Mother Hens and the Chronically Ill


Not every female capable of reproducing has maternal instincts and on the flip side of that, there are some females who can and will mother too much.  I like to call those women, Mother Hens.

A mother hen is a woman, who, once those maternal instincts kick in, they are full bore, all or nothing.  They will care for you no matter what.  They will feed you, dress you, clothe you, provide for you, and care for you when you’re sick or healthy (preventative care).  Having a mother hen is a wonderful thing.  It’s all warm and fuzzy and you feel like someone understands what you’re going through.  That can be especially beneficial for someone who is chronically ill.  If you are sick, it’s good to have someone who understands that you’re not faking; that you are going through something real and tangible; and they don’t down you for not being able to participate in regular, every day activities.

But there is a limit.

Mother Hen-ness, for lack of a better term, can be smothering, intrusive and downright annoying at the wrong time, or from the wrong person.  We all know that mothers can give too much, especially after their children are grown, but I suspect that adult chronically ill children are hard to relinquish, when you have cared for them for so long.

But what I am talking about is if that mother hen is not your mother, but your significant other, man or woman.  Their devoted need to care for you, and to aid you, like a child or an invalid, can repel the intimate, physical side of a relationship, especially if that physical side is often affected by the chronic illness.  At this point all sorts of emotions can enter the picture; guilt, helplessness, resentment, fear, abandonment, and this from both the ill and their caretaker.  Openness and communication are the only way to combat this; openness about one’s physical state, their mental state and one’s emotional state.  Let the mother hen know that at times, they don’t need a caretaker, they need a companion and a lover, and that they’ll be notified when those times are.  There should be no lies about feelings, no lies about whether one can continue once intimacy has begun and no guilt about having to stop midway.  Things happen.  Be adult about it and understand, the mere attempt is enough to make one feel loved and appreciated for more than their illness.  And sick or well, all any of us wants is to be loved and appreciated.  Openness and communication is the best way to make that happen in a healthy relationship, even if one of the participants is not.


2 thoughts on “Mother Hens and the Chronically Ill

  1. This is an excellent blog, thank you; insightful and clear. The relationship between a chronically ill person and their partner/SO is so complex, it too me years to figure out between me and mine. I agree, that talking is key, as is respecting that while only one person in the relationship has the illness, both have feelings and need respect.

    Liked by 2 people

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