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Why a Sink Full of Dishes Triggered an Argument With My Husband

This weekend my husband and I got into a fight. I started it. I made a comment about how I made dinner and cleaned up the kitchen and still had to get the kids to straighten up the living room. He felt like I was saying he does not do anything to help, got defensive and pointed out he is managing the kids’ virtual school during the day and his job (which I know is a lot). The tension and stress between us dragged onto the next day where he made a snarky comment about the sink overflowing and how I was probably going to make him take care of it. Later that afternoon he took care of the sink without saying anything and without me asking, and we both ventured to separate rooms to watch TV and cool off.

It probably sounds like a typical dispute between spouses about the division of labor but there was so much more behind it.

You see, I had just spent three days on the phone — 16 phone calls to be exact — between my son’s specialty pharmacy and his doctor’s office. Apparently the pre-authorization for my son’s monthly med expired and when I called to refill it no one told me. Trying to get this taken care of meant I spent over four hours on the phone, most of it waiting on hold. I was mentally exhausted from fighting the insurance company and honestly I was feeling a bit guilty that it came to that. After three days of back and forth, a lot of stress, some anger and some tears I was finally able to get my son his med but he got it five days late. I felt like it was my fault he got the med late. I felt like I should have known to be on top of everything and since I wasn’t it was my issue to fix. I felt alone in having to handle the stress of the insurance and the meds. Rationally it wasn’t my fault that there was a delay but I felt like if I had called to refill it sooner, asked more questions or had been on top of things better it would not have happened the way it did and it would not have been such a stressful rushed experience trying to have him not go too long without the med.

In short I felt like I dropped the ball … an important ball. Being mad and disappointed in myself and my “failure” led to feeling the weight of being in charge of all the medical stuff for my son.

My husband is great and helps out but given our personalities I am better suited to taking the primary role of the medical side of things for my son. Typically I do not drop the ball and am on top of things and I don’t mind this role. While this was a little out of my hands because I was missing key information (mainly the pre-auth expired in six months not a year) I still felt a little defeated and a little like I am not doing a good enough job and I failed my son and my family. It is funny how I can be on top of many things and do many things right, but the setbacks or detours when it comes to my son’s medical stuff make me feel like I failed. Early on in my son’s journey I was criticized by someone and told that my actions/inactions made me a bad mother and I should know better. It isn’t uncommon for people, even loved ones to question and even criticize things medical parents do or don’t do but that honestly stung. At the time I was doing the best I could but people still found fault in my actions. While I have mostly forgiven what was said during a heightened emotional state, the fear of not being enough and not making enough good decisions when it comes to my son’s health increased as a result of those words. Obviously I want what is best for my son and his health and when there is a setback or a mistake then I question if I am capable of taking care of him. It is a big leap to go from having a setback to being a failure as a mom but when you are constantly under stress and constantly holding a lot of balls in air, it doesn’t take much to knock you over mentally.

You see fighting with my husband about the dishes and how we divide up household chores (especially during a pandemic when chores have tripled) wasn’t at the root of what I was feeling. What I was feeling was that I let my son down and may have jeopardized his health in the process (which I didn’t). What I was feeling was overwhelmed by the stress of the pandemic, the increase of household chores, and the constant up and down of dealing with my son’s medical issues. What I was looking for was help, support and confirmation that it wasn’t my fault. I needed validation that despite the setback my husband sees that I am doing the best I can. My approach wasn’t right and taking my feelings out on my husband wasn’t the way to ask for support or help but it was the overflow of what I was feeling. Being my husband and knowing what this life we live is like (and having years of therapy under our belt due to this journey), he took my emotional vomit and while he dished out a little bit of his emotions we both rolled with it. During this journey we have learned how to let each other go through what we needed because we realize that this is not an easy road and it is full of emotional potholes.  We both need validation from each other and from others that we are doing the best we can even when things get set back. We acknowledge that the blow up we both occasionally have is usually a result of the constant stress and the constant weight of what we going through and that the root of our emotional response is hidden behind something as meaningless as dishes.

Photo submitted by contributor.

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