a myriad of tests and then began the routine questions.

“When did you last get your medical check-up?”

My husband looked at me for an answer, and I remembered.

Five years ago.

The doctor was naturally very upset.

“How can educated people like you be so careless? Five years, really? And you?” Suddenly he looked at me.

“Couldn’t you have been more careful about his health Ma’am? He is into I.T, he’s overworking, experiencing stress, shouldn’t you have got him checked regularly?”

How is it my fault if my grown-up husband won’t take care of himself?

If only the doctor had the slightest idea, about the time and effort I spend, in coaxing my husband to get himself examined, to go to the dentist, to test his blood sugar.

But when a so-called adult disregards your plea in jest, calls himself the healthiest man on earth, and claims that doctors and medicines are for the weak, just how much do you push? Do I not have a life of my own, do I not have to look after my child, my work, my health?

So, I began explaining this, but the doctor gestured for me to shut up.

“How often do you eat out?”

“Very often.” I quipped. My husband is a foodie, he enjoys experimenting with cuisines, so we do end up ordering food, many times a month.

Our Bad, I agree.

But turns out, all of this was my fault entirely!

“Ma’am, only home-cooked food from now, with less salt and oil. I’m sorry but you have been neglecting his health for too long.” The doctor shook his head in dismay, handing us his prescription.

The nurse who had helped with the weight, BP, and other readings accompanied us to the billing counter. I don’t consider it a sign of weakness, but a tear escaped my eyes.

Like a poetic ending to my guilt trip, I got some free advice from the nurse as well.

“Don’t weep, what’s the point now? It’ll only end up making Sir all the more worried. We women are supposed to be brave. And shouldn’t food be always cooked at home? Banake do acha khana. So, now you take good care of him and keep him happy. All will be fine.”

Even as we visited the doctor in 2 days with all reports (normal thankfully), I was the one who was categorically spoken to.

“Make sure he walks for an hour every day. Give him home-cooked food and see to it that he takes all medicines on time. He might forget, given his job environment. Keep him relaxed and we’ll meet in a month.”

There’s nothing wrong as such, to be entrusted with the responsibility of your spouse’s good health. My only concern is, I’ve been regularly visiting doctors for my menstrual complications, stress, and diabetes. Not once was my husband advised to be brave, keep me happy, or make sure I had my medications properly. Trust me, no doctor, no nurse, in fact, nobody ever spoke up for me. I’ve been invariably expected to fend for myself.

So, I am solely accountable for my health, my husband’s fitness, and my child’s well-being, despite handling a stressful job myself. Also, there are medical professionals, no less, telling me I am the reason for my husband’s current situation; my anxiety, my negligence, and of course my lack of culinary skills.

What bothers me is that even in the 21st century and in this age and times, educated doctors and health workers, perhaps unknowingly, still consider the woman to be the fulcrum of her family’s health. And many women must bear the brunt of the guilt they get officially associated with.

Misogyny comes in many forms. Verbal abuse, domestic violence, gaslighting, and then there’s my story. Mild perhaps, but misogyny, nevertheless.

Editor’s note: Women regularly face #MedicalMisogyny from health care professionals. For the WHO World Health Day 2023 theme of ‘Health for All’, identifying this misogyny and ensuring #Equity in healthcare is essential. All of April, we will be sharing stories with you on this these, either personal stories or fiction. Find them all here.

Image source: a still from the Marathi series Aani Kay Hawa

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