If you’re female, you’ve probably rolled your eyes along with other women at some point in reference to the dreaded Man Cold. This can look bitter or mean to those who haven’t dealt with this phenomenon, and can understandably make men feel mocked.
For this reason I would like to announce right now to all men that we’re not picking on you. I promise. We aren’t even really making fun of you: it’s more like we’re making fun of our society. Hate the game, not the player.
Although there is a growing trend of men being the primary caretakers of the children in families, this duty quite often falls on the shoulders of the woman. The mother. So please reverse everything I’m about to say if you are reading this as a stay-at-home dad. My husband and I decided whoever makes the most money will do so, and the other will take care of our child only because it made financial sense: we are not bound by traditional gender roles.
My fella can make more money than me. So that makes me the stay-at-home parent in our situation. Not because I’m female, but because we like being able to afford food and bills and stuff.
My husband works in a crowded office environment, and often finds himself surrounded by sick people who inexplicably refuse to use their sick leave for its intended purpose— to lessen the spread of productivity-lowering contagion.
When this happens—when his coworkers ignore management’s pleas to stay home when ill to instead share their misery with the workforce—my husband will eventually catch the illness. He then brings it home to our family, where our son and I usually catch it.
Because I have calcifications all over my lungs from either a fungal infection or multiple untreated past pneumonias during my “no health care” minimum wage job days, I inevitably end up on antibiotics for pneumonia. (The last virus was so brutal, my husband ended up with a secondary infection that morphed into pneumonia, and on antibiotics as well.)
This makes us angry because the inconsiderate coworker who came to work and shared the virus with us has now destroyed our quality of life for at least a month while we all take turns being sick. They’ve disrupted our child’s schedule and activities, cost us money in doctor visits and medications, and stolen precious sleep from two adults with a child who has fought sleep since he was in utero. We don’t take loss of sleep lightly at this point. Do not fuck with our sleep.
This also means that if the person who didn’t stay away from work while sick is a young, child-free person who got over it in a few days, with the luxury of resting when needed, rather than taking care of a child/children while feeling like ass, yet has no idea how deeply and adversely they’ve impacted our family and finances… I want to drive to my husband’s job and punch them in the face every day until our entire family is finally over the stinking virus they decided they could “tough it out” and work through.
Because hey, guess what, people who come to work with contagious illnesses? Nobody thinks you’re tough. They think you’re an inconsiderate asshole. Your bosses resent you because you’ve now infected a large portion of the other people who make money for their company, and your coworkers resent you because of the month-of-sickness spiral into which you’ve now sent their families spinning.*
It’s not cool, bro.
This week, my husband caught what my girlfriends and I not-so-affectionately refer to as the Man Cold. When we call it that, we are sometimes referring to the guys who say things like, “I must have caught a stronger version of this virus than you,” to us, or emotionally regress back to an age before they had grass on the field when ill. But really, most men aren’t wimpy about colds. This isn’t what makes us angry.
What makes us angry enough to label it the Man Cold is that the primary caretaker of the children (not always the mother, obviously, but true in my case) doesn’t get to be sick. We don’t get to stop preparing the children for school, doing laundry, making meals, bathing them, helping with homework, driving them to and from everywhere; and if they have caught the illness, we take care of them. All while being sick ourselves.
(And no, it’s not a “weaker version than your virus,” it’s the fact that women are inherently strong as fuck. Did you not see us grow a human with our body and deliver it into the world? Are you new?)
Who takes care of the mother with a Woman Cold you might ask? Well I’m glad you did, because that right there is the source of our sneering and eye-rolling about the Man Cold. Because the answer is nobody.
Nobody takes care of the Woman Cold.
The Woman Cold must be ignored while the equally-sick female in the relationship is required to continue life as usual.
And here comes our Good Will Hunting moment, you guys. Brace yourselves. Maybe grab a tissue.
It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault.
Okay, stop fighting me and come in for the hug now. It’s okay to cry. This is a safe space.
My husband has currently been sick for days, and because he also believes sharing contagious illnesses with coworkers is a shitty thing to do, he’s been using his sick days, lying in the master bedroom while closed off to protect our son and me from his wicked respiratory virus.
We have no doubt we will catch it eventually because we all live together and touch the same surfaces; all we can hope is that we manage to stagger the onset of my symptoms and our child’s symptoms so there might be one person strong enough to help the others at any given point in the next month while we deal.
He’s been sick, and I’ve been performing most of the duties we normally share. His feeling crummy makes me feel sorry for him, of course, but a wee bit resentful, even though I know he needs to rest, sleep, watch television, and read. I get it. I’m not a jerk, I swear.
The Man Cold resentment breeds only because past history has shown once my husband is well enough to go back to work, I will most likely be the next one to fall ill.
Having used his sick days as intended, this means I will not be able to retreat with my Mom Cold to rest, sleep, watch television, and read. I don’t ever get an uninterrupted week-long break to be sick. I will still have to perform all of my house chores and childcare duties, no matter how awful I feel. And I don’t like them apples. There is no such thing as the Mom Cold, and for this reason, we have grown resentful.
(Obviously exchange “Mom Cold” with “Dad Cold” and “Man Cold” with “Woman Cold” if you’re a stay-at-home dad. And use both genders if in a same-sex marriage. Like contagious viruses, I don’t discriminate.)
So you see, guys… in a perfect world (or in a more evolved country), after taking your week to heal from the wretched virus, you would then have enough sick days leftover to give your now-sick partners the same chance to rest and rebuild you had. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and in this one, we got the short end of the “sick stick.” So… Man Cold, we sneer. Don’t take it personally. We’re not actually mad at you: we’re mad at a country that doesn’t give employees ample time off, the dumbest part being that productivity increases drastically in well-rested, healthy people with good quality of life.
Short version: Man Cold actually means the system sucks, and damn it, primary caretakers of children really wish they could simply be allowed to be sick, rather than miserably slogging through after the now-healthy partner in the relationship must go back to work.
Unless you’re a whiny baby about minor illnesses, of course. Then yes, we’re mocking you personally. Woman up.
Huge shout-out to single parents who must be both bearer of Man Cold and Female Cold and Mom Cold and Dad Cold, by the way. Universal Colds. I bow down at your eternally exhausted feet in awe as I fearfully take zinc and vitamin C supplements, waiting for my dance with the latest respiratory virus.
*Those who work jobs without sick leave are exempt from this rant. Been there, done that, and I know when people complain about your being at work sick, you want to scream, “Well then are YOU going to pay my fucking rent? No? Then SHUT UP.” Because of course you don’t want to have to work while you’re sick. Duh. And employers who don’t give paid sick leave: you suck. You really, truly do. Stop it.