Saturday, June 16, 2012

Where Are The Food-Allergy Dads?

It's Father's Day, a day I count my blessings.

When it first became apparent our son was allergic, my husband was (and is) a pillar of strength. He was the one who told me things would be o.k., that it looked worse than it was, that medicine was so much better now than when he was a kid.

My husband has asthma. Back in the   well, I won't "out" him age-wise   but a while ago, his parents had two choices:
  • Drive him around in the car, head hanging out the window like a dog, until his lips looked less blue
  • Take him to the hospital where they would put him in an oxygen tent
That was it. When my son was also diagnosed early on with asthma, my husband was amazed by the masks, nebulizers and meds that are now available and quickly developed the knowledge and awareness needed to keep our son out of the ER. 

When my son started school, it because apparent we were going to need someone there A LOT. My husband argued that he was the better choice. He knew what it meant to not be able to breathe, so he was less hyper than I was in a crisis. And, let's face it  being a male in a school of mostly women instructors and administrators is an advantage. So, he became the stay-at-home parent for many years while I worked.

Fast-forward 10 years. A decade of participation in support groups, chat boards, schools and camps, and he's the only dad I know who stayed home...and one of the few I've seen who is visibly active in his child's care.

Where are the rest of the food allergy dads?

I think one of the reasons food allergies is not taken as seriously by others as it should be is that it has become strongly associated with overprotective moms. (I noticed the other day on Slate that the article on food allergies was filed in the "Double X" section - women's issues.)

I get it, at least in part. Dads supposedly aren't good with illness. They don't want their kid focusing on illness (or, God forbid, veering into wimp territory). They don't like to talk about health issues. School and child-raising are traditionally more the mom's arena. 

But still...a little bit of Dad in the right place goes a long way. Shouldn't our husbands be attending the school meetings with us? Writing a letter to the editor now and then? Lobbying for better laws? 
Or is there really a sex divide where mothers see food allergies as life-threatening and dads mostly see them as a nuisance? 

I've always been thankful my marriage did not require negotiation when it came to allergies, but my perception is that many moms out there can't say the same.

I don't mean to rag on dads on Father's Day...but maybe the baseball diamond isn't the only plate husbands of FA kids need to be thinking about stepping up to.

Do you have thoughts on how food allergies affect marriages? Or why so few dads are visible in food allergy care, or advocacy? Leave me a comment!

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  1. You are very right in your observation of the lack of dads in food allergic kids' lives. Although I have recently seen more action on Facebook than in other online support group type activity. But my opinion is based primarily on my experience and my child's father fits in the totally detached from food allergy world category. Even after 10 years, my husband can not feed his son! Really I am too hurt and bitter to even discuss it, because as time goes on, the emotional pain is becoming unbearable. I do think my husband would disappoint anyway without food allergies and so do most fathers, the reason for the high divorce rate! And the main reason we are not divorced is the food allergy, because I have to stay at home to keep my son alive.

  2. Carilou, I think you are in a boat that a LOT of allergy moms are also in. Men just respond to allergies differently. This is a really interesting survey that talks about some of that if you're interested:

    Have you considered talking it out in therapy? My mom is actually a clinical therapist and sees a lot of food allergy patients in her practice. It's coincidental - she doesn't advertise as a food allergy specialist - but she says it's a very high stress situation so it makes sense that she's seeing so many.

    Hang in there and I hope you'll stick around. There *are* a lot of other moms on my Facebook page who are in similar situations...feel free to post your thoughts there as well and you might get ideas and support. ♥

  3. My husband has a life threatening shellfish allergy. So I predicted if we had kids they might have a food allergy. I tried to do what was recommended to prevent it, but can't fight genetics. So my husband at least understands food allergies since he has one too. He is not a good example though since he won't carry his epipen. I carry it for him and he just hopes I am with him if he ever reacts. sigh. He also puts across the "Its not manly to carry a purse" attitude many men have to carry the epipen.

  4. I am an almost-50-year old with a lifelong, life-threatening strawberry allergy. My Daddy (God rest his soul) was a cowboy who was tough as an old boot 'til the day he died. However, he was a fierce protector of his only daughter! While he expected me to take responsibility for myself as soon as I was old enough, Heaven help anyone who scoffed at my health concerns or refused to take precautions against cross-contamination. I was blessed with a father who saw my good health as an asset worth protecting.


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