Let me break it down: even a really, really mild disease becomes a catastrophe when everybody runs to the doctor to be seen for it.
The problem is, we mothers have been encouraging each other to do exactly that for years now, in the name of being “cautious.”
We regularly tell our friends “trust those Mommy Instincts” when it comes to their sick families. We tell them to go ahead and visit the doctor to get some antibiotics for peace of mind, just in case it could turn into something serious, because it’s better to be safe than sorry.
This way of dealing with sickness isn’t sustainable, especially when there’s a national emergency. But nobody wants to talk about the ways our mommy groups are actually contributing to the spread of unnecessary anxiety.
Well, I mean, SOME of us are talking about it. (*Raises hand*) A few months ago, I wrote this:
“It’s an age-old tale.
Mother gets creepy feeling.
Mother posts pictures and a scary story on social media and asks everyone to share it.
Thousands of equally-concerned mothers assure each other that embracing their paranoia is a good thing because it’s “better safe than sorry” when it comes to their children…”
We also recorded an episode of the podcast where we discussed the danger that can come from bad Mom Advice telling us to take action and fight to ensure the professionals help solve our imagined problems. (You can listen by clicking here.)
At the time of my blog post and podcast recording, we were focusing on women who are worried their kids will be snatched and sold into sex slavery. But it’s an eerily similar situation when too many women think their kids are going to catch a virus. It starts with fear. Then our peers encourage us to lean into that. Trust it! And soon, we are taking a trip to have our fears calmed by a doctor who will look in our mouths, tell us to rest, and generally validate our emotions.
(In the case of suspected child abduction, the emotional pay-off comes from calling the police and telling them, “I got a weird feeling about a guy in the produce aisle.” But, again, same outcome.)
The problem is, there aren’t enough policemen to handle all the reports if everyone simultaneously starts acting like Karen and worrying about every stranger supposedly following them at Walmart.
And, likewise, there aren’t enough doctors, nurses, and lab technicians to handle a stampede to the hospital, when Karen convinces all of us to go every time we feel sick!
Karen, let me help you understand: it isn’t necessary to stare into the eyes of someone wearing a white coat just to hear them say, “Yep. You’re sick.”
There is no cure for your fever. No cure for your cough. No cure for your viral gastrointeritis and your viral pneumonia. The doctor can’t make the symptoms go away any faster, and you can buy non-prescription pain relievers to make you more comfortable while your body fights the germs without his help.
He can’t fix you. And he’s also too nice and professional to say, “For the love of God, stop bringing your nastiness to my office.”
So just stay home.
When you feel yucky, stay home. Stay home. Stay home.
I know, you feel productive when you go to the hospital, like you’re really taking charge of the situation.
I know there’s something fun about taking pictures of your kid in a gown, with a band on his wrist, so you can post on Facebook asking for prayers.
I know it lends more credibility in your mommy groups, when you can announce, “we went to the doctor and got confirmed: it’s Influenza A!” But going to the doctor and having a Proper Name for your symptoms doesn’t actually help you recover.
Visiting the doctor does something for your emotions, but not usually your body.
And even more importantly, when EVERYONE starts behaving that way, it keeps the really sick people from being able to get help. We’re using up antibiotics we don’t need. We’re infecting healthcare workers who have real work to do.
They can tell you “drink liquids and get lots of rest” over the phone. Can you learn to be okay with how boring and unsatisfying that is?
Even when you’re tired of dealing with sickness and looking for something to do, the ER or doctor’s office should not be treated as a way to kill time while YOUR BODY DOES THE HEALING ON ITS OWN.
Now, maybe you’re reading this and you don’t identify as a “Karen.”
Maybe you are content to stay home when you’re sick, without the desperate need for a swab and a selfie to feel like you’ve really completed the “Sick Experience.”
That’s great! Really!
But, if you’re letting all the other Karens get away with promoting anxiety and taking advantage of the medical system when they don’t need it, can I ask you to consider speaking up next time?
When someone on Facebook says, “You should go to the doctor in case that illness turns into something more serious!” can you jump in and say, “No, please, please don’t do that.”
Right now, we’re all laughing at each other for hoarding toilet paper, and that’s a great start!
But now Karen needs to know that we’re also laughing when she takes Johnnie to the doctor for NO REASON. We’re laughing because, if we don’t, we’ll flat out yell at her for being a self-absorbed drama queen who is taking time and resources away from people who actually need them.
Lots of people blame the Mainstream Media for its role in stoking fear in this culture, and that’s fair. But, if it weren’t for all the average citizens…all the regular people…all the moms on Facebook praising each other for following their “mom instincts”… then the media wouldn’t have anyone left to control.
Some of the responsibility to stop the viral spread of Fear is ours. Don’t contribute. Don’t share it. Don’t validate it. Don’t tell your friends, “It’s a good thing you went to the doctor, just to be safe.”
Nope. That was a germy lie.
It’s NOT a good thing to treat doctors like our Personal Emotional Problem Solvers. At best, those visits are totally unecessary. And at worst? That behavior reveals selfishness and irrationality which quickly becomes pandemic.