Hillary Clinton and Walking Pneumonia and Me

As I write this there continues to be some discussion about Hillary Clinton’s bout of “walking” pneumonia and why she didn’t tell the world and then take to her bed to get better.

I can tell you why.

She’s a woman. Women, even women without young children at home, rarely take to their bed when they’re ill.

Granted, Secretary Clinton didn’t have to vacuum, fix supper, or do the dishes, but she had her own to-do list and she did it, including appearing at a 9-11 Memorial service. And she paid for her conscientiousness.

I’ve been one of those women who keep going even when I should have stopped. Years of nursing gave me a bad back but also I had to work and take care of a house and my daughter through the pain. One year after surgery I came home to a messy house and spent my fifth day post-op vacuuming, doing dishes, and cleaning an overflowing litter box. And that happened when I was still married.

During that marriage I fell at work and broke my ankle, ending up on crutches. My husband “fixed” supper by making French fries with olive oil. I hobbled out to the kitchen, propped my leg up on a chair and cooked. His comment: “I knew I could get you out to the kitchen to cook.”  I also continued to take care of our 2 year old daughter while on crutches.

Now that I’m older and remarried after more than thirty years of being alone, I am finding that I am still doing all the adulting in the marriage. I feed the dog. I walk the dog. I clean the litter boxes. I do the laundry. I fold all the clothes. I cook and do the dishes. Sometimes my daughter cooks but now that she’s back in the graduate program and working, it’s my job. I straighten up. Luckily I have someone to do the vacuuming, etc…because of my back. But don’t believe for one moment that my husband would do it. I saw this house before we were married.

I write the checks for the bills every month. I would do the bills online but my husband has limited computer skills and if anything happened to me, he would be at a loss. I make all of his doctor appointments and make sure he goes or I go with him because he has a tendency to minimize big things and maximize little things.

I know that part of my highly-developed sense of responsibility comes from my nursing background. As a nursing student of the 1960s, I learned Rule 1: a nurse doesn’t relax until the work is done and Rule 2: the work is never done. Therefore, I assume the responsibility because…

A woman knows that if SHE doesn’t do it, it won’t get done.

So, Madam Secretary, I understand. I’ve been there. More than 50% of the population has been there. “It’s just a respiratory thing. I’ll be fine…” You soldier on and suddenly you just feel like collapsing but…

Someone has to do the work.

And, even though men don’t want to believe it, most of the work in this world is done by women.


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